Proud Autism mom & Photographer
Alexander and I during our family portraits.
“I am different. Not less.”
Let me be the first to say that I am no expert in Autism but i am an expert
in kindness & understanding that no persons value is worth more or less than another.
As a photographer, I get portraits done pretty often. I hire photographers to photograph my family just as you would hire me to photograph yours. I hire a photographer for anniversary portraits of my husband and I, even though he's probably so sick of having his pictures taken. Ya' girl is not trying to do her own family portraits. :')
As a mother to a child on the Autism Spectrum, it was so hard for me to find a photographer for our family. Most people, if having no direct experience, have no idea how to work with kids on the spectrum. Even then - the autism spectrum is so broad that what may work for one, may not work at all for another. (It's an adventure for sure, but it can be a rewarding one!)
When our son Alexander was younger I would often feel like a burden emailing photographers asking if they had experience or would be "comfortable" photographing my family and my son with Autism. Looking back at those guilt & fear stricken years makes me so sad, and to be honest, mad.
It makes me so sad that I allowed myself and my son to become a victim of society norms for a little bit.
I think when parents get the official Autism diagnosis they go through a lot of feelings at once. First, the overwhelming feeling of grief. The 'what if' and how their child will never live a "normal life" and how will they cope with how mean the world is? You also feel a sense of relief. You finally have answers and with these answers and this new diagnosis you can work towards helping your child in any way possible. You finally have a direction to go in. Typically the only true benefit that clinical diagnosis gives you is the green light from your insurance to help your child with various therapies. We start therapy when Alexander was 18 months old, full time. Physical therapy, occupation therapy, speech therapy, sensory therapy. We lived in therapy.
A clinical diagnosis also ensures they have access to accommodations in education that are tailored to them instead of pushing them through the "normal" classes, which may not benefit them physically, emotionally or educationally. It gives you legal rights to fight for your child when they are being discriminated against. I have mixed feelings on Autism being a disability, but if the label will ensure that my son is safe and has access to proper accommodations, I'm here for it.
Everyone's journey through the life of raising a child with Autism is different but for me, once I got over the grief stage, I kicked my own butt and realized that his diagnosis does not define his worthiness of the same life everyone around him has. So I became his advocate and in the process, I became an advocate for anyone who faces discrimination for things they cannot control. It grows a little more everyday.
Once I stopped feeling like the victim and stopped looking at Autism like it was a burden I opened my eyes to be able to see that so many parents never get portraits done based on fear. A few years ago I did complimentary autism portraits where we were living. It was simple. I wanted to provide a short and sweet experience for parents to get a few family portrait without the worries that stopped them from getting pictures. I asked the families, "what has stopped you from getting family pictures before today?
- Fear that the photographer wont book them.
- Overwhelmed by the thought of a portrait session.
- That they'll get to the session and the child will not cooperate and they've wasted a lot of money.
- Scared of how hard it's going to be or if someone is going to make a terrible comment about them during the session.
- Money - Autism tends to rack up a lot of extra bills that people don't see. ( Therapies, specialists, special devices, toys, sensory friendly clothing, etc)
- (Often times a parent has to quit their job to stay home because childcare in a transitional childcare setting is not an option.)
- Constant survival mode. They often are so consumed in the everyday of surviving that they don't want consider extras.
My heart broke. My husband volunteered to help me with the paperwork and greeting portion while I had 2 friends of mine drive two hours to help me in anyway that they could.
I photographed Almost 40 families back to back. I felt like I ran a marathon but my heart was so full with how I could give back to my community and give these parents a glimmer of hope and show them that they are seen and they are valued.