Cole Cooper is a queer, trans, autistic college student based in Minneapolis. He is a part-time AAC user and is semi-speaking. Cole works as a teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota and is developing a course about disability advocacy within healthcare settings. He is currently studying special education and plans to continue to grad school to pursue a PhD in disability studies.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am an autistic semi-speaking college student who’s involved in a lot of disability advocacy. I have been non- or semi-speaking my whole life. I use text-based AAC and sign supported speech part-time to communicate. I really like teaching at the university level and want to pursue a career in academia. I also really really like foraging for mushrooms and know a lot about them.
What are your mediums?
I’m new to art but I do some writing and painting.
Why is art important to you?
I like being able to share my experiences with others and communicate things that are important to me
How has art helped you communicate as a non or semi speaking disabled person?
I have an easier time expressing my thoughts in writing than through speech and so writing is a way to share the things that I experience. It also helps me connect to my community through other mediums instead of face to face
How has the outbreak affected you as a disabled person? How has it affected you as an artist?
I am mildly immunocompromised and I contracted COVID-19 very early into the outbreak, which was scary. Luckily I recovered without complication though. As an autistic person this huge change in routine has been incredibly stressful and difficult to manage. I have a lot of supportive people in my life who have been helping me get through everything, and I am really glad I have those people because I don’t know how I would get through this otherwise.
What’s one thing you wish abled people understood about you?
I wish people understood that I’m able to make my own decisions and I don’t need to be pitied or treated in a condescending way.
What’s one song, book or TV show that’s helping you get through this time?
It doesn’t fall under any of those categories but I’ve been playing a lot lot lot of Animal Crossing and that’s really nice. It’s helped me feel like I still have a routine during all this stress.