Last year I did a photo session give away and I couldn’t be more happy for Christi winning it! I had the pleasure to photograph her two boys, Cody and Cameron last summer. I fell in love with these two boys the minute I met them. They are fun, love nature, and there is no denying the love they have for one another. There is nothing better than having fun in the sun your favorite friend!
Both, Cody and Cameron have autism. I asked Christi if she would share her experience in raising two autistic boys with us and help bring more awareness to some of us that might not know much about autism.
Thanks Christi for taking the time to write this. I am so honor for the privilege to capture these special moments of your boys. Every time I see their images, they bring a smile to my heart.
In Christi’s words: (and thanks Christi for the compliment):
I absolutely adore these photos that Lydia took of my sons, Cody and Cameron! My boys are very hard to get on film, but Lydia captured their personalities so well.
Cody and Cameron both have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) along with several other diagnoses, one of which is severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What does this mean in easier to understand terms? They are moving constantly, have very high energy levels, change focus rapidly from one thing/activity to another, get “stuck” focusing on whatever has captivated their attention at the time (so much so that they don’t even hear what people are saying to them), and are led by their impulses rather than what they know is okay and/or safe. Their ASD is characterized by developmental delays, language delays, learning delays, poor social skills, low-sensitivity thresholds (to sights, sounds, smells, textures, touch) and sensory-seeking behavior (for example, actively seeking things which comfort them, such as pressure).
For Cody, anxiety (displayed as anger outbursts) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder play a big role, the latter of which manifests in trouble following directions and argumentative behavior. He literally will insist that the sun is shining if someone points out that it is raining outside!
Cameron was non-verbal upon entering preschool at 3 years old. He could not even ask for a drink of water, but rather would stare in the direction of his cup and start fussing or crying. His two years’ in attendance at A Child’s Garden preschool made an amazing difference in this area and many others. Cameron struggles with meltdowns resulting from inability to understand vague concepts (such as “wait”, “later”, “maybe”, etc.) and sometimes from difficulty with making himself understood. He also has a lot of sensory issues and will only wear soft stretchy cotton clothing, such as pajama sets.
For both of my sons, the world can be a very unfriendly place. Noises, crowds, lights, colors, smells – all are very over-stimulating for them. Combine this with lack of social and behavioral skills, and routine activities such as grocery shopping and going out to a restaurant become extremely challenging. That child you heard screaming and saw flailing, kicking and slapping in the restaurant? That was my son Cameron! And the child you saw at the grocery store pulling away from his mom and snarling “don’t touch me”? That was my son Cody!
As they say, it takes a community to raise a child. Unfortunately, society can often be very unwelcoming for children on the autism spectrum. Our family has found a “home” among the community of families who have a child/children with disabilities and/or special needs. Some organizations who have had a huge impact on our lives are:
1. The A Team Justice League – A support group for parents/caregivers of disabled children, providing a Facebook forum for connecting, sharing resources and disseminating mutually beneficial information, as well as organizing community activities that are disability/special needs friendly and affordable.
2. The Arc Families Connected program – Providing opportunities for families to get together, a monthly gathering with dinner and a presentation on a relevant topic, support for activities out and about in the community and affordable respite care programs.
3. Bridgeway House – Serving the needs of children with autism and related disabilities while educating and supporting their families. Bridgeway House provides many services, therapies and social activities for children on the autism spectrum, including Bridgeway School which both of my sons attend.
4. Early Childhood CARES – Providing early intervention and early childhood special education to infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children.
Early intervention can play such a crucial role in the future of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s development, please contact Early Childhood CARES for an evaluation.
Receiving your child’s diagnosis can be a frightening, confusing and grief-filled time, leaving a parent feeling isolated and alone. Please reach out and do something for your child that is so important – take care of yourself also by getting in touch with the supportive groups listed above. They are all more than willing to help and have so much empathy, a wealth of resources and a community of people who “get it” just waiting there for you.