Comedian Paddy McGuinness has said one of the “toughest” experiences for parents of autistic children is waiting for a diagnosis.
The TV presenter, who has three autistic children, said in some areas of the UK receiving a diagnosis can take not months but years.
McGuinness, 48, and his model wife Christine, 33, have let cameras into their Cheshire home for a new documentary in which they discuss their family’s experience of autism.
Speaking in Radio Times, he said: “One of the toughest things for parents is the wait for a diagnosis. At least then you can work out what triggers your kids.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail about my kids, but Penelope, for example, ‘masks’ – she does her best to fit into her environment and not draw attention to herself.
“Christine and I are constantly on watch, making sure the kids stay calm and happy as much as possible.
“But in some areas of the UK, the wait for a diagnosis doesn’t take weeks or months, but years. It needs to change. People need to be seen much faster.”
Top Gear presenter McGuinness admitted he had not previously wanted to take part in “such a personal documentary” until lockdown happened and he began homeschooling his children.
“Our kids regressed and it made me think about families who might be in a similar, or worse, position to us,” he said.
“I was struggling, so I thought if we did the documentary, other families might not feel so alone or isolated.”
McGuinness said men were beginning to speak about their feelings more openly.
He said: “I come from a single parent, working-class, Northern background and I spent years before Phoenix Nights working on a building site.
“Men have traditionally struggled to open up more. We’re seen as hunter gatherers whose obligation it is never to be upset or weak. Even among our mates.
“But I still see the lads I used to work with and they actually ask each other how they are doing in a caring way. I’m talking about hairy-arsed builders. Men’s men. Things are slowly changing.”
Read the full interview in Radio Times, out now.