"Hey guys, so I've been crying for the last half hour."
That's how Cottage Grove mother Kate Swenson started a video describing the upsetting encounter she experienced at a park for children with disabilities this past weekend – a park she was at with her son Cooper, who is non-verbal and autistic.
Her video has since been viewed more than 450,000 times as it contains a timely reminder for April, which is Autism Awareness Month, as she recounts what happened at Madison's Place Playground.
Her 6-year-old son, who she introduces on the video and describes him as "loud and rammy [sic] and clumsy," accidentally pushed a young girl down the slide as he was playing on the equipment.
The response from the girl's parents, Swenson says, has left her feeling like she can't leave the house with her son anymore, saying they yelled at her despite repeated apologies for the incident.
"He was on the slide, he was rolling around, it was obvious he was rolling around, his feet hit a little girl and she went down the slide," she said.
"Before the father even checked on the child he yelled at me and yelled at my son," she added, "I apologized five times. The little girl wasn't crying but they proceeded to yell at me, asking what's wrong with my kid, why was he there."
"This is the first time that Cooper and I have not felt truly welcome somewhere and it's got to change because otherwise I'll never be able to leave my home," she said.
"I apologize that my son is loud and rammy and clumsy ... He's autistic," she continued. "As I cried all the way home I realized we cannot leave the house. How's that for spreading autism awareness? Another one gives up. We're never going to leave the house because people out there treat us like monsters."
Here's the full video:
You want Autism Awareness? Here it is. You tell me how we are supposed to leave our houses. Tell me how we are supposed to live in the community. I'm all ears. Because parents of kids with disabilities feel completely isoloated. And it's not by our kid's disabilities. It's by the people in the world that refuse to acknowledge that our kids are part of this world. #autism #autismawareness
Posted by Finding Cooper's Voice on Friday, 31 March 2017
Swenson, who is a digital project manager for PBS, has a website called "Finding Cooper's Voice" that's dedicated to her son, who is on the severe scale of the autism spectrum.
Though he cannot self-care, has sensory issues and partial apraxia (a motor-speech disorder), she says he's also "funny ... absolutely charming and beautiful," and that "he finds joy in the simplest things."
According to the Autism Society, 1 percent of the world's population has autism spectrum disorder, and it affects 3.5 million Americans. It is the fastest growing developmental disability, affecting 1 in 68 newborns in 2015 compared to 1 in 150 in 2000.