I Can't Imagine Life without My Beautiful Autistic Toby; Inspiring: Toby with His Mother Katharine at Their Riverfront Home

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

I Can't Imagine Life without My Beautiful Autistic Toby; Inspiring: Toby with His Mother Katharine at Their Riverfront Home


Byline: LIZ HOGGARD

WEST END producer Katharine Dore is telling me about the day she discovered her three-year-old son Toby was profoundly autistic. "He'd been a relatively normal baby but seemed slow.

Then he began to regress rapidly to the point where he had almost no communication with the outside world." Not only do you feel pain, loss and confusion at the initial diagnosis, she says, you can be consumed by anger at a system that seemingly devalues you and your child with special needs. "Your child is isolated by autism and you, too, feel very alone."

Yesterday new research brought the prospect of prenatal testing for autism significantly closer, potentially allowing women to terminate babies with the condition. For Katharine, this is hugely controversial. "Toby is exactly the sort of child they would plan to abort," she says, "and just look at the great life he has. It's about understanding what is a full life to that person. If we get rid of every member of society that we don't feel fits into our nice little box, isn't this rather terrifying?

Haven't we been here before with eugenics?" And if she had known about Toby's condition while pregnant? "It wouldn't have made any difference, because I would have gone ahead and had the child. The thing that concerns me is that there's so little public information about autism even now. We should be telling people what autism is and showing you can make an environment for these young people to flourish."

Twelve years on from his diagnosis Toby, 15, blond and handsome, cannot speak or spell his name and can never be left alone for a moment. Unlike some people on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, he does not have special "savant" skills, such as an extraordinary talent for mathematics, but he leads a full, involved life. He loves to ski and swim and deep-dive. And he is currently volunteering at Kentish Town city farm.

Seeing the sheer joy he takes in being useful inspires all who see him, says Dore. "Toby has no concept of paid employment. What he does understand is the satisfaction of completing a functional task, of being a cog in a bigger wheel, of having somewhere to go where people are pleased to see him, where the environment is manageable and where other people are unfazed by his sudden outbursts or unpredictable behaviour." I meet Dore, 49, at her waterfront apartment on Clink Street, just off Borough Market, where she lives with her partner Christopher. A statuesque 6ft in black velvet tunic and funky leopardskin shoes, she is a descendant of the 19thcentury

French illustrator Gustav Dore; her late father was a vicar. There are no false heroics. "A lot of people say, 'Oh Katharine, disabled kids are given to people who can look after them.' Well that's the biggest load of hogwash. I don't want to have to bloody cope! But you are where you are, you're given the child you're given." When Toby was diagnosed, her relationship with his father collapsed. She never thought another man would want to take them on. But seven years ago, an old friend, Christopher Allen, declared his feelings for her. "He said, 'I've been trying to seduce you and you haven't even noticed.'" Allen has a property development at Bankside and built the riverside flat where they live (they spend weekends in Monaco, where his business is based). She acknowledges that financial security has made her situation easier. Long-term the plan is to provide care for Toby to live independently in his own home, "when one or both of us go under the Clapham omnibus", as Dore puts it cheerfully.

Dore is best known for producing shows with choreographer Matthew Bourne. She's the woman behind the award-winning all-male Swan Lake, as well as hit shows Cinderella and The Car Man. Together she and Bourne have won three Tony awards on Broadway and two Olivier and Evening Standard awards.

It was on the day of the West End premiere for Swan Lake her greatest theatre triumph that Toby was diagnosed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

I Can't Imagine Life without My Beautiful Autistic Toby; Inspiring: Toby with His Mother Katharine at Their Riverfront Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.