Boyzone star Keith Duffy on raising an autistic chid: “Our little girl didn’t even want to sit on our knee or give us a hug”

Keith Duffy has opened up about the struggle he and his wife have faced raising their autistic daughter.


by Jack White |
Published on

The Boyzone star and wife Lisa found out their daughter Mia, 14, had autism when she was 18-months-old, and Keith has revealed their difficulty to cope when she was first diagnosed.

Speaking to a UK newspaper, Keith, 39, said: “A lot of couples break up and there were certain points it was very tough. Thank God we stuck together, got through the hard times and are still together.”

According to statistics, the divorce rate for couples with autistic children is as high as 80 per cent. But, although it was hard for Keith and Lisa, who met when he was 19, he says their children got them through it.

Keith and Lisa stuggled when Mia was first diagnosed
Keith and Lisa stuggled when Mia was first diagnosed

“It happens,” he said. “I work with a lot of families now and I see all the same signs we went though. We’ve had to work really hard to make it work but the common bond of our children brings us back together.”

Despite everything, Keith said that he and Lisa were relieved when Mia was finally diagnosed. “She wasn’t responding to her name. We thought she was deaf and took her for tests but they said her hearing was fine – something else might be wrong but they weren’t qualified to tell us,” he said.

It was only after being asked to go to an event for the Red Door School for the education of children with autism that Keith started to put the pieces together.

He said it was their children that got them through that tough time

He said: “It became increasingly apparent that my daughter was autistic and I started to get very upset.”

But Lisa refused to believe it, he recalled. “She could see I’d been crying and she panicked. I just said, ‘Mia is autistic’ and her initial reaction was to slap me.

“Then she burst into tears because we knew there was something, we just didn’t have a name for it – now we did and it made it real.”

They finally got Mia officially diagnosed, but it didn’t make things any easier for them.

He said: “Lisa felt Mia would catch up and turn a corner but that wasn’t happening. Mia was becoming more and more isolated in her own world, there was no affection.

“Out little baby girl didn’t even want to sit on our knee or give us a hug – if she wanted something, she’d grab you by the wrist and push your hand in the direction of the cupboard.”

Over the years, Keith and Lisa have learned to cope with Mia’s autism and worked together, defying the statistics for parents of autistic children.

Keith said: “We remember there was a reason we had our kids and that’s because we love each other.

“A lot of couples break up but Lisa’s my best mate and knows me inside and out and back to front.”

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