KEITH Duffy has told of his delight that his autistic daughter has made enough progress to start secondary school next month.
The Boyzone star said he and wife Lisa once thought they'd never see the day when Mia, 12, would be able to make the transition to mainstream secondary education.
But the father-of-two said huge efforts had been made to ensure his youngest child is accommodated when she walks through the school gates for the first time.
He said: "It's a huge transition for us. This is a goal post that we never thought we'd reach. We never thought we'd have this day, but it's coming around and we're very excited for her.
"Any parent, regardless of any disability, would be apprehensive when their little girl is starting secondary school. It's a huge change for them. But the IAA [Irish Autism Action], who I work for, have put in place different techniques with me, through psychologists, that come to the house and so forth, to try and educate her on what to expect and what changes to expect.
"The school she's going to has been very receptive to us and have given us everything we need. They're working with us to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible."
However, Keith admitted he's still concerned about how her peers will react to her and is worried that she may be picked on - just because she's different.
He said: "Kids can be the cruellest people in the world and if a child stands out because they're in any way different, unfortunately that word bullying comes in. And that is a worry and a concern.
"But working with the school, they've assured us that Mia's going to get the best chance she can."
Keith, 37, who was interviewed yesterday (Thursday) on TV3's The Morning Show, also revealed that Mia hates seeing him on TV talking about her condition.
He said: "She's very clever now. She's very aware that she has autism and she gets very embarrassed about it. She doesn't like to see me on TV talking about it - that embarrasses her too.
"She'll walk out of the room and won't watch this. I have to decide whether I'm doing the right thing coming on TV, but there's so many other boys and girls in the country that need efforts made about them."
The Dubliner also revealed he was following a strict diet and training regime ahead of a gruelling 'Ironman' challenge in Galway on September 2.
He is being joined by a host of other celebrities - including Rosanna Davison, sisters Grainne and Sile Seoighe, Keith Barry, Brian Kennedy and Ray D'Arcy - on the extreme triathlon to raise much-needed funds for autism.
He said: "There have been huge changes with the recession, especially in Special Needs areas. Events that we used to raise €250,000 to €300,000 a night, we're ony making maybe €70,000 or €80,000.
"But that's still a phenomenal amount of money and you're still ending up with a lot more money that did when you started. So you just have to be clever where the money goes and make sure it goes to the places it needs to be spent."
Keith also revealed that he's likely to reunite with Boyzone bandmates Ronan Keating, Shane Lynch and Mikey Graham - who turned 40 last Wednesday - for a 20th anniversary tour next year.
He said: "As a band we're in a really good place. We don't put any pressure on ourselves at all. When we're together, we just fall into place, we play well together and we entertain the crowd. If it's a thing that we sell enough tickets to make it up to a crowd, well then we'd like to think we'd put a few shows on next year."
He added: "Twenty years of Boyzone, it's bittersweet because Stephen's [Stephen Gately] not with us anymore, but the way for us to keep his memory alive is for us to work together for a minimum time, two or three months. We'll hopefully put out a CD too.
"If people want to see us, we'll be there. But we're not kids anymore."
Check out our what Keith had to say about the reunion in the video below.