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New course will help parents of autistic children

Kate Laine-Toner Bristol Autism Support

Parents of autistic children are being offered a new training course which explains how to better understand and help their child.

Community Organisation Bristol Autism Support is running the What Do I Do Now? course for parents of children who are waiting for a diagnosis or who have just been diagnosed.

Running at Knowle West Media Centre on Wednesdays from 10am-12pm, the six-week course can accommodate up to eight families and begins on June 5.

More than 4,000 people in Bristol are diagnosed as autistic, a neurological difference which means that parents who aren’t autistic themselves can find it more difficult to understand how their child experiences the world.

Currently, parents can join the long waiting list for local authority-run courses only after they’ve received an official diagnosis. It currently takes around 18 months in Bristol to receive an autism diagnosis, but support and training is needed before that when parents first realise their child may be autistic.

Kate Laine-Toner, 48, from Pill, has created the course based on her seven years’ experience helping thousands of Bristol parents navigate everything they need to know to help their autistic children.

She set up Bristol Autism Support when her daughter Emily, now nine, was diagnosed as being autistic and Kate could find very little useful information. The group began as a regular meeting at a pub, and eventually expanded into a calendar of events, talks, training sessions, support groups, and a Facebook group with 1,500 members.

Kate said she had written the course to cover all the things she wished she had been told about when her daughter was first diagnosed at the age of two.

She said: “The course covers ways to help your child and manage challenging behaviour, how to get help with school issues, what benefits you might be able to claim and what support is available in Bristol.

“We end by talking about how to go forward as a family with this as your ‘new normal’. For example, how to go on holiday and attend family events without them becoming overwhelming for your autistic child.”

The course has already run successfully in Yate earlier this year, with positive feedback from all attendees.

One mum wrote about the course, “I can’t express just how absolutely, essentially important and transformational this course has been for my life.”

The course will run again in September and November.

Places on the course cost £60 for the first member of a family and £20 for subsequent members and can be booked via Eventbrite.