A Glimpse Inside This Secret World of His

I have a story to share with you. A little long possibly, but worth the read.

My son Cooper is 12 years old. He has a diagnosis of nonverbal/nonspeaking autism. He loves trains and swimming and asks me every single day to go to outer space with his friends, the Little Einsteins.

He is in 6th grade. He uses an iPad called a ‘talker’ to communicate. He’s never quiet. He loves to take photographs.
His hair is blonde. He has a mole on his right foot next to his big toe. We wear the same size shoes now.
These are all things I know about him. And there is a lot that I don’t know.
I don’t know his favorite color. Or what he wants to be when he grows up. I don’t know if he has any real friends. Or if he’s ever been bullied. See, his autism complicates those sorts of things. It muddies his ability to communicate with us.

But something beautiful recently happened. A glimpse inside this secret world of his.

We were out and about and as we paused at a stop light; he excitedly got my attention. He was pointing dramatically, grunting and squealing with joy.

The gesture was towards Chuck E Cheese. First, he has never asked me to go there. Second, he was so excited that he began taking photos of the building with his iPad.

I acknowledged and said we would plan a visit and off we drove.
That night, and a dozen times the next morning, he showed me the photo of the Chuck E. Cheese building.

That evening, the note from his teacher said…’Cooper has a birthday party invitation from a friend in his bag.’

And he did. A birthday invitation to a party at Chuck. E. Cheese. When I reached out to the girl’s mom, who is a friend of ours, she said…
“Payton was so excited she was telling Cooper about it before I even booked it!’
He knew. He knew about the party because she told him about it. And he told me about it. In his own way.
He is so excited.
He has a friend. And a party to go too. And he shared it with me.
There are parts of this life that often feel so different from the rest of the world. Some are sad, confusing, and harder.

But goodness, the joy that comes from my son. It’s enough to carry us through the hard times.

Photo: Cooper and Peyton at his birthday party.
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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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