A Simple Card, an Unforgettable Gift: The Impact of Inclusion and Support

Mday - Coop
There is a memory I often share about Mother’s Day. In fact I think it’s even in my book.

It impacted me so deeply. So much so that I’m still talking about it 10 years later.

My son Cooper is the one who first made me a mom. Today he is 12 years old. He has a diagnosis of severe nonverbal autism.
I like to tell the moms and dads of newly diagnosed children that it takes time. Every part.
It all takes time.
Ten years ago, my son wasn’t diagnosed yet. But we knew. In our hearts we knew. We were on waiting lists and living our life in the waiting rooms of therapy centers. Autism was our destination. The unknown was our journey.
It was May. I picked him and his baby brother up from daycare like every other Friday.
As I walked in I watched numerous children run out holding art projects for their moms. It was Mother’s Day weekend.
Some ran. Some toddled. Each to open arms waiting of a mom or dad. Smiles so big. Hands clutching the homemade cards with their handprint on it.
My son didn’t run to me. He wasn’t with the group. He spent his time wandering. Lifting handfuls of sand and watching the grains fall through his fingers. Clouds. Cracks in the dry ground. Blades of grass. Ants crawling in a line.

We said he was a loner. We knew he was challenging. In reality he just saw a world different than the rest of us.

As I approached the daycare provider she said…’I didn’t make you a Mother’s Day gift. I didn’t want to do it for him and he had no interest.’
I felt the sting. Tears in my eyes. The look evident on my face because she followed up with…
‘You didn’t want something made by me.’
I was crushed.

He was two years old. Not an artist by any means. Nowhere near independence.

Most two year olds need help. I know that. She knew that. I think she did it to hurt me. I’ll never know I guess. But damage was done.
This Mother’s Day I got this card from my son. He made it at school.
Now I can say with utmost certainty that someone did the cutting and probably the gluing. Someone read the questions and helped him pick the answers.

And I have never loved something more.

I’m so thankful for the people in this world, the teachers, therapists, paras, and aides, who understand how much something so seemingly simple means to a mom like me.
Thank you for including us. Thank you for helping him. It means so much to an old and once new mom like me.
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.
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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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