Written by: Kate Hirsch
Rosie O’Donnell shared her essay on September 21st about raising her youngest daughter, Dakota, published via People. Her words are full of the love surrounding a mother-daughter bond, but she’s not shy about sharing the difficulties of parenting a child with autism, and the lessons she’s learned through her experience.
Dakota is her youngest daughter, and was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Now at nearly 10 years old, her mother reflects on the lessons she has learned in giving her daughter the space to exist and express herself outside of “societal standards.” O’Donnell remembers realizing that something was different about Dakota, and receiving the diagnosis. It was an uncertain and difficult moment, but it gave her the motivation to find resources and research how to support her loved one.
O’Donnell calls her experience of parenting Dakota a “gift,” reflecting on how she has grown as a person and parent, learning to listen actively and connect to what is being communicated, as well as respond more openly to Dakota’s needs.
Rosie values the experiences Dakota has led her to, and understands the importance of her own role in Dakota’s life. She lost her own mother at the young age of 10, almost the same age that Dakota is currently, and is grateful to be there for her daughter during such a formative time.
Women and girls are chronically underrepresented in the narrative of autism, and Rosie O’Donnell’s essay provides an honest and supportive perspective for mothers learning from their daughters in the same way that Rosie has learned from Dakota.