Friday 22 September 2023

Where Do I Start? {Book Review}

Where Do I Start? is a newly published book by Kate Laine-Toner, the founder of charity Bristol Autism Support. Apart from the fact we have both written books, Kate and I have something else in common - our daughters were both diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, and they are both teenagers now. In the years following her daughter's diagnosis, Kate was diagnosed autistic and also has ADHD; she therefore brings valuable neurodivergent insights to this guide for parents.

Front cover of where do i start book by kate laine-toner

Where Do I Start? is billed as the ultimate guidebook to navigating the emotions and challenges presented in the early stages following an autism diagnosis for your child. The book is split into two parts; the first half concentrates on How to Help Yourself (as a parent) and the second half focuses on How to Help Your Child. Part 1 consists of 7 chapters and these are packed full of helpful advice on matters such as talking to friends and family about autism, looking after yourself and being assertive with healthcare and education professionals. Kate interlaces the personal story of her daughter's journey and her own experiences throughout all of this section, adding great insights and exploring some of the true feelings around diagnosis that some parents might be too scared to admit to. 

One of the sections in this first half that I loved was where Kate talks about the need for parents to be assertive. She points out how helpful the small word 'why?' can be (when asked politely!):

  • Why can’t my child have this reasonable adjustment at school?
  • Why can’t we have the first appointment of the day?
  • Why can’t the GP meet us in the waiting area?
  • Why can’t we arrive 15 minutes before everyone else?
  • Why can’t my child eat the food we brought from home when the rest of us are ordering meals?

You might find that the person you are directing the question at doesn't seem to have a reasonable answer. Maybe this will get them thinking about what accommodations might be possible. 

Stress is mentioned, in terms of it not being autism which causes us parents stress but rather the lack of support. Difficulties with relationships and the attitudes of others are also discussed:

It’s fair to say that there are unhelpful people in the world, who feel compelled to comment on your parenting style, or your child’s behaviour, and their attitude of judgement and disrespect will be obvious. Sometimes, there is a case for educating these ignorant strangers, but truly, you are not responsible for this. You may choose to explain the situation to these people, or hand them an autism information card. Or you may just walk away with your head held high. It’s your choice and there is no right way to manage this.

Some great tips for how to respond to some of the 'silly' things people often say about autism are provided in one of these chapters.

The second half of the book contains a further 12 chapters, covering everyday aspects such as executive functioning, anxiety, emotional regulation, sensory processing differences and how to advocate for your child. 

text from first page of chapter 11 of where do i start book?

Kate discusses topics such as how and when to talk to your child about autism, how to help them understand themselves and how to improve their self-esteem. The last chapter is a positive reminder to enjoy now with our children and not worry too much about the future. The book ends with a beautiful poem written by Kate, some of which you can see in the image below:

where do i start poem in book - text below image

Where do I start?
A poem for parents and carers who are new to autism.
By Kate Laine-Toner.

First things, first: take a deep breath;
everything is going to be alright.
You will get through this.

Be gentle with yourself; you are doing the best that you can.
Keep hold of your own interests, dreams and desires.
Look after yourself first; you cannot pour from an empty cup.

As far as possible, be on good terms with the people around you.
Avoid those who are judgmental and ignorant; they are poison to the spirit.

Remain strong in the face of adversity, the noise and drama; 
you can survive anything life throws at you!
Take time to recover when life is hard, but never give up.

Please check out the rest of this poem in the book! Kate now writes and delivers courses and webinars for parents and carers of autistic children - session details can be found here. Her goal is to help parents and carers to feel more confident and less worried about their ability to raise a happy autistic child. No diagnosis is required to access these sessions. In 2022, Kate was given a British Citizen Award for her services to the autism community.

From her work with Bristol Autism Support over the past ten years, Kate has regularly been in touch with thousands of parents and carers of neurodivergent children and this experience clearly shines through in her book. Practical stragies and advice can be found on every single page and I think there is still learning to be gained here for those of us who think we know a fair amount about autism!

Out now, Where Do I Start? can be purchased from Amazon and JKP Publishing.

Back cover of book where do I start by Kate Laine-Toner

*This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you click and buy. It won't cost you any extra*


  1. Steph:

    Wasn't the question: "Why can't the GP MEET US in the waiting area?"

    [if it were METRES it would be because of social distancing].

    The standard reason would probably be germs and infection.

    But if this is a well-child visit that would not apply.

    And Fricker and Newbold on a blurb is really something.

    1. Apologies, that was a voice note translation issue! Definitely says meet us in the book and I've amended it now, thanks. Yes, the endorsements say how good this is!


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