When I asked Anthony’s mom to tell me about her family, she went through a normal rundown of names and ages then tacked on that her middle child, Anthony, is high functioning autistic. I appreciate her openness to share that with me ahead of time so I could be prepared to take a different approach at the session. He really was a joy to photograph. He loves Mario and was striking poses like all the characters. Watching him and his siblings together was awesome, a chaotic fun that you can’t help but smile at. I love knowing that as a photographer specializing in custom family portraits, I can meet and photograph kids like Anthony and give them the kind of attention they need to have a great portrait session.
When I heard that April is Autism Awareness Month and I wanted a special post for Anthony. I asked his mom to write a little something about him and this is what she wrote:
“First of all, you should know that Anthony’s favorite color is blue and when given the choice he wants everything blue. He loves to jump. He would jump everywhere if he could. Jumping also fulfills that sensory need that he has, so if he’s frustrated or has worked really hard on something he likes to jump afterwards and when he wins a game, he always has to do a few victory jumps across the room.
He loves Star Wars, Legos, and Lego Star Wars! He is a star at video games. He can beat a new game within a week of getting it. He dreams big. He wants to work construction, be a fireman and police officer all at the same time. He wants (and needs) friends that can go with the flow, when he gets frustrated, you have to be able to take it in stride because it will quickly pass. Katie, you saw how he got upset and Zach -his little brother- quickly diffused the situation? Yes, it ended up in a big giggling dog pile of children, but it was exactly what he needed and it is what he needs from others. Don’t stare, don’t laugh, he knows, he’s very aware that he’s causing a scene, he just can’t control it. Just wait, it will pass, he will gain control. Be patient.
There was a time when we thought he would never talk or play like a typical child. He’s made huge strides in the past 3 years, he’s not only verbal, but he’s in a regular Kindergarten classroom, working above grade level and being very successful. We’ve learned a lot from him. We have learned to be open and accepting of others and their differences and we have learned to find joy in the smallest things in everyday life.”
I hope everyone takes some time this month and think about a special person in your life that has autism. Think about how amazing they are and how awesome their parents are. Now remember your love for that person if you have the knee-jerk reaction of judging a child or the parent of a child that is acting out of the ordinary in public. You never know the story behind their behavior and they too might be on the autism spectrum. Spread not just awareness about autism but love, understanding, and acceptance for those that have it.