Paul Scholes has opened up about his son having autism and the impact it had on his playing career in a candid interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap YouTube channel.
During a fascinating 44-minute chat in his hometown of Oldham, the former Manchester United midfielder discussed not wanting to play football after Aidan’s diagnosis with autism and the struggles he has faced coming to terms with it.
As well as speaking about post-football life and his brand new state-of-the-art gym in Oldham, Scholes has been praised by many for discussing the personal struggles he has faced with his son’s autism, as well as the progression Aidan has made.
Image credit: The Overlap/YouTubeScholes began: “I knew he [Aidan] wasn’t right; it took him ages to walk and by the age of 18-months, he only spoke a few words – when I say words, they were just words that me and Claire could understand. They weren’t proper words and we had to count his words, he had something like 100 words.
“18-months later, he probably had 10 at the most, he just wasn’t using them. He was using actions, he was going to the cupboard to get food out, he wasn’t telling us anything. I was just getting frustrated all the time with it and it was hard as he wasn’t sleeping. He could go right through the night, go to school the day after and not sleep.”
Scholes went on to speak about covering his arms in training because of scratch marks.
“The first time we were playing Derby County away when we just found out,” he said. “It was a waste of time, I didn’t want to be playing, but I wouldn’t tell anyone anything and the manager left me out the day after. I didn’t tell the manager. I told him six months or a year after.
“I don’t know why I told him, there was nothing that could be done differently. I had to cover my arms when I used to go to training because Aiden was scratching and biting. The last five years [he’s been brilliant], he’s so relaxed, so calm, so happy, but for eight or nine years, it was horrific.
“He could be in the back seat and we’re driving and he’s grabbing Claire’s hair, grabbing me and you don’t know why. It’s just frustrating because he probably doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“Now, every single day, every single night, he asks what he’s doing the day after. So, we’ll say ‘school’, so you know that he’s thinking about his routine tomorrow. You tell him school, you tell him if he’s going swimming after school, what he’s going to have to eat.
“He has got a lot better with breaking his routine, and routine for autistic children is massive, but he can cope with it, but when he was younger, he couldn’t cope with it.”
The 47-year-old continued to open up about Aidan’s diagnosis with autism and the massive impact it had on their lives.
“We knew there were problems development-wise with his walk and speech when he was about 18 months to two years and I’ve gone to the doctors in Oldham, and there were all signs about what autism was strangely enough,” he said.
“As soon as I read them, I knew straight away that was what was wrong with him. When I saw those signs, I started Googling stuff, ‘what is autism?’ – I knew all the signs of it. I didn’t need a diagnosis.
“His diagnosis massively impacted all our lives. It’s not a normal lifestyle, because we can’t do things that we’d probably like to do as a family.”
He added: “During my playing days, I couldn’t move away from Aidan, unless he came with me. He’s happy here. He’s happy at school, he’s 17 now and jeopardising his happiness, to take a managerial job, is just not worth it. It was hard from when he was younger and when I found out he had autism, I was still playing.
Image credit: The Overlap/YouTubeThe former United midfielder also opened up about the progression his son has made that shows there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I don’t know what the future looks like with Aidan,” Scholes admitted. “He’s got two years left at school, and they’ve been brilliant. He was supposed to go to another building, which is children aged 16-19, but they let him stay in school because he’s happy there. It’s a bit strange taking him to school because he’s in children’s classes, but he is like a one- to two-year-old child. Everyday [he needs care], there’s still toileting problems.”
He added: “I don’t really talk it, I put pictures on Instagram about autism and I think it helps people – that’s why I do that. A lot of people can relate to what we’ve been through, and I put the photo up of Claire doing his hair, it’s so much better now and it shows people that things can change. There’ll be a lot of people with kids like Aidan who are three or four years old, but now he’s got to 16 or 17 you can see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel for him and I get so many messages about it, ‘keep posting, it’s so helpful to us’”.
You can watch the full episode of Sky Bet’s The Overlap with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes below. It’s a must watch.
Here are just some of the many comments from this week’s Overlap episode involving Scholes.
One fan said: “Best interview on the Overlap yet. Scholesy opened up like never before and it was a refreshing, honest insight into his thought process, career, his family’s life and the subject of autism. Brilliant player, world class talent and has retired gracefully. Legend.”
Another commented: “It’s really cheered me up seeing someone like Scholesy, who comes across generally closed emotionally, truly open up. I bet it made him feel better. Fair play to Gary. Well done Scholesy. On and off the pitch mate.”
A third wrote: “Paul Scholes is fantastic to listen to when he’s comfortable and speaking to somebody he trusts so he can open up in the way he wants to. Comes across so differently. Genuinely class watch this and Gary is probably one of the only people who could get it from him. Class interview.”
Image credit: The Overlap/YouTubePaul Scholes was speaking on The Overlap, in partnership with Sky Bet.