Here are some of the things you can expect at one of my autism friendly photography sessions.
Calm, Friendly & Happy
The most important part of a photography session is that everyone is happy. I will strive to make everyone feel very comfortable during a session and will use my own experience of autism to ensure no one feels stressed or panicked.
Get To Know Me
Accepting new people is often difficult for people on the autistic spectrum which is why I will organise a Get To Know Me session prior to the photographs being taken for me to get to know you and your family, discuss sensory requirements and to go over anything else that’s important.
Before any session I will take time to write out a social story that you can share with the individual. The story will cover what will happen during the session and allow for you to fill in blanks accordingly.
Use of Suitable Locations
New places, travel and noise can be very stressful and worrying for people with autism. I will only ever shoot in a location that is safe and comfortable even if that location is your home or somewhere outdoors.
Seeing a big camera and lens can sometimes be very daunting even for neurotypical people. To combat this and take away some of the worries people might have, I will spend some time letting my clients get to know the equipment and even letting them have a shot if they feel more at ease.
Accommodate Special Interests
I know first hand how special interests can take over the life of someone on the autistic spectrum and I will strive to build up my own knowledge of that subject before meeting you. I will also ensure that we can use the props that might be important to those special interests where possible to create a happy environment during the photo session
No Session Time Limits
I won’t impose any time limit on sessions and will be with you until you or I feel we have achieved all that we can for that session.
If the first session does not go according to plan or I haven’t been able to capture the photographs you or I would like then don’t worry, we’ll do it again.
Taking photo’s of someone with autism can be time consuming and if you have other kids they can often get bored quickly. I will always bring along an activity box to my sessions to keep everyone happy in between shots.
Use of Natural Light
I understand that artificial lighting can be a huge pain point for people with autism which is why I will only ever use natural light unless it has been established that other lighting is OK.
My Story & Autism Friendly Photography
Let’s start off with the basics and why I decided to start offering Autism Friendly Photography.
From a very young age (around 6 or 7) my wife and I had a very strong feeling that our daughter was autistic. We could see the struggle she faced with anger, social inclusion and busy places every day but simply didn’t know where to go with it. There was a period where we thought that a lot of the characteristics she was displaying where as a result of the loss of her nanna to breast cancer, whom she was very close with.
We tried various avenues to get her the help she required. We had her referred to a childhood bereavement specialist and whilst it helped he deal with the loss of her nanna better it simply didn’t help her (or us) with the rest of the behaviours being displayed.
Our next step was back to the doctor to see if there was anything they could recommend. It was at this time that we were referred to CAMHS in Greenock.
By the time the appointment came around Kimberly was now about 8 years old and the struggle with day to day life was more and more apparent. We went along and seen the psychologist who, after a very short session, decided that the problem was infact with the way my wife and I parented and we were given tips and strategies to use for when Kimberly had a melt down.
Another couple of years passed and things were becoming harder and harder to deal with. Kimberly’s struggles and inability to manage situations seemed to be getting worse and we were again at a loss having implemented all the things we were advised to at our visit to CAMHS.
At this point we decided to get the School involved as she was now very much falling behind in class and struggling to keep up with the learning curriculum. We found out from the school that Kimberly was on a stage 2 intervention (which we had no idea about) and it was decided at that point that the school would have her assessed for dyslexia and irlen syndrome.
Following what seemed like a lifetime of testing and appointments there was a diagnosis of dyslexia and irlen syndrome now in place however things still weren’t great and with support from the school and the doctor we were now back at CAMHS with Kimberly.
In 2012. through amazing work at CAMHS, my eldest daughter Kimberly was diagnosed with Asperger’s and everything now made sense. Additional support was put in place for her everywhere she needed it and for the first time in here school life Kimberly walked out of Primary 7 with a learning award. The emotional journey to get to this point was long and hard but very very much worth it.
Fast forward to 2016 and whilst we now know why Kimberly behaves and reacts the way she does things are still far from easy. We are back at CAMHS with Kimberly and have found ourselves being embroiled in webs of lies, more prolonged and harder melt downs and having to deal with things we never imagined we would ever have to however with that said, we now know what sensory issues Kimberly has, what social struggles she faces and what “in theory” calms her down.
This leads me nicely onto why I have decided to offer Autism Friendly Photography sessions.
I know first hand how hard it can be to get my daughter to pose in photos and I also know how hard it can be to deal with someone with autism. “Meltdowns” are par for the course in my life as are sensory issues and social struggles but I firmly believe my first hand experience with autism and my completion the Barnardo’s Cygnet course puts me in a great place to offer these types of photography sessions and for you to feel very much at ease knowing I wont be judging anything that may happen and that I might even be able to offer some help.
Terms & Conditions:
Travel & expense costs will be applied if the photos are to be taken outside of the Greenock, Gourock, Port Glasgow, Inverkip & Weymss Bay areas.
Medical diagnosis of autism is required and may be requested prior to the photos being taken to avoid abuse of the offer.
Photo sessions may be refused at my my discretion.
Payment is required before photos are taken.