There has been a marked rise in women being diagnosed with autism in recent years. Some are in the public eye. The TV presenter Melanie Sykes was diagnosed at the age of 51, and said her life had finally started to make sense. Anne Hegerty, quizzer on The Chase, received her diagnosis at 45, having watched a programme about the condition and recognised some of the traits in herself.
Christine McGuinness: Unmasking My Autism (BBC One) is a follow-up to a 2021 documentary in which she and her husband, presenter Paddy McGuinness, discussed their children’s autism. At the end of that programme, Christine was told that she had it too. In this new film, she explored what that means, and how the condition affects women in particular.
If the purpose of a documentary is to throw light on a subject, then this one was exemplary. Christine explained the many ways in which autism can manifest itself, but which are not immediately apparent to others. Sensory issues mean she prefers beige food and feels anxious in noisy places. She has a wardrobe of clothes bought not because she liked them, but because they fit the different “roles” she played in certain situations. A text message from a friend casually inviting her for lunch the following day would throw her into panic: “What time? Where? What are we eating? What are we wearing? Who’s going? How long am I there for? What time am I getting home?”