Christine McGuinness has revealed she's been diagnosed with autism and recalled the heartbreaking childhood struggles that made her realise she was different.
Christine, 33, who is mum to twins Penelope and Leo, eight, and daughter Felicity, five, and has since separated from husband Paddy McGuinness, has tirelessly campaigned for autism awareness following her children's diagnosis.
She is one parent who knows what it's really like to have a child with autism, but now the model is coming to terms with her own autism diagnosis.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication.
Speaking about her diagnosis on Loose Women, Christine revealed, "During the process of filming [our new BBC documentary] we always had this question - why have we got three autistic children? And we thought there could be a genetic link and there were a lot of similarities there between me and my children, so me and my husband went and did an AQ test to see if any of us were on the autism spectrum."
An AQ questionnaire tests for symptoms of autism. While lots of people might carry a few traits, actually be classed as autistic you’re required to score a high number. The scale goes from zero to 50 and the average neurotypical person would score up to 15.
Christine added, "I was actually quite high up and I was diagnosed a few months ago."
Christine was diagnosed in August when she was invited to meet expert Sir Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University.
And now she has been able to see a link between her own behaviour and the autism traits,
Christine explained, "I've never been very social, I've don't really have a lot of friends. but I come across as confident. I can hold a conversation but building a friendship, if someone said shall we go for lunch after? I'd be thinking 'God no'. I'm always worried I don't know what to say.
She continued, "I used to worry about going to big events with my husband, just being in a room with hundreds of people I don't know and think they'd come and talk to me. I'd normally sit with my head down or make my excuses to leave the room and have a minute because I was finding it quite overwhelming and now I understand it's because I'm autistic."
Christine details her diagnosis in her upcoming book A Beautiful Nightmare and spoke of how her childhood showed autism signs.
She told the panel "School was really, really difficult. I didn't have friends, I didn't really fit in. I wasn't with the sporty group or with the drama group. i always felt older and felt happy talking to the teachers."
Christine, who previously spoke of her anxiety over her children going back to school, left school aged 14 without any GSCEs, had bad attendance.
"That's because I was struggling. I didn't like eating in the canteen, I didn't like the food."
Christine admits she eats very plain, beige food like her children.
'I remember walking in to do my GCSE's, I went into the hall and it was silent but for me it was so loud, I could hear people's pens scribbling on the paper and I sat there so overwhelmed, I got upset and I left. I didn't do the exams I was capable of doing so then I left with no GCSEs.
"If I had been given a quiet room on my own that's something that my children would get support with now."
And the diagnosis is bittersweet for Christine who admits it's helped her understand herself better but she said she was "absolutely devastated for the little girl," she could have become.
After speaking about her childhood struggles following her autism diagnosis, Christine McGuinness revealed how her husband, Top Gear presenter Paddy, already knew.
Christine said, "He's been really good. He said he'd known for a while, he'd thought about it for quite a long time. Basically, since the children got diagnosed, he kept thinking to himself 'they're actually really just like Christine' but he never said it to me.
Paddy and Christine attended this year's Pride of Britain Awards, which was their first date night in two years, and Christine confessed her autism makes her have issues with staying in hotel rooms - but she's learned how to mask it - a trait common among women with autism.
She explained, "If I go to the hotel room, I will rearrange furniture and take pictures off the wall. I like a plain room so there are no distractions. I don't like busy carpets or curtains. I like everything quite plain.
"There was so much I wanted to move but I walked in and stayed quiet. And going to the awards itself, I've become really good at smiling and saying hello to everyone. Some part of me is enjoying it now...I don't want autism to hold any of us back."
Christine believes her diagnosis is the "best thing" to come out of the documentary.
She added, "We haven't told our children that they're autistic yet. So when we do discuss it with them at least now I can say 'you're just a bit like mummy, it's not going to hold you back, mummy's working, mummy's married and has a family - you are capable of all these things'."
Christine is taking part in the Real Full Monty this year which will certainly put her nerves to the test.
Since going public with her diagnosis, Christine admitted to her Instagram followers, 'I have felt different my whole life, Honestly, I am relieved to finally understand myself!'
She added, 'Once again I am overwhelmed with your love and support on here ❤️ Thank you ❤️'
Her upcoming book ‘A Beautiful Nightmare’ is available to pre-order ahead of its release on 25th November.
And fans have been supportive, with their praise for Christine McGuinness speaking out about her autism diagnosis.
One fan wrote, 'A female role model that is going to make a huge difference to many girls'
Another put, 'You’re going to help so many people Christine, you’re incredible!!'
And a third added, 'So happy you are sharing about this part of you/your life. It will help lots more neurodiverse families. I’ll be watching later!'
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Selina is currently a Senior Entertainment Writer for Goodto.com, formerly Senior Entertainment writer for Woman&Home, and My Imperfect Life and has more than 16 years of experience in newspapers, magazines and online. She currently writes a mix of Entertainment news - including celebrity births, weddings and reality show line-ups including Strictly, Dancing On Ice and The Great British Bake Off, reporting the the latest news about the Royal kids Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet as well as Family news stories from baby names to store closures and product recall warnings. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.
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