Monday, April 8, 2013

April is Autism Awareness Month

It is I the great and powerful blog slacker, LOL.   But I have a few coming for you over the next couple of weeks!  And today's is extra important, so pay attention!

As you all know, last April I announced my intentions to incorporate a special needs aspect to the studio.  And I have loved every second of it.  I have gotten to know some awesome kids and their families and seen what an impact having a photographer who understands their challenges can have, not just on the pictures themselves but on their parents as well.

So this year I decided to spotlight one of my families for Autism Awareness Month.  Now you all know I usually don't make a point of saying "look a special needs shoot!"  because they are just normal kids, they don't need a label.  But some of the parents are happy to share their kids unique awesomeness with the world and allow me to highlight their kids!  Cate is one of those awesome moms.  I've been shooting Josh and his big sister Allie since 2009 (which is just crazy to me!) and I've seen first hand how challenging and rewarding Josh's struggles have been.  

Not only does Josh have autism but he also has seizures, but he certainly doesn't let any of that slow him down.  He has had more than his fair share of struggles but he is still the same silly kid I've had fun with for years now!   He has a sweet service dog named Nelson and a personality that just doesn't stop!  I never know who will show up to one of Josh's shoots, this time I got Batman!   He had his Batman hoodie and his sunglasses on when he walked up to me.

Me: "Excuse me Batman, Have you seen my friend Josh?"
Batman takes off his hood and his sunglasses "Corrie it's me."  
Me:  "Oh you had me fooled"
Sunglasses go back on and he takes off with a grin "I know."  


And one of my favorite things about Josh, from a purely photographer stand point, I never get the same facial expression twice, I'm always surprised when I go through his shoots and see all the awesome faces he makes!  And when he ran up to me this shoot and grabbed my hand and said "Corrie come with me, I need to play and they are going to take forever." it made my day!

Josh also has a big sister, Allie, who is an all around awesome kid who I love spending time with.  Not only is she great with her brother and helping her mom, but she is smart, well spoken and happens to have an interest in photography, which is just fine with me!!

She is always up for doing whatever random things I ask her to do, including trying 50 different trees until we find the perfect one and standing on walls in front of random bushes because I decide they look pretty.  And never questions it!

But what does this all have to do with Autism Awareness?  Well 1 in 88 kids is diagnosed with Autism.  Which means odds are you know a family that struggles with some form of an Autism spectrum disorder, even if you don't realize it.  And we've all seen the kids having meltdowns in Target or a restaurant and you judge.  But it just isn't as easy as "well he looks normal they should be able to control him"  not only is that not true at all, but just because a child has a disability or disorder doesn't mean that they can't hear and understand the things you say.  It hurts their feelings, they don't like not being in control of their situation any more than their parents or the people around them like it.  Autism Awareness isn't about knowing it exists, but knowing that it effects every child differently and taking just a minute to realize the toll it takes on them and their families before saying something hurtful.  Because it isn't just the way it changes their family, having a child that needs "more", but it is the nights up worrying, the financial aspects of various therapies and tools to help them learn and progress, the constant struggle for answers and trying to find a way to keep things as "normal" as possible.   All while educating everyone they come in contact with from family, to friends and teachers about their child's particular challenges.

I'm blessed to know a number of amazing children who defy the odds of their Autism and prove their doctors wrong every day.  It's not to say every day isn't a struggle, but those little moments when you know what you are doing makes a difference, make everything else easier.  

Reach out to their parents, if they share something on facebook that seems minor to you, it may be a huge accomplishment to them, get excited!  If they are having a rough day, ask if you can do anything to help or if you can bring them a coffee and let them vent in a judgement free environment.  It doesn't take much to let these parents know that you see how hard they are working and that you know how awesome their kids are!!

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