NEC Birmingham |  09 - 10 October 2024

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22 May 2024

In Conversation with Christine McGuinness: Unmasking Autism, ADHD and Everything in Between

In Conversation with Christine McGuinness: Unmasking Autism, ADHD and Everything in Between
At Care Show London 2024, we welcomed our Care Keynote speaker, Christine McGuinness, Celebrity Ambassador for the National Autistic Society.

Following her first documentary in 2021, ‘Our Family and Autism’, and a second in 2023, ‘Unmasking My Autism’, Christine is a huge advocate for an increased understanding of the priorities and challenges of individuals with autism and their families and how our society can work towards being more accommodating of these. Whilst autism is not classified as a learning disability, around 50% of autistic people may also have a learning disability. With some autistic individuals living very independent lives, and others requiring specialist help and 24-hour support, a recognition of each individual in their own right is of paramount importance in the provision of care.   


Christine's session at Care Show London


Interviewed by Nick Bright in the Care Keynote Theatre, the session revolved around Christine’s experiences as an advocate for autism and ADHD, both as a diagnosed individual and a mother to three autistic children. The discussion touched on her journey of understanding and coping with neurodiversity, her advocacy work, and the challenges and improvements in support systems for neurodivergent individuals. 

Christine emphasised the significance of lived experience in truly understanding and advocating for neurodivergent individuals. She shared her personal experience being diagnosed with autism and ADHD in her early thirties, following the diagnoses of her children. She explained how this late diagnosis brought a mix of clarity and a sense of loss for the years spent without understanding her condition. She described a transformative journey, from struggling with social interactions and sensory issues to embracing her neurodivergent identity and using it to better support her children and raise awareness. 

Christine highlighted the varying experiences within the autism spectrum, stressing that each autistic individual is unique. Her approach to raising her children involves treating them as individuals with distinct needs and preferences. This perspective is vital in her advocacy, as she aims to improve understanding and support for neurodivergent people in broader society. 

She noted significant improvements in the awareness and accommodations for neurodivergent individuals in recent year, especially in educational settings. Christine compared her own challenging school experience, marked by a lack of understanding and support, with the current, more supportive environment that her children currently benefit from.  

The interview also delved into Christine’s personal coping mechanisms and her ability to mask her discomfort in social situations. Masking, she explained, is a common behaviour among autistic women, where they pretend to be more comfortable and confident than they might otherwise feel. This skill has helped her navigate public and professional spaces, although it comes with its own set of challenges. Christine stressed the need for routine and predictability for autistic individuals and highlights how disruptions can cause significant distress. She highlighted the importance of encouraging environments, like sports stadiums, to create sensory-friendly spaces to accommodate neurodivergent individuals. 

In discussing the health and social care system, Christine acknowledged both the NHS and social care sector's roles in providing support but points out the lengthy waiting lists and the need for more comprehensive aftercare. She mentioned the benefits of initiatives like the sunflower lanyard, which helps identify individuals with hidden disabilities and facilitate better understanding and support in public spaces. 

The session concluded with a discussion on the concept of autism as a superpower. Christine embraces this idea, celebrating the unique perspectives and strengths that come with neurodiversity. She encourages a shift in societal attitudes to view neurodivergent traits not as deficits but as different ways of experiencing and understanding the world. 

“For me, autism and ADHD is a different way of thinking, it’s a different way of seeing the world, it’s certainly a different way of processing. For me, it’s a positive. I love it more now that I understand it.” 

Overall, the interview provided valuable insights into the lived experiences of a neurodivergent individual and parent, highlighting the progress in societal understanding and support for autism and ADHD, while also underscoring the need for continued improvement and advocacy. 

Our delegates remained engaged throughout, with Christine concluding by answering a number of audience questions around her personal experiences as both an autistic individual and a parent to autistic children.  

The session was a resounding success and the Care Show team was very excited to have her along as our headlining Keynote speaker. Christine has since mentioned how thrilled she was to have played a part in Care Show London 2024 in continuing to raise advocacy for understanding and supporting people with autism.  


Molly and Christine at Care Show London


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