I always thought it was my role as a parent was to teach and guide my children. We teach them to say their first words, encourage them to take their first steps, and eventually tie their shoes and ride a bike. Our very role as parents revolves around us, guiding and teaching our kids.

Yet, never in a million years would I have realized that my autistic daughter would teach me more about myself and life than I could ever teach her.

Looking at life through a new lens

There is something serenely beautiful in the way Kat sees the world. She notices the smallest details I often overlook because I am too focused on the big picture.

At the same time, she is taking in the beauty of the world. It often overwhelms her senses. I have become more aware of loud noises and bright lights. Stimuli I’d never paid much attention to before my daughter made me so keenly aware.

Despite the world being an overwhelming place to her at times, she goes forward each day with the thought that the world is innately kind. She sees the uniqueness in people, places, and things that I can only envy from the sidelines.

Quirky is the new cool

The world needs more quirky. I used to worry about my daughter’s choice of attire and how cruel kids might be to her fashion statements. As the years have passed, I still fear that kids will be harsh, but now I see her boldness a testament to her confidence. She genuinely does not care what people think of her or what she wears.

Kat has taught me to worry less about what others think of me and learn to be confident in my skin. She has taught me to be brave and embrace my own unique quirks and not compare myself to others—a thoroughly liberating life lesson.

mom and daughter walking in field

I can’t fix all the things for her

I am a natural-born fixer. It is who I am. When things aren’t right in Kat’s world, my first reaction is to jump in and try to fix things for her. I desperately try to shield her from frustration or hurt.

But over time, I have learned, I am doing her a great disservice when I don’t allow her to work through her problems. There are some things she needs to fix on her own. I will always be there to talk and lend an ear. However, now I take an approach that allows her the opportunity to troubleshoot her problems and find ways to prevent or modify situations that cause her difficulties before I rush in and try to fix it for her.

I am stronger because I am her mom

I never knew what I was capable of until I had to fight for my daughter’s diagnosis, treatment, and education. Autism has taught me to keep fighting even when I am exhausted and feel like I can’t fight anymore. Autism has moved me to become my daughter’s advocate and pursue every avenue, no matter how long it takes to get her the help she needs to prosper.

I am a far wiser, stronger, and more persistent person for the existence of my autistic daughter. Raising an autistic child has a long set of challenges, but there’s also a great deal of beauty and love to be experienced.