Autism in Teenage Terrain

The thing with growing tiny humans is they are always changing. Learning. Absorbing. Getting bigger.

My son Cooper is 13 years old. He wants to ride an Amtrak train more than anything. He wants to have a party with his three friends, Dexter, Peyton, and Landon. He loves going to school.

He also is autistic and technically nonspeaking on paper. But if you know him you know he has loads of words and sounds and signs and he can spell and read and even use movie scenes to tell us things. It’s unbelievable really. He even recently tlu started texting.

They told us he wouldn’t and couldn’t. And he is.

As we navigate this teenager stuff, I find the rules changing again.

Autism at age 13 is viewed differently than at age 2 or 3 or even 4.

Where I see…

Others may see…
An easy target.
And far worse.

We just had our first instance of teasing. That I know of I guess. Because see, he can’t tell me. I am at the mercy of adults to tell me and protect him when I cannot.

I guess, this is just a plea. A hope. An ask. Maybe even a beg…from a mom, just like you.

We are no different. I held this baby in my arms and smelled his glorious head. I watched him take his first steps. I sent him to to kindergarten.

And I guess…I just want the world to know…he’s just a boy. Autism or not. Speaking or not. He’s a boy I check on at night before bed. One who loves kids and going swimming.

Kate and Cooper

So I ask…

Teach your kids about differences. Talk about them. Show. Share. Celebrate. Include.

Don’t pretend he’s not autistic. Or whisper it. Just see him.

Model kindness. Love.

He’s just a boy. He’s 13 years old. And he is loved. Just like your babies. There is no difference there.
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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