Paddy McGuiness: Life with Autistic Twins
Television presenter and comedian Paddy McGuinness and his model wife, Christine, have spoken of their life with autistic twins, Penelope and Leo, aged five. The couple revealed how they had found ways of tailoring Christmas to make it special for their children, without causing them alarm.
The host of popular TV dating show Take Me Out and his wife Christine explained how the festive period can be a difficult time for children on the autism spectrum. Consequently, they kept their celebrations deliberately low-key to avoid stressing the children out.
Steve Vas / Alamy Stock Photo
While most kids were enjoying the excitement of brightly coloured, crinkling wrapping paper, flashing fairy lights and the snap of crackers, Penelope and Leo were having an entirely different experience.
Around 18 months ago, the twins were diagnosed with autism, which is a condition affecting almost three million people in the UK. This diagnosis meant a lifestyle change for the couple, who have a third child, Felicity, aged two.
Planning Christmas was totally different, as rather than indulging in the usual festive excesses of gifts and food, the family’s celebration was geared around their twins’ usual peaceful routine. The family didn’t have a Christmas tree and they didn’t wrap their presents, and instead of a turkey dinner, the twins had their familiar meal of chicken nuggets and chips.
Paddy and Christine were well aware that any change in the children’s routine could upset them, so they opted for a peaceful Christmas that could be enjoyed by everyone, rather than leaving the twins feeling anxious and unhappy.
This was the second Christmas for the family since the twins’ diagnosis and Christine said they understood more this time around how to enjoy the perfect Christmas – in 2017, it had all been very new to them.
No Santa Claus
Christine said that instead of having a Christmas tree indoors, they had one in the garden. That way, the twins could simply close the door on it and return inside to their safe haven when they’d had enough.
Even Father Christmas wasn’t visiting the McGuinness household – Christine said the thought of a strange man entering the house in the middle of the night would have scared them.
The twins weren’t told that it was Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning, they were simply told there were “some new toys” downstairs. They were informed beforehand what their gifts were, as they might otherwise have become anxious about what they might be getting.
The presents were unwrapped and they were also taken out of their packaging. They weren’t left in a large pile either. Describing it as a “different way of doing Christmas”, Christine said it was just as exciting regardless.
Paddy and Christine have also reportedly agreed to film an ITV2 reality show about raising their autistic twins to raise awareness of autism and to help other parents. Shown in three parts, the show was described as a “huge thing for the couple”.
According to newspaper reports, their determination to raise awareness of bringing up children on the autism spectrum had overridden any concerns about the intrusion of having a documentary made about their life. The couple, who are always in the public eye, announced their twins’ condition on their fourth birthday.
Paddy said in an interview that there were some days when they felt “defeated” because of the challenges their children’s condition presented, as he felt upset when seeing his kids stressed out or frustrated. Like all parents, he said all he wanted was to be able to protect his children and make sure they were happy.
This year, Paddy is due to begin his dream job as a co-presenter of BBC’s Top Gear motoring show, with former international cricketer Andrew Flintoff.
Christine said she was focusing on the positives – she said she felt a little “emotionally drained” following the festive period, but was getting back to her normal routine, which included going to the gym.
She revealed the children had gone to nursery and were enjoying a “fun club” there, with everything getting “back to normal” quickly after the Christmas and New Year break.
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Please contact us for further details of our safe sleeping solutions. We are happy to undertake home visits, UK-wide, to assess the best sleeping solutions for all our customers.