Mom Raises Awareness About Autism By Entering Jimmy Fallon's 'Mama' Contest

“I was told at a very young age that I should prepare to never hear Cooper’s voice."

Comedian and late-night television host Jimmy Fallon is known for playing silly games with celebrities on The Tonight Show, but you might not know he's also a New York Times bestselling children's book author. His first picture book Snowball Fight! came out back in 2005. And in 2015, after he had a child of his own, he released Your Baby's First Word Will Be DADA inspired by his personal parenting experiences. 

He's just released a follow-up to that book called Everything Is MAMA. "Even though I basically forced my second child to say 'dada' as her first word, every other object that mattered in her life was 'mama,'" Fallon explained when he announced the book on his show. "The idea of this one is that moms are trying to educate and teach their babies other words, but the babies are obsessed with the word 'mama,'"

To celebrate the new book, Jimmy Fallon and TODAY Parents held a contest for parents to win a trip to Fallon's book release party in New York City. Parents could enter by sending in sweet videos of their child saying "mama." 


Thirty-four-year-old Kate Swenson's son Cooper has autism and is nonverbal, so she was disappointed that she wouldn't be able to enter. "As a parent to a nonverbal child, I thought, great another thing we can't do," Swenson, a mom-of-two, told TODAY Parents. "But then I thought, wait, we can do something cute." 

Cooper may not be able to say "mama" aloud himself like other kids, but he can communicate in his own way. For their submission, Swenson helped Cooper use the Proloquo2Go app on an iPad to say "mama." 

"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," Kate said in the video. "So we got one of these talking devices."

You can watch the video below. 

"My son says mama a million times every single dang day with the aid of a speech device. And that doesn't make it any less of a 'mama' because it's coming out of a computer. We worked on this for three years. We working on identifying the button, pushing the button and getting my attention. We did it world. We never gave up," Swenson wrote on Facebook. "And now, at almost age seven, he's developed a desire to speak verbally. We have no words yet or sounds that make sense. But he sure is trying. He has the desire to communicate and that doesn't come naturally to everybody." 

The sweet video gives people a real look at some of the challenges children with autism and their parents face. Swenson runs the blog Finding Cooper's Voice, where she shares her family's journey having a child with nonverbal autism, and saw this contest as another opportunity to raise awareness about the condition. 

Swenson, who first thought she wouldn't be able to participate, ended up winning the contest. She and her husband were flown out to New York from Minnesota and enjoyed their first trip as a couple since their honeymoon. 

(H/T: HuffPost


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