Four Kids, One Autism Diagnosis: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected – Finding Cooper’s Voice

I never thought I would have four kids.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared that before. I thought two, maybe three. But four? It still surprises me sometimes.

Four is loud. Four is chaotic. Four is wonderful. Four is fulfilling.

A few days ago on Easter I woke up first. Which most definitely surprised me because as my two middles went to sleep last night I heard them plotting to wake up early to catch the Easter bunny.

As I got the coffee going my third son came downstairs. Together we woke up Sawyer and the youngest.

We hunted for baskets, hand-in-hand.

It felt almost magical. One basket hidden in the dryer. Another one in the hall closet. Bright wrappers were ripped off chocolate rabbits. Bubbles were opened.

Wonder. Messes. Joy.

While that was happening, the loudness and the chaos, my oldest sat in his favorite chair watching his iPad, barely glancing up at us.

I thought maybe he’d get up and join in. Hunt for his basket too. But no, he wasn’t interested.

Autism. On the paper in my drawer it says severe and level three, and nonverbal.

I don’t think about those terms all that much anymore.

His name is Cooper. He wants to go to a rock quarry. He asks me 100 times a day. He wants to ride a bullet train. He loves noise. His feet are bigger than mine. He holds my hand when we walk outside. And knocks on every door before he enters.

He doesn’t care at all about Easter baskets. Or dying eggs. Or candy. Instead of eating our special Easter dinner he had chicken nuggets and strawberries. He chose not to wear a button up shirt with a tie.

He took a three hour nap.

To some, the day did not appear special at all to him. Nothing out of the ordinary.

But, it was. If you look beneath the surface. If you listen with more than your ears.

Because his family came to visit.

He waited in the driveway for over an hour. He gasped and pointed. He touched his ears as a siren blared. He pointed to birds. He put his cheek to the cool ground. He studied rocks. He lifted sand and watched it fall to the ground through his fingers.

He said ‘mmm-aw-mmm’, slowly pronouncing each syllable for a beat and when I looked up, he smiled, his eyes looking to his forearm.

A bug. It sat on his arm. Big and black. A fly.

And he squealed in delight. Clapping. Then bringing his hand to his chin, signing ‘thank you’ to the fly.

As I settle into belonging to a boy with autism, I’m working really hard on acknowledging the feelings that accompany me on this journey.

Good. Hard. Sad. Worried. Scared.

I’m making space for them. And setting down the guilt that can happen too with big, real feelings.

I’m sad sometimes. About Easter baskets and church and bow ties and missed experiences.

But good golly I am thankful for the yellow haired boy who has taught me to see with more than my eyes.

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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