Rosie O’Donnell Opens Up About Her Daughter with Autism in Emotional Essay: ‘She’s a Gift’

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Rosie O’Donnell Rollout

Chloe Aftel

When her daughter Dakota was once identified with autism at age 2½ in 2016, Rosie O’Donnell felt afraid to start with. “I was worried about how she would make it in this world,” says the big name, now 60. “I worried about my longevity, because as you speak to parents of kids with autism, their main worry is what happens when they die. Who’s going to love their child and understand them the way you do?” 

It’s one thing that O’Donnell, now taking part in a tough-talking detective in the Showtime sequence American Gigolo, nonetheless grapples with as she watches her 9-year-old daughter come of age in a global that doesn’t all the time perceive her complexities. “I know this is something that will be with her her whole life, and she’ll learn to adjust to a world that doesn’t necessarily go at her own pace,” says O’Donnell, additionally mother to Parker, 27, Chelsea, 25, Blake, 22, and Vivienne, 19. 

Meanwhile, elevating her lively, inventive little lady has given O’Donnell new point of view. “With Dakota, I am learning to have compassion much deeper than I ever did,” she says. “To really listen and communicate in a way I never had to with my other kids. I know there are people struggling and they don’t know how they will get through another day. And I understand. But the sense of vulnerability that comes with having a kid with autism has been a gift to me. She teaches me.”

Here O’Donnell stocks their adventure in her personal phrases.

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Rosie O'Donnell RolloutRosie O'Donnell Rollout
Rosie O’Donnell Rollout

courtesy of Rosie O’Donnell

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Dakota’s first phrase was once a complete sentence ahead of she was once 1. We have been looking at Frozen, and she or he stated “I been…pale.” I stated, “What?” after which I listen Olaf say “I’ve been impaled.” She was once all the time extremely verbal. Sometimes she would stare off in a means that she felt unreachable for a second. She had a little little bit of stimming [a repetitive behavior often associated with autism] she was once doing with her fingers. She has all the time been very cuddly — and loves to curve up beside me at the sofa. I assumed she was once quirky — and wonderful and highest.

Still, I knew one thing was once off, however I wasn’t certain what it was once. She didn’t resolution to her identify. When she was once being examined [for autism], the physician stored calling out to her “Dakota, Dakota.” She did not reply. Somewhere deep down I knew. Getting the analysis felt like I used to be punched in the tummy. I needed to give myself a second to move, “Okay, we’re going to figure out how to get through it.”

You can learn up to conceivable, however they are saying while you meet one particular person with autism, you might have met one particular person with autism. It’s a spectrum. For me — it is like an angel fell into my existence. One who does not serve as by means of societal requirements. I’m no longer casting off from the ache and hardship that this analysis brings to households. All of a unexpected, there may be a kid with a lot of wishes and also you spend a lot of time seeking to attach on their degree. It’s no longer simple — however it is important to allow them to know they’re noticed.

I did not need Dakota to really feel disgrace about her analysis. I’ve advised her from the beginning that autism is her superpower. I listen her saying to strangers, “My name is Dakota. I’m 9 and I have allergies and autism.” It’s like a other running device.

She was once ceaselessly curious. So I taken with tips on how to permit her to be told in the way in which that her mind was once arrange to be told. When she was once in 2d grade, all of the children have been studying Dory Fantasmagory. Even regardless that she could not learn, she would convey the ebook to university and fake. I knew for her vanity, we needed to get her studying. We discovered a nice faculty in Los Angeles, and she or he’s now studying at grade degree. They have a wide variety of neurodivergent children and special-needs beginners. It’s a stunning melting pot.

She feels issues deeply however does not all the time specific feelings. We have been using house one night time and she or he stated, “Mommy, there’s water on my face.” I stated, “Those are tears. Are you sad?” and we mentioned what emotions have been. I held her and let her cry, reminding her everybody has emotions.

Sometimes she’s a little awkward with strangers and she or he’ll begin to give them clinical data. She tells children in regards to the Mariana Trench and tips on how to dig up sea crabs. We have been as soon as taking part in at the seashore with a new circle of relatives. I stated to the dad below my breath, “She’s neurodivergent.” Then Dakota grew to become and stated, “I have autism. It’s okay.”

Rosie O'Donnell RolloutRosie O'Donnell Rollout

Rosie O’Donnell Rollout

courtesy of Rosie O’Donnell

When she was once 5 she requested if she may just communicate to her start mom. We’re in touch, so Dakota will get on FaceTime and says, “Are you the lady whose tummy I was in? I just wanted you to know I’m the kid that was in there, and when I got born, my mommy held me and I squeezed her pinkie, and I am with her. So I just want to let you know that’s what happened to me. Bye.” I used to be in tears as was once her start mother. That’s a beautiful intense, complicated, emotional factor for a little lady to position in combination.

Dakota is 9½ now. I’ve been fraught with anxiousness when each and every of my youngsters grew to become 10. I’ve that 12 months of pondering, “I better not die.” I used to be 10 years previous when my mother died of breast most cancers. It’s a stunning factor to lose a mom at a younger age. Your mother is the middle. You want them for the entirety: coaching bras, transitioning into puberty. Going via that alone was once a frightening a part of my youth. You really feel very by myself. I do not ever need Dakota to really feel that.

Dakota’s autism forces me to look the arena from a totally other position. She’s a present from some other measurement. The issues she is aware of — about sea anemones and tide swimming pools. I were given to 60 no longer figuring out in regards to the Mariana Trench. Now I do know all about it! Her skill to soak up data is unheard of. I will believe her profitable on Jeopardy! sooner or later. She teaches me. To have the ability to see the arena as she does — for me, it is been a splendidly magical revel in. I’m so happy we’ve got each and every different.

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