'You have to stop mourning the child that you thought you had' - Keith Duffy opens up about his daughter Mia's life with autism
Keith Duffy has opened up about his daughter Mia who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months and offered advice to parents who have found themselves faced with the same circumstances.
The Boyzlife singer (42) is taking part in a documentary, Let Me In, and said one of the most difficult but progressive things a parent of a child with autism can do is to "stop mourning" the child they thought they had.
Speaking on the documentary, dad-of-two Keith 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."
The dad spoke about his family's "distraught" following Mia's diagnosis and said he worried about his daughter's future. Mia was non-verbal until she was seven years old and Keith said life was often frustrating and upsetting.
"Every day you have a realisation that you're going to have a child with a lifelong disability is absolutely horrifying," he said, speaking to presenter Monica Price.
"It's so frustrating, horrifying, upsetting. But you have to try and find the positive."
Speaking in 2015, the dad said he had never been prouder of Mia than when she picked up the results of her Junior Certificate, which marked years of her hard work and perserverance.
Speaking at the time, Keith said: "I never thought she'd be in mainstream school, I never thought she'd sit State exams, I never thought any of this would happen for her."
"We had no idea what to expect when the results came out. She could have come out with 5 or 6 Es and I would have been just as proud of her to be honest. But the fact that she did as well as she did was just unbelievable."
"My daughter has shown me a side of myself that I much more prefer than the person I was before I had her," he said.
Speaking on the new documentary, Keith said more progress needs to be made when it comes to early diagnosis, which could impact the lives of children with autism in incredible ways.
"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.
"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," he said.