Never Count These Kids Out

Cooper 18

When covid hit, much like everyone else, our world was turned upside down.

Schools closed. Jobs moved in-house. Daycare paused. We hunkered down. We all became overly familiar with Zoom. Parents began to hate snack requests. We rationed toilet paper.

And one other thing happened for us. One that I would have never in all my years thought could have happened.

Our mental health services for our son Cooper stopped cold. The place that never closed. Never took a sick day. Acknowledged as few holidays as possible…shut down.

And to make it worse, or harder, we were told he couldn’t go back.

My 9 year old was too severe for the level three, severe autism center. Our last resort year prior, was saying no more.

For the second time in my son’s life, I felt like we’d reached the end of the line. We’d maxed out. If felt like there was nowhere else for him.

It felt hopeless. But it wasn’t. It was actually a nudge. A push in a different direction. One that I would have never taken if we hadn’t been pushed out.

Cooper is in fifth grade now. I smile every time I type it or say it.

I got this email from Cooper’s teacher yesterday.

‘Cooper had another awesome day today! I don’t think he flopped or kicked even once. I wrote a little on his sheet, but wanted to mention the cool developments we’re seeing socially. He’s always seemed very relational and like he loves the teachers and staff, but today we saw him acknowledge his peers more in the classroom. He got the attention of other students in our room and wanted to say hi to them. Also, he continued to do his task bins independently today without any prompting. I attached a picture of him this morning on the little playground for his Motor Break.’

The child that was too severe. Too much. Found his place with a whole school of people who think he is wonderful.

His brother Sawyer also beamed with pride when he told me that Cooper waved to his whole class in the lunchroom.

‘Cooper said hi mama. To all my friends.’

This kid. This complicated, funny, smart, underrated, kid. Don’t count him him out.

For years we survived. Now, for the first time ever, I can say he is thriving.

Parents, take the nudge if offered. And never count these kids out. It is never hopeless.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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