Sally and John Bercow talk about their son’s autism together for the first time, insist they have no regrets about Big Brother which made
100,000 for charity
Eldest son diagnosed with autism six years ago
John says he’s ‘very proud’ of Sally for entering Big Brother and raising 100,000 for charity
Sally ‘I felt I couldn’t turn down that kind of money.’
14:51 GMT, 16 July 2012
Sally Bercow’s appearance on 2011’s Celebrity Big Brother raised more than a few eyebrows and caused many to question her hunger for fame and her commitment to husband speaker John Bercow.
But today in a joint TV interview about their son Oliver’s autism Sally insists she has no regrets about taking part in the show that made 100,000 for charity.
Talking to Lorraine Kelly this morning about how her eight-year-old son inspired her to take part and raise money for autism charity, Ambitious about Autism, Labour activist Sally says: “That was why I did it. There's no secret that John didn’t approve of me doing it.
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Raising awareness: Sally and John Bercow appear on the Lorraine show to talk about their son's autism
'I think he had visions of George Galloway dancing like a cat and thinking that I would do the same kind of thing. But it was a lot of money and to me, I just felt that I couldn’t turn down that kind of money, so I have no regrets about doing it.'
Husband John adds: “And it was very much Sally’s decision. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and pretend that I was keen on the idea. I thought that the programme presented hazards for her and for me, but the fact is I have always accepted that she was a free agent and that she was entitled to do it if she wanted to do so.
'And did she do well on the programme She did. And did she raise a fortune She did. And did she do so for a magnificent charity, Ambitious about Autism She did. And I'm very proud of her for that.'
Mr & Mrs Speaker: Sally and John arrive at the ITV studios ahead of their first joint TV interview
John and Sally’s eldest son Oliver was diagnosed with autism when he was just two.
Now eight-years-old Oliver goes to a mainstream school but has a special teaching assistant.
John says: ‘He’s doing fantastically and he’s a delightful little boy. But of course it is a lifelong condition. It’s a spectrum condition, so there are all sorts of variants on the theme of autism.
'Some people are more severely affected than others, but he does experience difficulties in social communication and difficulties with social imagination and difficulties with social interaction.
'And that will remain true lifelong, and the challenge is to find ways of addressing the difficulty and enabling him to make friends, to fulfil his potential and to enjoy life.'
VIPS: The couple were guests of Kate Middleton and Prince William at the Royal Wedding last year
The couple are hoping that talking about their son Oliver’s condition can help raise awareness of autism, which affects one person in every hundred.
Talking about identifying the disorder as an infant mother-of-three Sally says: 'He was developing at a slower than normal rate and everybody was sort of saying, ‘He’ll pick up, it’s just a different shade of normal essentially.’ But I just knew that there was something wrong with him.'
John adds: 'To get confirmation and to get the label was actually useful, because apart from anything else it was the root to the sort of assistance and support he needed.'
Blonde Sally is still courting controversy, mostly with her indiscreet tweets, but husband John doesn’t want to be her sensor.
He says: . She is strong-willed, but I reiterate the basic point – strong willed here in support of a fantastic cause.
'We want to raise awareness of autism, we want to show people that they needn’t feel lonely and isolated and confused, that there can be help and that there are organisations that can provide that help.'
For more information visit Ambitious About Autism
People power: Sally leads demonstrations against government cuts to the disabled in 2011
See the full interview here