The EveryMom is a website created for all moms. This site offers hundreds of articles written by other moms and professionals in the field on topics like mental health, ages and stages, pregnancy, fertility, playing, and so much more. Shakti Naran, mom and writer, created a blog article for the EveryMom site titled, "9 Lessons I've Learned From Having a Daughter with Autism." At fourteen months old, Shakti's daughter had stopped talking and began fearing loved ones she already knew; she knew what the doctors were going to tell her about her little girl. Shakti's reflection of that day and receiving that diagnoses is this: "Autism doesn't come with an instruction guide, but it does have a way of building a family who will never give up." Since the day that they received that diagnosis, Shakti has seen her daughter smile through her battles and become a warrior who fights every day. She has learned that as the parent and the caregiver, her role is to love and encourage her children with strength that comes from deep within; those little warriors need that to keep up their fight. Shakti immediate reaction to the autism diagnosis was to try and protect her daughter from the negativity that would come with it. Her daughter taught her lessons about herself, her child, and life in general. The first thing she learned was that raising a child with autism in a traditionally conservative culture is hard and people will fear what they don't know. In sum, people are people, no matter their cultural background or class standing, whether they are family or just acquaintances, they will have judgement and opinions. Shakti is Indian, which is fairly conservative culture, so she realized very early on that there were significant misconceptions regarding her child's diagnosis from family and friends. However, autism does not fall within the lines of just one culture; it does not discriminate. The questions and confusion seem to be rooted in the fact that people just don't have all the information. In these situations, the best thing to do is be open and honest about your child and remain unafraid to advocate for your child. The second thing Shakti learned is to go out instead of hiding and that she's not a bad parent; she's just doing the best she can. Following her daughter's diagnosis, Shakti and her partner found themselves avoiding going out because of how difficult it could be, which was harmful for them and their other two children. Due to the loud stimulation of public environments, Shakti began to fear venturing out into these settings and chose to avoid them when she could. But, that wasn't going to work forever, so her and her husband came up with a plan to make outings easier. Now, they talk to their daughter about where they are going before they go and try their best to keep her focused on one thing at a time while they are out. While there still may be some challenges, they are all learning and remember to just do the best they can. The third thing Shakti learned is that she is stronger than she knew she was. When her daughter was first diagnosed, she was immediately filled with uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and unease; she didn't know what to do. After spiraling for a bit, she realized that she needed to be her daughter's strength. She could not let her daughter feel sorry for herself, so instead they taught her to be a warrior and a fighter, and emphasized her strength. She also learned that her daughter is an amazing teacher. Nothing is impossible through her daughter's eyes and her strength and ability to embrace her diagnosis has taught Shakti how to live life, enjoy every moment and be happy. Although her daughter has a difficult time articulating what she is trying to say most of the time, the attention and care she places on expressing her thoughts has shown Shakti and her family the knowledge and wisdom that their little girl possesses. Shakti says, "It's the youngest of minds that teach us to live, learn, and hold on to what's important." Through her daughter, Shakti has also learned how to support all of her kids in a better way. Their family has found that Shakti's daughter does not respond well to direction or disciple in front of others because she does not want to seem different. Her daughter struggles with handling her anxiety and blocking out the "noise," but their family has learned how to support and talk her out of those anxiety-ridden moments before a meltdown strikes. Learning how to talk their daughter through her fears and anxieties has helped them with their other children as well. Shakti has also learned that the label she carries means nothing, but also means everything. The key takeaway here is that everyone gets a label, but labels don't define us. Although your first instinct as a parent may be to protect your child from any negative comments from peers or adults, you can't, and they don't want you to. Shakti realized that her daughter just wants to be herself and try her hardest to get people to accept her for the person she is. Although autistic children are perceived as showing minimal emotion, the reality is that they live with the same kind of emotions that we all do; they learn to block out the negative that comes with having a diagnosis. Her daughter has shown her who she wants to be and has proved that no one has just one label or wears one hat. Shakti says, "we are whatever we want to be, you just have to do you with a clean heart." Do the best with what you have, and your children will to. The seventh lesson she has learned is to leave the why to the professionals and focus on the present and future to give her child the best life she can. Along with autism, Shakti's daughter also has severe speech delays, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties. But these other "issues" have made Shakti realize that finding the cause is only the first step, but living with life with all of the challenges that come with it, is totally different. As a parent, all you can focus on is how to give your child the best opportunities to thrive. The next thing that Shakti has learned is things don't always go the way you had hoped, wished, and prayed for. While she never wants her daughter to feel sorry for herself, as a mom she sees that the struggles that her daughter and other children like her face are very real. Shakti has realized that with every milestone her daughter reaches she follows that outcome with the question of "what if?" Although she is not trying to think negatively, she has learned through life that things don't always go as planned. The reality is that you just have to prepare your mind for all of the possibilities. The last thing that Shakti has learned from her daughter is that it's okay to ugly cry because sometimes life gets hard. While your love and determination for your child may be strong, the endless worrying you may experience can be a lot. The constant thinking and wondering about how you can advocate for your child to have the best can become too much. Sometimes it's okay to just lock yourself in your room and scream or cry into the pillow for a minute, but once you get it all out, you have to pull it together and go back to your child and continue to give them the everything you can. It's okay for them to see you sad or stressed or anxious, in fact, it's more than okay. Those are the times that you teach your child to be resilient and fight for themselves. Autistic children deserve the same love, support and encouragement as all other children... they just need people who are willing to try their hardest to give it.