Jean-Christophe Novelli admitted raising his autistic son Valentino was a “huge challenge” and he and his fiancee Michelle Kennedy went to the hospital three times last week alone with him.
The French chef, 60, and his partner described taking care of their non-verbal son, three, as a 24-hour job, with Michelle worrying about how he will communicate with others when he will be older.
Appearing on Wednesday’s episode of Loose Women, Jean-Christophe said, “Valentino is an amazing boy, but it’s a huge challenge and something that we had to learn to adapt to. There isn’t a single day off.
Tough times: Jean-Christophe Novelli and his fiancee Michelle told Loose Women on Wednesday that raising his nonverbal autistic son Valentino, 3, had been a “huge challenge”
“Sometimes it can be 24 hours a day. I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of, that’s what it is. We have learned a lot. The thing is, we want to give it so much.
Valentino was diagnosed with autism in December 2019, just over a year after overcoming stage four neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
The couple faced health issues with Valentino during Britain’s lockdown, with Jean-Christophe recounting how they frequently visited hospital.
He said: “This week we’ve been to the hospital three times and it’s a place no one wants to go. The NHS, what they do every day is fantastic.
Family: The 60-year-old French chef and his partner described taking care of their three-year-old son, which is non-verbal, as a 24-hour job.
“You know they’re on top. It’s always difficult with a young child and I’m sure it gets worse.
Speaking about her communication skills, Michelle said: “It’s a huge fear [for parents of an autistic child], their son or daughter cannot communicate.
“Valentino doesn’t seem to be able to understand and that’s a huge, debilitating worry for us.
“The future is far away, but you can’t help but turn your head thinking that your child won’t be able to communicate forever. When you have this problem in the back of your mind, it is quite difficult.
Jean-Christophe said: “Valentino is an amazing boy but it’s a huge challenge and something that we had to learn to adapt. There is not a single day off ‘
Michelle recounted how during Valentino’s battle with cancer, doctors discovered he had a deletion of 15q, a rare genetic condition in which a copy of part of the genetic material that makes up one of 46 is missing. chromosomes of the body.
She said: “He had cancer when he was a baby, they did all kinds of tests on him and found he had a genetic deletion, 15q. When we found out, they said there’s a 50% chance he has it, 50% chance he doesn’t.
“I know a lot of parents struggle and have a hard time knowing that there is something different about their child, but they have a hard time getting a diagnosis, but we got it early. He’s drinking now. It’s scary. Everything is exacerbated.
Michelle, who is also the mother of Jean, 11, and Jacques, seven with Jean-Christophe, admitted that she enjoyed spending a lot of time with him during the lockdown.
Consciousness: Jean-Christophe admitted the lockdown had woken him up to the severity of his youngest son Valentino’s autism after initially denying his symptoms
She said: “It’s great to have Jean-Christophe here. It’s difficult for Jean, he can’t go to Belfast with his restaurant. But at the same time he is with us and with young children we are blessed.
“I still think, look at the positives. I’m lucky to have Jean here. You can tell when he’s gone because the kids are wild.
Jean-Christophe believes Valentino’s autism diagnosis brought him closer to his siblings, Michelle adding, “Adversity can push siblings to a place of responsibility. It’s hard, of course, for them.
“It’s about breaking the stigma. Ultimately, it’s so important to break this stigma around these types of mental health issues.
Stay at home: Jean-Christophe spent a long period of time with his sons Jean, 11, Jacques, 7 and Valentino, 3, during the lockdown
It comes after the Chief previously admitted spending an extended period of time with his loved ones gave him a better understanding of Valentino’s condition and his unique way of communicating with his parents.
“Being so in the house now, I realize I was in denial about what was going on with Valentino,” he told OK! magazine.
“Before, I could be away for six weeks. Now I can see it clearly and it is not easy. When you love someone, you think everything has to be positive. I’m still very positive but I can see there is a lot of wrestling there.
“It was very difficult for Michelle and the boys. We have no nanny or au pair. It was also very difficult as I am out of my comfort zone while not working.
Equally difficult has been the struggle to communicate with Valentino, who is often frustrated in his efforts to connect with his parents as he cannot speak.
Michelle said: “The future is far away, but you can’t help but turn your head thinking that your child won’t be able to communicate forever”
“He’s very frustrated. He can’t even say mommy or daddy, he just takes your hands. I feel a little sad in a way. It’s very difficult, ”explained Jean-Christophe.
Valentino’s autism diagnosis came after successful treatment to overcome neuroblastoma, a cancer of specialized nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues.
Fewer than 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with the disease each year, and most of them are under the age of five.
Cancer can spread to tissues beyond the site of origin, including the bone marrow, bones, lymph nodes, liver, and skin.
Couple: Michelle admitted she enjoyed spending so much time with Jean-Christophe during the lockdown (pictured in 2018)