When Jimmy Fallon and the "Today" show put out a call for cute videos of kids saying “mama,” they probably didn't expect this one from Minnesota mom Kate Swenson.
Still, her video turned out to be the winner.
The contest originated with the “Tonight Show” host's new book. It's a follow-up to his first children’s book, in which he jokingly tries to get every baby’s first word to be “dada.” After that, Fallon says the word for everything else is “mama,” which led to his just-published book, “Everything is Mama.”
To celebrate its release, NBC’s “Today” show held a contest for parents to send in those cute videos.
The winning video (above) by Swenson and her son, who is autistic and nonverbal, turned out to be much more unconventional than the others, but just as heartwarming.
Swenson filmed her son Cooper, who is almost 7, speaking with a speech device that he uses to communicate.
“I am sure when Fallon’s producers created this contest they pictured the winner being a cute little toddler saying the cutest ‘mama.’ That’s what we all think of,” Swenson said. “My son is almost 7 and has never said a word. And yet, I know that his voice is just as sweet.”
In the video, Swenson explains: “He loves trains. He’s smart and he’s funny and he’s loving, and Cooper is also autistic and nonverbal. 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.”
Later in the video, Cooper presses the touch screen and a computerized voice says “mama.” Cooper uses the Proloquo2Go system, on an iPad from Talk to Me Technologies.
“My goal was to show the world that nonverbal, severe autism is beautiful and loving,” Swenson said. “We shouldn’t be afraid of autism and it most definitely shouldn’t be hidden. His smile and voice did that in this video.”
Swenson frequently blogs about the joys and challenges of raising a child with special needs on her blog, Finding Cooper’s Voice, and its Facebook page. In March, a playground confrontation led to a viral video she posted about autism awareness.
For her winning video, Swenson was flown to New York City to attend Tuesday’s book launch party of “Everything is Mama,” where she met Fallon and “Today” host Hoda Kotb. (Read more about the contest here.)
“Jimmy Fallon was hilarious, down-to-earth and charming,” she said. “He told us stories of his life before having kids and how different it is now ... he read his book to a group of children, asked them questions, told us stories and danced.”
Watch Swenson’s video from the day here:
“Flying to New York, staying in Times Square and meeting Jimmy and Hoda was unbelievable,” Swenson said. “But even more amazing than all of that was starting a conversation about nonverbal autism. That’s my number one goal.”