A not uncommon response when I tell people I have an autistic child is: “Really? She doesn’t look autistic.” This sort of remark tends to infuriate the parents of children on the spectrum, but it’s sort of a fair point. It just illustrates how little most people know about autism.
The ‘popular’ view, courtesy of Hollywood and the media, is that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are like Dustin Hoffman’s “Rainman” character – unable to socialise and communicate properly, incapable of eye contact, yet possessing some kind of memory superpower. There are people who match that profile, but every autistic person, like every other person in society, is different.
Another common misconception is that only boys can be autistic. In fact, more and more girls are now being diagnosed. Many have been missed in the past because of their ability to mimic social behaviours and mask their symptoms.
Take these two for example.
Do they look like they can’t communicate or socialise? This pair are the best of friends. They text and chat to each other on the phone regularly, and whenever they get together, well, you can see the sort of giddiness and hilarity that usually ensues. You wouldn’t think, from looking at these photographs, that both girls have been diagnosed with ASD in the last year.
One is my daughter, the other the daughter of a good friend. We feel very fortunate to have each other for support. Behind the smiles though are a whole host of social, communication and behavioural issues that many people do not see. Keeping those smiles in place is a delicate balancing act of careful planning, structure, routines and strategies that we, as mothers, are still learning and practising. Any small but unexpected change to a carefully constructed plan can result in a huge amount of upset to our girls, who find the world a confusing and overwhelming place.
Since launching Studio G I have worked with lots of children with autism and other additional needs. I always thought I just had a natural affinity with these children, but through my daughter’s diagnosis I realise it is because I have naturally developed strategies to deal with what, up until recently, I thought were just her quirks.
Now that I know, I have thrown myself into learning as much about the autism spectrum as I can, taking workshops and training courses that will help me, not only as a parent but in my job as a photographer. As a mother I know how much I treasure photographs of my children (and I have many), yet all too often I meet parents who have never had professional photographs of their children done because they think it is too difficult or awkward. In 2018 Robert and I want to change that view. I have never yet failed to get at least one beautiful portrait of any child who has been brought to me.
But more about how we do that in the next blog…
If you are interested in knowing more about our work with children with additional needs, or would like to book a shoot for your own child, please call Lisa on 07771 553535, or send us a message via the form on our Contact page.