A Hundred Shades of Color

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One of the things I’ve learned in my 39 years is that there is more than one way to look at something.

Most things are complicated. Intricate I guess. They aren’t simple.

While we assume things will be black and white, cut and dry, they are actually a hundred shades of color.

I’ve even learned that my heart and mind can feel differently too. As if at odds with each other.

I just took my oldest and youngest sons to the park this afternoon. Our park. The one place where we can move comfortably without fear of judgement of the boy who moves and communicates and thinks differently.

It’s our favorite place.

On the drive over my youngest pointed out a cow and said a loud MOO!

And my oldest repeated it. MOO.

From there we went through a list of animals and their sounds. The younger one naming the animals and then giggling at the sounds I would make.

Cat, horse, dog, chicken, turkey, elephant, monster truck.

And after every sound, my oldest son with very few words, attempted to mimic each sound. Some sounded perfect. The others were affected by his apraxia. But he tried. He tried so hard and laughed.

It was this perfect 5 minutes. One I want to remember forever.

He even asked me what the whale says by holding up his iPad and pausing the scene on a picture of a whale.

I didn’t know the answer. So he played it for me and gave me a look like…duh mom.

After, I found myself thinking of the complexities of the situation and wondering if I was sad or happy.

My three year old can speak in full sentences. He can make every animal sound. He can ask questions and have a conversation. He can say I love you and tell me when he’s happy and sad and mad.

My eleven year old cannot.

But my eleven year old boy just interacted and mimicked and laughed with such amazing joy. He used his iPad to communicate with me too.

It’s complicated you see. There is no right or wrong. There is only what we feel and what we think.

There are a hundred shades of color.

This is my son’s autism to me.

It’s like a quilt. Seamed together but not yet finished. The pattern is loud and brightly colored in some spots. At first glance it doesn’t make sense but if you slow down and really see, you see just how intricate it really is. And an appreciation is born. It’s a complicated beauty.

Today, we hunted for whales and penguins in Minnesota. We didn’t find any.

But we found worms and mud and sticks. And happy and sad and joy and wishing and hoping.

And so much color. In the form of two boys.

Each exactly who they are supposed to be.

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. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and join our supporter page, Coop’s Troops, for an amazing community full of support and understanding


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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