Ex-Boyzone singer Keith Duffy is set to feature in an upcoming documentary called ‘Let Me In’, to talk about parenting a child with autism and ‘shine a light’ on what living with autism is really like.
Keith’s daughter Mia was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old, and didn’t speak until she was seven, a time which the father-of-two admits was a struggle.
‘Every day you have a realisation that you’re going to have a child with a lifelong disability is absolutely horrifying. It’s so frustrating, horrifying, upsetting. But you have to try and find the positive,’ he said.
‘One of the most important steps for a parent of a child with autism is to stop mourning the child that they thought they had and and start embracing the child that they have.’
‘When they decide to do that, the world becomes a brighter place and every kind of success the child has becomes a celebration.’
He adds of Mia’s breakthroughs with communication: ‘She started to become more a part of our world in small ways, she would start to take you by the hand when she needed something and push your hand into whether it was in the direction of the cupboard or the fridge.’
‘That was brilliant because it meant that we were moving in the right direction.’
Now aged 17, Mia’s been able to enjoy a healthy relationship with her family, but Keith is keen to stress it was the early diagnosis and ensuing ‘intervention’ that have allowed his daughter to lead the life she has.
The current age for autism diagnoses is standardly 11, which Keith and his wife Lisa, as parents of an autistic child, believe is far too old.
‘The earlier you can diagnose a child with autism the earlier you can put in place an intervention plan and I think that’s fantastic,’ he explained.
‘To make it 11 is an absolute disgrace. Every individual is important. And to leave an individual with a disability like autism to be un-intervened until the age of 11 is just wrong.’
‘You have to undo so many things to then put in place what needs to be done.’
The documentary will visit families from the UK, the US and Jamaica, and offer and intimate snapshot into the ways that living with autism can be difficult.
Keith has said in the past that at times, the pressure was so intense that he and Lisa came close to splitting up. ‘A lot of couples break up and there were certain points it was very tough,’ he revealed during a 2014 interview with The Mirror. ‘Thank God we stuck together, got through the hard times and are still together.’
However, on his Twitter page, he has received universal praise from fans for the honest way he’s spoken out about Mia’s condition.
Responding to one follower’s blog post about him, he said: ‘I love my child dearly and from time to time grieve the life I dreamt for her, [but] She’s happy So I’m happy.’