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Celebrity Families

Richard Wilkins opens up about raising his son with Down syndrome

Becoming a father at 18 was not in the plan for Richard Wilkins, but it turned out to be the greatest gift.

By Rebecca Sullivan
Richard Wilkins is one of the Australian entertainment industry's most popular personalities and he's interviewed everyone who's anyone in Hollywood.
But what many fans of the Today Show's entertainment editor might not know, is that Wilkins is the father of a gorgeous man Adam, who has Down syndrome.
The 64-year-old conceived Adam on the night of his 18th birthday, with his then 16-year-old girlfriend, in New Zealand.
Wilkins opened about his family's experience on the Today Show this morning, on World Down Syndrome Day.
"I was only 18 when Adam was born [and] his mum was just 16, very unusual for Down syndrome people to be born to such young parents. It was a shock to be a parent let alone of a Down syndrome child," Wilkins told Today Extra hosts Sonia Kruger and David Campbell on Thursday morning to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day.
"I'm prepared to admit that I wasn't the greatest Dad back in the day. I didn't really know how to handle it," he said.
"I was getting on with my life and career, I wanted to travel the world and make music and do that sort of stuff, and it was with some reluctance that after about a year we put Adam in a home.
"People said you can have him adopted. But I said 'No he is always going to be my son' and I want a relationship with him. He has had great people in his life over the years."
Wilkins went on to describe Adam as "my rock" and said "to have a down syndrome person in your family is an absolute joy."
Richard was 18 years old when he conceived Adam. (Image: Getty)
Wilkins says it's a "joy" having a person with Down syndrome in the family. (Image: Getty)
Adam, now 45, was born in 1972 in the New Zealand city of Palmerston North, where Wilkins had recently completed high school.
Wilkins has previously opened up about how Adam's arrival shocked his 18-year-old self.
"Back in those days, hubbies weren't exactly encouraged to be in the delivery room cutting umbilical cords. But when I first saw Adam, I just instinctively knew," he told Woman's Day in 2012.
"I guess it hits you pretty hard — with a thud, actually. I remember having a lot of tests done on me to see what I'd done wrong. I almost wanted to believe that there was something wrong with me — something that I'd passed on. But the tests all came back clear as a bell.
"I don't know what I would have done if I had known in advance that Adam was Down syndrome.
"Well, I probably do know what we would have done and that would have been a dreadful mistake. Blessings come in unlikely packages and he is such a joy."
Christian Wilkins (L), Richard Wilkins and Adam on the red carpet. (Image: Getty)
Richard Wilkins (R) and his youngest son Christian Wilkins (L) on the red carpet. (Image: Getty)
In 2014, the TV presenter told the Daily Mail that he still feels 'guilty' for putting his first son in a home.
"I still feel guilty for not being there all the time and for not being the pin-up boy for father of the year," he said.
"He's happy and healthy and living in New Zealand, but he wouldn't be if it wasn't for people who had helped us along the way."
"I was still there for him any day of the week, but I had to relinquish everyday care to others."
WATCH BELOW: Richard Wilkins talks about his son Christian
Wilkins shares five children with four different mothers - Adam, 45, Rebecca, 35, Nick, 33, Christian, 23, and Estella, 14, whose mother is fashion designer Collette Dinnigan.
He is currently dating Virginia Burmeister, 52, the ex-wife of investment banker, Mark Burmeister.

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