Our oldest daughter, Caitlin, is 17 years old today.
My wish for Caitlin is that she continues to grow and mature into the talented, amazing young woman she is destined to be. My wish is that Caitlin will be the artist she so inspires to be. Caitlin has told me of her desires to be a professional artist. We are trying hard to get her dreams to become a reality. She has consistently taken art classes at school and dreams of attending college, one day, to pursue this dream.
17 years ago, when I gave birth to Caitlin, she filled a huge void in my life that I never knew was there....I was filled with emotions that I never knew were possible. Caitlin taught me unconditional love, patience, caring, and most of all...Caitlin taught me how to fight. Fight for her rights as a smart and talented individual. She taught me to let people know just because she has Autism that she could function in society both through the schools and through the community. Caitlin showed everyone who ever doubted her that she could behave in school, could eat in restaurants, could ride a bus, could attend concerts and field trips, could sit in a movie theatre....all without a hitch.
Caitlin was the first child with Autism to attend Summitt Elementary. She was their "test subject" I have been told. Because of Caitlin, other children with Autism can now attend this elementary school.
As I sat in her annual meeting yesterday at High School (can you believe ?)....the teacher's thanked me and my husband. They thanked us for our unwaivering ability to insist that Caitlin attend regular ed classes. These teacher's were sceptical at first. Yet, when Caitlin showed them "model" behaviors and wonderful grades, they all said, "I wish all of our student's were like Caitlin". Caitlin taught us how to parent. We are so grateful for that. I responded back to the teacher's that Caitlin would not be anywhere near what she is today without the many educators that have taught her and loved her. We are thankful to them for giving her the opportunity to thrive.
No "pity parties" for Caitlin....just a big Birthday party for the remarkable young 17 year old she has become.