When it came to entering Cooper, her nonverbal son with autism, into the contest put on by Jimmy Fallon and Today Parents that encouraged kids to talk, Kate Swenson knew she needed to get creative if she wanted to win.
Fallon asked parents to film their little ones saying “mama” in an effort to promote his new children’s book, Everything Mama, and the winner got a trip to New York and a front-row seat at the late-night star’s book release. Rather than sit on the sidelines, Swenson decided to enter her 6-year-old son into the contest anyway with the help of his speech machine – and her decision paid off big time.
“I was told at a very young age that I should prepare to never hear Cooper’s voice, and that’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to expect,” Swenson said in the video. “So we got one of these talking devices.” The device Swenson refers to is the Proloquo2Go app parents can download on an iPad that most insurance companies don’t actually cover.
“I just really want autism to be a part of the conversation,” she said in an interview with HuffPost. “I want the world to see that it’s not scary and it’s not sad.”
To Swenson’s surprise, Cooper won the contest, and both she and her husband, Jamie, were flown out to New York City for a few days of sightseeing. And although Cooper couldn’t make the trip since big crowds and loud noises aren’t really his thing, Swenson said that doesn’t mean he should be pitied. So when people approach her with words of sympathy, she had one answer: “He’s the coolest kid you will ever meet.”