TV presenter Melanie Sykes has spoken out about the challenges and joys of raising an autistic son, her 13 year-old boy Valentino, who she calls Tino. Mel also has an older boy, 15 year-old Roman.
“I stay in the moment with it because you can’t predict the future,” she told Fabulous magazine.
“He’s only 13 and he’s got a lot of maturing to do and all of that with an underlying condition, so we just have to play it a day at a time.
“But I’m never not happy around him. I’m never not laughing and I’m never not so in love – with both of them, obviously – but Tino is my baby and he’s got a condition so he’s a bit more of a squidge in my life. He’s a real mummy’s boy.”
Mel – who spoke about the challenge to get high-functioning Tino into mainstream school last year on Loose Women – said that for a long-time, she kept Tino’s condition to herself, despite being in the public eye and sharing many other elements of her life.
“I didn’t [go public] until he was seven because I was processing it,” she told the publication.
“I was just trying to help Tino. You do go through a grieving process but I’m 10 years down the line with it now so it’s not as painful.”
Mel joins Paddy McGuinness and his wife Christine in speaking out about autism. The pair recently talked about life with their autistic twins.
Mel is now a passionate campaigner for autism awareness and is busy facing her and Tino’s own daily challenges too.
Imminently she’s off to India to work with charity Sightsavers and the change in routine for Tino – who’ll be staying with his dad, Mel’s ex husband Daniel Caltagirone – will be acute.
“All he wants to know is when I’m back – he couldn’t give a [monkeys] about where I’m going,” she told Fabulous.
“He has a calendar and he crosses off days he’s not with me. It’s a big old thing and he puts it in his rucksack and carries it around with him.”
Mel, 47, can certainly laugh about other certain elements of Tino’s condition too.
“I have to walk out of the room laughing sometimes,” she told the magazine. “Like, this morning he said the birthday cards were so childish. He’ll have no qualms telling people he doesn’t like what they’ve bought for him.
“Over the years I’ve had to say to people not to take it personally. You can’t be precious!”
Mel, who recently did the voiceover for the new Blind Date series, replacing the legendary Our Graham, was also quoted in the interview on misogyny and her lack of tolerance for unwanted male attention.
And she gave a tiny hint that she might not be quite so single as we thought too.
Go for it Mel – Cilla would ALWAYS want Our Mel to be loved-up.