Family photos are one of those rituals that neurotypical families can take for granted but those of us with special needs have to earn. It can be a real challenge to get your autistic child to look at the camera and hold still at the same time, not to mention coordinating everyone else. Add in having to go to a strange place and it can be a recipe for meltdowns.
We used to go to Sears to have our family portrait done. Things were relatively simple when Alex was little. We'd just prop him on our laps and tickle him to make him smile. But as he got larger, things became more difficult and the staff there weren't up to the challenge. When I'd call to book, I'd suggest booking two slots back to back since I knew it would be difficult (I was willing to pay for them, too). But inevitably they'd insist they knew what they were doing and it would be fine. They were wrong.
Having an annual portrait was very important to me. It still is. It's a record of how my children are growing and changing. School pictures are one thing but I wanted a picture of the whole family.
After a disasterous shoot in which we got no photos at all, I was very upset. I called around to independent photographers but no one wanted to come to the house. Or if they did, they were charging an obscene amount of money.
Luckily we found someone who was willing to work with us: Ryan Parent. Here's his link:
He didn't know a lot about autism but he knew a lot about taking pictures and was willing to listen to us about what would work with our children. (I've learned this is an exceedingly rare situation, most experts assume they know better than any parent when it comes to working with your child.)
He's been taking our pictures for four years now and it's worked out great. The boys run around and do whatever they were going to do anyway and he snaps amazing candid shots. When it's time for the group photo, he's ready with his hand on the shutter. As soon as the boys are in position, he starts snapping photos. We usually get a nice one.
And best of all, he's affordable and sends us digital copies of our photos so we can print out as many as we like, wherever we want.
This post may be a little more of a shill than I usually do but take it from someone who has looked: it's hard to find people who are willing to really work with special needs families, who will adapt to your needs rather than making you adapt to theirs.
If anyone is interested, you can contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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