The singer met his wife Lisa aged 19

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Keith Duffy has opened up about the moment he realised his 14-year-old daughter Mia was autistic while at a charity event for children with the disorder.

The Boyzone star, 39, and his wife Lisa already knew Mia was different to other youngsters because she slept very little, didn’t hold eye contact and hardly socialised as a toddler.

‘I had no clue what autism was and when it was explained to me that it was a neurological developmental disorder of the brain, it became increasingly apparent,’ says Keith.

‘[Afterwards, Lisa] could see I’d been crying and she panicked. I just said: “Mia is autistic” and her initial reaction was to slap me. Then she burst into tears.

‘All of our parents came to the house that afternoon and we had a cry-in. Then we needed to figure out what to do – she was 18 months old and where did we go from here?’

Mia was officially diagnosed by a private doctor and Keith helped open specialist school Stepping Stones in Kilcloon, Ireland, which Mia attended until she was 7.

She was later integrated into mainstream school and is now fully aware of her condition and is ‘surrounded by friends who care about her’.

Keith admits that Mia‘s diagnosis did rock his and Lisa‘s marriage but they’ve stayed together because they’re ‘best mates’ who know each other ‘inside out and back to front’.

‘A lot of couples break up and there were certain points it was very tough. Thank God we stuck together, got through hard times and are still together,’ Keith tells the Daily Mirror.

‘We’ve had to work really hard to make it work but the common bond of our children brings us back together. We remember there was a reason we had our kids and that’s because we love each other.’

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SEE PICTURES Keith Duffy at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards

Anna Duff