Mom Turns Altercation At Special Needs Park Into Teachable Moment

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Cottage Grove mom’s viral video is resonating with the autism community.

Kate Swenson posted a video on her Facebook page, talking about a playground incident involving her son, who has autism.

“This I the first time that Cooper and I were made to feel like we were not truly welcome somewhere,” Swenson said in the video.

Swenson said other parents yelled at her after her son Cooper, who is six, accidentally pushed their daughter down the slide at Madison’s Place Playground. It’s a play park designed for children with special needs.

“It’s one of the only places in the community we can go to. We don’t have a lot,” Swenson said.

“Before the father even checked on the child he yelled at me. And he yelled at my son. Cooper does not understand this so he ran away and laughed and played,” Swenson said.

Swenson said she apologized several times and tried to explain that her son has autism and is nonverbal.

“What am I supposed to do? I don’t know what to do. We are never going to be able to leave our house,” Swenson said.

The seven-minute video detailing what happened, which she posted on the Facebook page “Finding Cooper’s Voice,” has been viewed more than 300,000 times.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive – like, 100 percent,” Swenson said.

It’s not the first time one of her videos has gone viral. Swenson said she’s trying to show people what autism is really like. She calls it a secret world many days. Because her son likes to throw sand they go to the beach on cold and rainy days when no one else is around.

“When autism is talked about in the world, it’s talked about with walks, wearing blue shirts, and using a blue light bulb. That’s not autism. Cooper wakes up every day at 4:00 in the morning and it literally the best day of his life. To think that people would think he’s a danger, as a mom, it keeps me up at night,” Swenson said.

Swenson said she’s going to make cards to hand out at parks that explain to other parents that her son has autism, and that they are hoping for patience.

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