Back to School with Autism and Friendship

friends coop

This morning my son Cooper had his first day of 7th grade. He was ready early.

I dressed him. I packed his lunch. I put his speech device in his bag. And I wrote his name on his things. He posed for a picture in front of the fireplace holding two train guidebooks and a whiteboard full of his dreams.

When the bus pulled up, he gasped. He waved goodbye to me as his dad led him hand-in-hand to the bus.
I cried. I cried for his vulnerability. I cried for his excitement. I cried for special education. I cried because nothing is easy in the world of disability. And then I waved and blew a kiss to my tween boy.

I knew he would be okay. Because his best friend would join him soon.

She’s sits by him.
I’m not sure if I can convey how much that means to me.
This little girl.
She seeks him out. She waits for him. She greets him. She grabs his hand. She leads him. She talks to him. And she sits by him.

She is his first friend.

I will tell you it seemed to happen overnight. And the first time I saw them together I cried.
When I told my son that his friend was going to be on his morning bus, he clapped his hands in joy. Their friendship is real.
I do not have autism. In fact, I know very little about it. But I do know my son.
He is 12 years old. He has blond coarse hair. His eyes are hazel. And he has a mole in between his toes on his left foot.
He doesn’t say much verbally. Most people think he isn’t listening. Or that he can’t communicate. But it’s actually the opposite.
He communicates in so many ways. A look. A smile. A scowl. The flap of a hand. But you have to listen. To really listen. With more than your ears. And not everyone really gets that.

See people get impatient with him. They want everything to be fast and easy.

This little girl sits with him. And she listens. She joins his world. She asks to ride with our family too. I am so thankful for her.
As a mom, I’ve prayed and hoped for someone to sit with him. Besides me and his dad and his siblings. Someone to listen and simply be there.
I don’t know if they’ve ever had an actual conversation with words. But it seems that they don’t need too. Their friendship is enough.
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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