Mother, daughter duo share Caticorn world
When Karissa Winters found out her daughter Presley was autistic she had to make a decision on how to move forward.
“Once she got diagnosed, I think that was a turning point in my life, I tell people, where I could either take that and what was mean about it or I could take it and choose to do something,” Winters said.
She chose to help her daughter learn through the things that she loved most — cats, unicorns and butterflies — and the Caticorn was born.
“I like it because it’s all of my favorite things put into one magical world,” Presley said.
Winters and her daughter worked together to create the Caticorn world to help Presley learn how to interpret emotions, something that can be challenging with autism.
“I started cutting out different colored horns and what I preceded to do was I would put them on my head and I would make a different facial expression for each emotion like a mad face, a sad face or a happy face,” Winters said. “Slowly I would take the horns away and we would discuss emotions and she’d better understand how to convey emotions and to read emotions on other people’s face.”
This eventually led to a book, titled “Your Guide to All Things Caticorn,” that dives into Caticornitopia, a ‘meowgical’ world where Caticorns live and thrive.
“It’s been really cool to see this really ‘meowgical’ universe, ... because that’s what it is, their favorite food is macarons, they grow on bushes, they have milk rivers that flow, they like to float down the river on donuts and they’re the protectors of rainbows and mythical creatures,” Winters said.
On the surface, the Caticorn world seems all fun and games, but the story is about much more than cute creatures.
“The rainbow is a metaphor for the autism spectrum and mythical creature stands for autistic children because no one can seem to say exactly why they do the certain things they do and each kid is unique and different in their own way,” Winters said.
The book teaches children how to understand and convey emotions, but its colorful presence works as a way to bring positivity to the perception of autism.
“The reason I wanted to do a lot of colors and things like that is that, a lot of times, you can hear a lot of negativity around autism and I wanted to show a different perspective that when your child gets diagnosed with autism it’s not, this is harsh, but like a death sentence,” Winters said.
Winters said she wants parents to know that having an autistic child can be a blessing in disguise.
“With Presley, it wasn’t what I had planned in my life but it’s what was planned for me and I can’t imagine my life any other way,” Winters said. “She is so amazing and unique and everything about her has changed my perspective.”
Though, Caticornitopia is not a place just for autistic children.
“I think it’s important because I think learning emotions is important for any kid, that’s why this book is not just for autistic children, it’s for any child,” Winters said.
Learning how to express yourself is something Winters said should be more enforced.
“People are bottling their emotions up and not expressing them,” Winters said. “We’re not taught a lot of times how to express them correctly and I think this is an issue that people really need to start addressing and talking about.”
The mother, daughter duo works together to create this world to better educate others of the importance of emotions and shed a light on the world of autism. None of which would be possible without Presley’s imagination.
“Without her there is no Caticorn book,” Winters said. “She is the heartbeat behind this, she’s the driving force that keeps me working on this so hard and she’s the reason that this even exists.”
And the Caticorn world is all Presley approved.
“She is the one who is the test driver of all of our products, because to me she’s the one that’s going to know what other kids are going to like, especially autistic kids,” Winters said.
Ultimately, Winters said that the Caticorn world has been a way to empower her daughter.
“I always tell her, don’t let your autism define you, you define it and you show what’s possible, color it differently,” Winters said.
A portion of all the proceeds from the book and Caticorn merchandise goes to Good Dog Autism Companions, a program that provides service dogs for autistic children.