Christine married Paddy McGuiness in 2011 (Picture: Getty)
Paddy McGuinness is best known as a TV presenter, comedian and usually synonymous with game shows, laughter and light entertainment.
However, in recent years he and his wife Christine have opened up about their three children’s autism diagnosis, and more recently Christine revealed that she too received the same diagnosed.
Now, in an eye-opening, highly personal documentary, the pair will invite cameras into their lives to share the rewarding, touching and oftentimes challenging realities of raising children with autism.
So, who is Christine and what has she said about her life as a mother, as well as being diagnosed with autism at the age of 33. This is what you need to know.
Who is Christine McGuinness?
Born Christine Martin in 1988, she grew up in Halewood, Merseyside, and entered beauty pageants during her teenage years.
She won the Chester Model Girl competition in 2005 and was crowned Miss Commonwealth in 2007, before winning Miss Liverpool the same year.
It was also during her primary school years and into early adulthood that she experienced anorexia, an eating disorder she said she still struggles with today and caused difficulty conceiving.
In 2007, aged 21, she was mixing with the likes of supermodel Abbey Clancy, when she met her soon-to-be husband, Paddy McGuinness.
The pair have gone on to welcome three children, twins Leo and Penelope in 2013 and Felicity in 2016.
In her book, A Beautiful Nightmare, was published earlier this year and revealed she had been sexually abused as a young girl and growing up with a father who struggled with heroine addiction.
How did she and Paddy meet?
The pair met while she was working at a fashion show for the Liverpool Tennis Tournament.
She admitted that she didn’t really know who Paddy, then aged 36, was but did know he was Peter Kay’s friend.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo at the time, she said: “He was supposed to be watching the tennis, but I think he was really more interested in the fashion show,” she laughs. “We had a mutual friend there who introduced us but I can’t say I was starstruck – I’d never seen him on anything.
“I knew who Peter Kay was, obviously, and I’d heard of Max & Paddy, but I didn’t realise it was him. He made me laugh, though, he is quite a charmer and we just clicked.
“Neither of us was looking for anything serious at the time, so we just met up every now and again. It all started off quite casually but then he asked me to stay over at his house one night, and it went from one night to a weekend, then to a week and I just ended up not moving out.”
McGuinness asked her to marry him on Christmas Day 2008, and they married at Thornton Manor, Wirral in June 2011.
When was she diagnosed with autism?
Christine, 33, was diagnosed with autism in August 2021, years after her children received their diagnosis.
She revealed she also has the condition, in her new book.
McGuinness penned: “I have been confirmed as autistic. It’s strange, but I’ve noticed there are little hints throughout my life that I’m autistic and more like my children than I ever could have imagined.
“My issues with food, my social struggles, how hard I find it to make friends and stay focused, and my indecisiveness. The way I float through life reminds me of how my eldest daughter Penelope is.
“It all makes sense now. And as much as I’m not totally surprised, it’s still been emotional for me to accept, but it’s a relief as well.
“My diagnosis came in August. Patrick and I were invited to meet with expert Sir Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University.
“Patrick and I filled out what’s called an AQ questionnaire. It tests for symptoms of autism. While lots of people might carry a few traits, to actually be classed as autistic you’re required to score a high number, and I did. The scale goes from zero to 50 and the average neurotypical person would score up to 15.”
She also said Paddy had questioned whether she was autistic in recent years, before the confirmation was given by doctors.
The mother-of-three admitted she struggled with receiving the diagnosis, though it was also “a relief”.
“I broke down in floods of tears. I think it’s because the news conjured up a mixture of emotions and while I’m not totally shocked and it’s a relief, I’m just really sad for my younger self,” she wrote. “Because of my inability to concentrate and my hatred for my school, I left with no GCSEs. I was more than capable of sitting the exams, but I just couldn’t be in that exam hall.”
What has she said about raising her three young children?
Christine opened up in her book about raising Leo, Penelope and Felicity, describing her love for them and some of the comments she has received by online trolls.
She revealed one comment suggested she probably wished she hadn’t had children, to which she said she couldn’t believe the depths people would sink to.
“Well, actually, no, they’re still my children and I love them so much and I’m so lucky to have them. I don’t introduce my kids like, ‘This is Leo, Penelope, and Felicity, and they’re autistic. They’re just my babies,” she wrote in ‘A Beautiful Nightmare’.
However, she acknowledged it isn’t all plain sailing and struggled with blaming herself when she realised she too have autism.
“Don’t get me wrong, their autism has been difficult to deal with. While I feel upbeat about our children’s futures, Patrick feels quite down about it all and struggles to see the positives in their condition.”
Recently, Christine told Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langford on This Morning that she has not told the children they have autism, and they don’t see any difference between themselves and others.
“They don’t feel any different to anyone else and I don’t want them to,” she said. “I don’t want it to be like a big bombshell moment because it shouldn’t be”.
Paddy first opened up about raising children with autism in 2018, during an interview with fellow comedian John Bishop.
“It’s still very difficult for me to deal with,” Paddy said on the show.
“Very difficult. I crave normality with my children. Honestly, John, whether you’re autistic or not, I’d like to think I’d never be a parent who was putting pressure on my kids to be a bloody brain surgeon or a dentist. It wouldn’t matter to me if they worked at Morrison’s or what they did, as long as they were happy – because I was happy growing up like that.”
When is ‘Our family and autism’ on TV?
Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism airs tonight on BBC One at 9pm.
It will be available on BBC iPlayer, shortly after broadcast.