Paddy & Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism

Wednesday:Paddy & Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism: (BBC One, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 5:00 pm

Paddy McGuinness’s professional life keeps going from strength to strength.

He rose to fame thanks to his friendship with Peter Kay, who cast him in several of his series, most notably Phoenix Nights, which led onto Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere.

He then hosted dating show Take Me Out, a cult hit that boosted his career. He’s been one of the regular trio of presenters of Top Gear since 2019, and this year has also seen him front I Can See Your Voice and take over as the host of the revamped Question of Sport.

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Paddy’s popularity stems from his chirpy everyman persona; he’s always good for a laugh, one of the boys. But we’re about to see a different side of him in this documentary, which has been described by the BBC as “intimate, emotional and refreshingly candid”.

In 2013, he and his wife, model Christine, welcomed twins Leo and Penelope; four years later, they were diagnosed with autism. When their youngest child Felicity, born in 2016, reached the same age, the couple discovered she too had the neurodevelopmental disorder.

All good parents want their children to be happy and healthy, and the McGuinnesses are no different. They’re determined to do their best for their offspring, no matter what. Nevertheless, like the 2.8 million other British families in the same situation, they’re still coming to terms with their ever-changing reality – and are seeking answers to some difficult questions.

This documentary, made by the same team that brought us Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me and Nadiya Hussain: Anxiety and Me, follows the couple as they look within themselves, their relatives and others in a bid to make sense of their situation. While doing so, they bravely open up their lives to viewers so that we, too, can have a better understanding of the condition.

Some of the queries they either ask, or offer answers to, include: what is autism in medical terms? When a child is diagnosed, what do you do? What support is out there? Is there ever a ‘right’ way to react and deal with the news of a diagnosis? What is the impact on the family? And, perhaps most importantly of all, what does the future have in store?

Paddy and Christine meet with other parents of autistic children to see how their experiences contrast or compare, and whether they can learn from them. They also talk to leading paediatricians and cutting-edge child-development experts to discover more about their children’s specific cases of autism – and the condition in general.

This is the portrait of a family so many assume they know, but seen here like never before.

Many of us may think we have a handle on autism thanks to TV and film productions such as Rain Man and The A Word, but this film aims to challenge people’s preconceptions and kickstart a national conversation about an increasingly common condition that so few of us really understand.

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