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The TV presenter revealed the challenges he and reality star wife Christine Martin, 33, face as they raise twins Leo and Penelope, eight, and four-year-old Felicity, who all have the condition.
Paddy, 48, said: “Unfortunately, a lot of parents [with autistic children] become very insular. They won’t go out, they won’t go on holiday. Me and my family, we’ve had one holiday.
“It was so stressful for the children, even taking them through an airport, that we thought ‘right, we just have to readjust and do things at home’.”
He also described how one stranger challenged him for taking up a disabled parking space even though he had a blue badge. Paddy recalled: “He said, ‘Well they don’t look disabled’, and you’ve just got to bite your lip and take a deep breath.”
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The I Can See Your Voice host was speaking as Cambridge University launched the UK’s biggest study into autism called Spectrum 10K.
Paddy is calling for less judgment and more education. He told Sky News: “These are the prejudices that you’ve got to meet head-on and education is the best way of doing that.
“The fact I’m surrounded by autism 24/7 and still learning makes me think a lot of people who aren’t aware of autism, and the challenges it brings, need to be educated about that and brought into that world.”
The Top Gear star said his family are fortunate to live in Cheshire where there is good support, but he told BBC Breakfast: “It is a postcode lottery and that needs to change.”
Autism affects around 700,000 people in the UK. Spectrum 10K has recruited 10,000 for its study to help boost understanding.
Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, who is autistic, also backs the project. He said: “I’m honoured to be an ambassador of Spectrum 10K. I believe in the value of science to inform the support services that autistic kids and adults will need.”
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