Boyzone star Keith Duffy urges parents with autistic children to 'stop mourning' and 'start embracing' their child as he opens up about daughter Mia's own struggles and the 'brilliant' moment she began communicating with him, aged seven
- Keith Duffy's daughter Mia was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old
- The Boyzone star revealed he and his wife were initially 'distraught' at the news
- They learned to embrace the disability and urged other parents to do the same
Boyzone star Keith Duffy has opened up about living with an autistic child in a touching interview.
The father-of-two spoke candidly about how he and his wife Lisa were initially 'distraught' when their daughter Mia, 17, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old.
But Keith, 42, said they learned to 'find the positive' in the situation and urged other parents of autistic children to 'embrace' their child for who they are.
Keith enjoys birthday cocktails with his daughter Mia and wife Lisa. The former Boyzone star was initially 'distraught' when his daughter was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old
Duffy said it was vital for parents to 'find the positive' in the situation and 'embrace' their children for who they are
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.'
The former Coronation Street actor is taking part in a TV documentary, Let Me In, in which he is interviewed by Monica Price and which examines how autistic children and their families are treated in different countries around the world.
Proud: Keith with his daughter during a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida in 2009
Last summer Mia passed the Irish equivalent of her GCSEs and attended her first school dance
Smiles all round; Keith was praised for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit Florida for two weeks with his family
Keith, who also has a 21-year-old son, Jay, is an active autism awareness campaigner and regular hosts fundraising events and talks on the condition.
Last year Keith revealed how Mia passed her Junior Certificate - the Irish equivalent to the GCSEs, had been on her first night out and attended her school dinner dance.
Speaking at the time he said he 'never thought any of this would happen for her'.
However the singer and actor admitted it is not always easy to cope with the disability.
'Every day you have a realisation that you're going to have a child with a lifelong disability is absolutely horrifying,' he said.
'It's so frustrating, horrifying, upsetting. But you have to try and find the positive.'
Keith recalled how Mia, who was non-verbal until she was nearly seven, began communicating with physical signals.
Mia, seen here walking her two dogs near Dublin, was non-verbal until she was seven, when she began communicating with physical signals
Keith's 21-year-old son Jay (pictured left) is an autism awareness campaigner and actively fundraise to improve awareness about the condition
Ladies' man Keith announces the family holiday plans to a his wife and daughter
Keith said that a parent's world becomes brighter when they embrace their child's disability
Keith admitted that it was sometimes difficult to cope with Mia's disability, but that he would never have though her accomplishments possible when she was first diagnosed
He said: '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.'
Urging other parents to start to embrace their child's disability, he added: 'When they decide to do that, the world becomes a brighter place and every kind of success the child has becomes a celebration.'
He also commented on the need for early diagnosis, saying: '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. To make it 11 is an absolute disgrace.
Keith said it was important to diagnose a child with autism as early as possible so that parents could put an intervention plan in place and learn how best to communicate with their child
Keith said Mia is his 'little princess' and described her early attempts at communicating
'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.'
Seeing the bright side: Keith, right, with Westlife star Brian McFadden in March 2016
Personal journey: Keith revealed how he and wife Lisa learned to 'embrace' the situation
Keith and Lisa attend the 50th anniversary of 'The Late Late Show' in Dublin, Ireland
Family day out: Keith and Lisa with children Jay and Mia at an ice-skating rink in 2010
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