The journey closer to ordinary stories that matter continues with Our Family and Autism. First, TV had stars. Then ordinary folk became the subject of reality TV shows. Now, we’re finding out about the “ordinary” lives of the stars. And finding the same challenges and gutsy human responses that mark the lives of the millions on our side of the screen. After journeying with Bake-Off’s Nadiya Hussein on anxiety, Freddie Flintoff on bulimia, and Rio Ferdinand on grief, Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness and his wife take us through a personal experience of autism. Paddy reveals that he suffered with depression, caught between accepting the diagnosis of all three of their children with autism, and the laddish persona required of his day job. Maybe unsurprisingly, he had found it hard to talk about the condition at home, even with Christine.
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In The Telegraph, Anita Singh wonders how “people often say more in the presence of a television camera than they do in private. I suppose it’s a bit like going to see a counsellor: a process of self-examination and a chance to unburden yourself.” This is not on hand for most of us, of course. McGuinness tell us “It dawned on me: that’s it. That’s it forever. They’re not going to get better.” Their children are at the mild end of the autism spectrum. And many, like the footballer Paul Scholes, interviewed here, face the heart-breaking decision to send children into care.
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The Daily Mail took the appropriate approach of asking readers for their responses to the programme. “What a beautiful, open, informative and emotive documentary”, wrote one. Another wrote “Paddy thank you for sharing your family and autism. We are beginning this journey with our grandson and the program helped so much.” Another tweeted this, with more empathy than is sometimes found on social media: “Absolutely fascinating, thank you for sharing your story. I hope the program helps to raise awareness so we can all recognise autism when we see it and help reduce the stigma and misunderstanding.”
First shown December 2021.