A Cell Phone Opened Communication for My Nonspeaking Son


I received a lot of questions when I shared that I was getting my nonverbal 13-year-old son a cell phone.

To be honest, I questioned myself. But I had a dream laced with hope and determination.

Verbally speaking is not possible for my son right now. He shows no desire. We’ve modeled pretty much every other type of communication you can imagine too.

Sign language. Gestures. A speech device. Spelling. And so on.

Sometimes his autism feels like a closed door. Or something just out of reach. I can see but I want more. For him. For me.

We’ve been practicing texting.

Words. Selfies. GIFs of trains.

He sends to me or dad or his brother. And when we receive we make a really big deal about it so he sees and hears.

Cause. Effect. In real time.

Two nights ago he text me for the first time independently.

I was at junior high orientation for my second son.

A ding on my phone.

A message from Cooper Swenson.

I can admit I gasped when I saw the notification.

The message read…
Train Zoo

And that’s how it started. Him texting me the names of the things he loves.

And me responding with photos and GIFs.

He’s spelling. He’s typing.

I’m in awe honestly. I had no idea this was possible.

This morning I woke up to a text reading….

Big blue train

And then this morning we practiced…

I love you.

This is the most amazing gift.

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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