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Melanie Sykes Celebrates Her Diagnosis With Autism at 51

Melanie Sykes Celebrates Her Diagnosis With Autism at 51




Melanie Sykes talking about her autism diagnosis on Loose Women // Courtesy of ITV


People have praised Melanie Sykes for her openness and celebration when publicly announcing that she has been diagnosed with autism at the age of 51.

The presenter, who is best known for co-hosting Today with Des and Mel with Des O’Connor and Let’s Do Lunch with Gino D’Acampo, confirmed her diagnosis this month.

Sykes opened up about her experiences on Loose Women earlier this week (November 23) and said “we need to change” society’s attitude towards autism.


“My phone has blown up with mothers of teenage girls, who are like, ‘I’ve just shown her your video and they’re like ‘It’s a good thing’”, Sykes said, “and it is a good thing because it’s all the positives about someone.”

Autism charities have commended public figures like Sykes for talking openly about being diagnosed as adults.

Around one in 100 people in the UK are autistic, amounting to roughly 700,000 people, according to the National Autistic Society.

It is common for those with autism to not be formally diagnosed until much later in life due to the variation in symptoms, and a lack of awareness.


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A post shared by Melanie Sykes (@msmelaniesykes)

Peter Watt, the director of national programmes for the National Autistic Society said: “”A diagnosis can be life-changing and vital to getting timely care and support. But many autistic people aren’t diagnosed well into adulthood – and may have gone through life without a full understanding of who they are and the support they’re entitled to.”


What does autism look like?

Autism can affect people in completely different ways but often involves symptoms of sensory overload or extreme bouts of anxiety.

Signs and symptoms can vary a lot between children and adults, and adults may struggle more to get a diagnosis.

According to the NHS, the most common signals of autism in adults include:

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • getting very anxious about social situations
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to say how you feel
  • taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”
  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes

Other signs include misunderstanding social rules and ques, disliking physical touch and having a very active and keen interest in certain subjects.

Adult women struggle the most to get a diagnosis of autism, as they typically may be quieter, hide their feelings and appear to cope better with social situations even if they are not.


‘Every minute of every day I’m starting to have realisations’

Melaine Sykes admitted on Loose Women that she is learning something about herself every day since discovering that she is on the autistic spectrum.

Autism is also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives interaction and communication.

Sykes has said that she doesn’t feel that autism should be referred to as a disorder.

She said: “They call it a disorder, which needs to get scrapped because it isn’t the things I can’t do, it’s the things I can do that are my autistic sensibilities. That’s what we need to change.”

Sykes also addressed the gender gap when it comes to autism in adults, criticising how long it can take for women to be diagnosed.

“It throws up that question of if you’re being tested on how a boy or a male presents a certain condition or disease like heart disease, it looks very different to a woman”, Sykes said. 

“Why are we being looked at in the form of man when we’re completely different animals? We’ve got to start looking at women and what happens with that woman.”


‘It all makes sense now’

Other celebrities have also opened up about their own experiences with late autism diagnosis, including Christine McGuinness.

The 33-year-old wife of Paddy McGuinness was diagnosed recently whilst the pair were filming their upcoming BBC documentary.


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A post shared by Paddy McGuinness (@mcguinness.paddy)

In an exclusive extract from her new book that has been shared by the Mirror, Christine wrote: “I have been confirmed as autistic. It’s strange, but I’ve noticed there are little hints throughout my life that I’m autistic and more like my children than I ever could have imagined.

“It all makes sense now. And as much as I’m not totally surprised, it’s still been emotional for me to accept, but it’s a relief as well.”

Peter Watt said that “many autistic people and families will see a lot of themselves” in the celebrities’ stories.

Speaking on Loose Women, Melanie Sykes made it clear that she was speaking out publicly for anyone who is struggling with their diagnosis.

“I know what makes me autistic and it’s the fabric of who I am and who I’ve always been and I think I’m great. I don’t need the air time, I don’t care about the column inches – I’ve had 25 years of this and that’s not what I did it for.”

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