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Rosie O'Donnell's moving essay about her autistic daughter: 'A gift from another dimension'

By Naomi White|

R?osie O'Donnell has written a moving, deeply personal essay about her youngest child Dakota, who is autistic.

Writing for People, the actress and TV personality shared insights into her daughter's diagnosis and how it has forced her to be more compassionate.

The mum-of-five, 60, shared how she knew early on that something was a bit different with Dakota, now nine, than with her other kids at the same age. She was always hyper-verbal, she said, and had some stimming behaviours.

Putting it down to a quirky personality, she says receiving a diagnosis of autism when she was two-and-a-half "felt like I was punched in the stomach". Now, however, she says Dakota's unique way of seeing the world was a joy to behold. ?

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Dakota on her first day of fourth grade earlier this month. (Instagram)

?"You can read as much as possible, but they say when you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. It's a spectrum. For me it's like an angel fell into my life. One who doesn't function by societal standards," she writes.

While she wasn't glazing over the "pain and hardship" a diagnosis can bring some families, she said, nor the time spent trying to connect to kids on the spectrum, at their level, she wanted to emphasize the need to 'let them know they are seen'. ?

"I didn't want Dakota to feel shame about her diagnosis. I have told her from the start that autism is her superpower. I hear her announcing to strangers, 'My name is Dakota. I'm nine and I have allergies and autism'. It's like a different operating system," she said.

Highlighting some of the challenges that can arise for neuro-divergent kids with learning by traditional methods, she said Dakota initially struggled with reading, but after finding her a school with other neurodivergent kids, she had thrived. ?

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O'Donnell said 'deep down' she knew something was different early on. (Instagram)

Helping her to process her emotions better, too, had been a challenge, when Dakota one day asked why there was water on her face.

"?I said, 'Those are tears. Are you sad?' and we talked about what feelings were. I held her and let her cry, reminding her everyone has feelings," she said.

Though she can be 'a little awkward with strangers', inundating them with scientific facts, she reminded her every day to see the world in new ways.

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O'Donnell and Dakota share a close bond. (Instagram)

"Dakota's autism forces me to see the world from a completely different place. She's a gift from another dimension."

"Her ability to absorb information is unparalleled. I can imagine her winning on Jeopardy! someday. She teaches me. To be able to see the world as she does for me, it's been a wonderfully magical experience. I'm so glad we have each other.

O'Donnell is also mum to Parker, 27; Chelsea Belle, 25; Blake, 22; and Vivienne Rose?, 19.

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