Fiancee of Jean-Christophe Novelli recalls son’s ‘terrifying’ autism diagnosis

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

The fiancee of TV chef Jean-Christophe Novelli has said the idea their autistic three-year-old son may never talk is “terrifying”.

Michelle Kennedy has three sons with Novelli, her partner for the past 11 years, including Valentino, who has already overcome cancer and been diagnosed with autism.

Valentino was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, at six weeks old.

Jean-Christophe Novelli (Matt Faber/PA)

Kennedy told Hello! magazine: “He’s very active and dynamic, and takes me by the hand to show me things. But he won’t talk and I’m longing to hear him say ‘Mummy’.

“I’ve been assured that once he starts talking we won’t be able to stop him. Until then, he appears to enjoy communicating through music and art.”

Kennedy also said educating themselves about autism had helped the pair cope.

She added: “We didn’t know anything about the condition and when we heard words associated with it, such as ‘non-verbal’, we were frightened.

“Did this mean that we would never hear Valentino speak? It was a terrifying thought.

Jean-Christophe Novelli (Ian West/PA)

“We discovered the only way to stop this fear was to educate ourselves about the condition.

“When you find out that there’s lots of help and support out there, and that so many other parents are going through the same ordeal, you deal with it.

“You come out of it a kinder person because you have to understand something which you’d never needed to think about before. Suddenly, it’s not the end of the world.”

The couple plan to spend Christmas Day at home with Valentino and his two older brothers Jean, 11, and Jacques, seven.

“It’s the only day I don’t cook,” said Novelli.

“That’s her Christmas present to me. Mine to her is that I do the washing-up.”

He added that his Christmas wish would be to have another child.

He said: “I’d like another child. That would be lovely.”

Kennedy added: “Whenever he says this, it makes me want one, too. I’ve always wanted a little girl and I’d call her Bridie, after my nan.”

“Whatever happens, we’re blessed to be together to celebrate Christmas as a family.”

The full interview is in Hello!, out now.