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Jean-Christophe Novelli admits he was in denial about the severity of son Valentino’s autism

Jean-Christophe Novelli admits lockdown has woken him up to the severity of his youngest son’s autism after initially being in denial about his symptoms. 

The celebrated French chef remains at home with fiancée Michelle Kennedy and their three children, Jean, 11, Jacques, seven, and three-year old Valentino as the UK adapts to a sixth week of social distancing measures.

Valentino was diagnosed autism in December 2019, little more than a year after overcoming stage four neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

Awareness: Jean-Christophe Novelli admits lockdown has woken him up to the severity of his youngest son Valentino's autism after initially being in denial about his symptoms

Awareness: Jean-Christophe Novelli admits lockdown has woken him up to the severity of his youngest son Valentino's autism after initially being in denial about his symptoms

Awareness: Jean-Christophe Novelli admits lockdown has woken him up to the severity of his youngest son Valentino’s autism after initially being in denial about his symptoms

And Jean-Christophe, 59, believes spending an extended period of time with his loved ones has given him a better understanding of Valentino’s  condition and his unique way of communicating with his parents. 

‘Being in the house so much now, I realise I was in denial about what was going on with Valentino,’ he told the latest issue of OK!

‘Before, I could be away for six weeks. Now I can clearly see it and it’s not easy. When you love someone you think everything should be positive. I’m still very positive but I can see that there is a lot of struggle there.

Staying safe: The celebrated French chef remains at home with fiancée Michelle Kennedy and their three children as the UK adapts to a sixth week of social distancing measures

Staying safe: The celebrated French chef remains at home with fiancée Michelle Kennedy and their three children as the UK adapts to a sixth week of social distancing measures

Staying safe: The celebrated French chef remains at home with fiancée Michelle Kennedy and their three children as the UK adapts to a sixth week of social distancing measures

‘It’s been very difficult for Michelle and the boys. We don’t have a nanny or an au pair. It’s also been very difficult because I’m out of my comfort zone while I’m not working.’

Equally challenging has been the struggle to communicate with Valentino, who is unable to speak and frequently left frustrated in his efforts to connect with his parents.  

‘He is very frustrated. He can’t even say mummy or daddy, he just takes your hands. I feel a little bit sad in a way. It’s very challenging,’ Jean-Christophe explained. 

Stay home: Jean-Christophe is spending an extended period of time with sons Jean, 11, Jacques, seven, and three-year old Valentino

Stay home: Jean-Christophe is spending an extended period of time with sons Jean, 11, Jacques, seven, and three-year old Valentino

Stay home: Jean-Christophe is spending an extended period of time with sons Jean, 11, Jacques, seven, and three-year old Valentino

Valentino’s autism diagnosis came after successful treatment to beat Neuroblastoma, a cancer of specialised nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues. 

Fewer than 100 children in the UK are diagnosed each year with the disease, and most of them are under five. 

The cancer can spread to tissues beyond the original site, including bone marrow, bone, lymph nodes, liver and skin.  

Difficulty: Valentino's autism diagnosis came after successful treatment to beat Neuroblastoma, a cancer of specialised nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues

Difficulty: Valentino's autism diagnosis came after successful treatment to beat Neuroblastoma, a cancer of specialised nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues

Difficulty: Valentino’s autism diagnosis came after successful treatment to beat Neuroblastoma, a cancer of specialised nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues 

Despite being given the all clear Valentino is still subject to regular follow up appointments, and Jean-Christophe admits he will be forever grateful to the NHS for aiding his son’s recovery. 

He said: ‘The NHS is one of the most precious organisations in the world. There is no favouritism. We live in a great country. I love my country – I will always be French, but I am so privileged to be here. 

‘I’ve been here for 38 years and I’ve never once had to think about why I came here.’

The full interview is available in the latest issue of OK!, out now.  

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