Sarah Stultz: Minnesota mom an inspiration to many

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

If you have a child with special needs, you’ve probably heard of Kate Swenson, the mother of a boy named Cooper, who has autism. 

Swenson, who also has three other children, has a Facebook page named Finding Cooper’s Voice, where she blogs about the successes and challenges with her son in the world of autism, lobbying parents to be strong advocates for their children and to choose to find joy even amidst the challenges.

I’ve followed Finding Cooper’s Voice on Facebook now for about two years, and I’ve found a community in those other parents — mainly mothers — who follow Swenson’s page. 

These are parents of children who the world sees differently, who through no fault of their own are tasked in their lives with mental or other deficiencies. These children will often require guidance their whole lives. 

You see, even though my son, Landon, does not have autism, he has other special needs, and we often encounter many of the same issues that Swenson and Cooper experience. I’ve learned time and time again, however, that all it takes is an advocate — an encourager — and these kiddos can achieve more than what many think they are capable. 

When Cooper was 5, doctors told Swenson and her husband that their son would likely never speak. Though they went on to teach Cooper to communicate through other means, Cooper little by little is speaking words. 

It reminds me of the first time Landon jumped on a trampoline in a classroom at Brookside. I literally cried with joy, thrilled he was able to do something as simple as jump. 

More recently it reminds me of when Landon’s teacher told us he was on the cusp of reading. When she said that, I was surprised, but hopeful. 

But sure enough, Landon, who is 10, is beginning to recognize words, and little by little is piecing together sentences. 

My heart swells when his teachers send videos of his progress. 

Swenson, who lives in Minnesota with her family, recently published a book titled “Forever Boy,” which I have yet to get my hands on but am eagerly anticipating. 

I encourage any parents of special needs children, particularly those who may be new to the journey, to pick up a copy of Swenson’s book or to find her online. 

More often than not, I’ve found that Swenson says what many parents of special needs children think but never express out loud. 

 Swenson also has a way through sharing her and her family’s own experiences of providing families with a little bit of hope. 

Though it’s tough being a parent of a special needs child, it’s thanks to people like her we are reminded it’s not a challenge, but a blessing. 

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune.