“Real” pictures (aka the ones taken by someone who gets to call themself a photographer) are rare in our household these days. Honestly I have a lot of guilt over this. When Ryley was small, I had her pictures taken all of the time—seriously every month the first year of her life and then every 3 months or 6 months as she got older. She loved having her picture taken and I loved the process of having her picture take. The only stress was when it came time to pick out the pictures because they were usually all pretty darn good (and yes I am totally biased). That was my intention when Caden was born but between medical procedures that taught Caden to distrust any setting that he wasn’t familiar with particularly if he was being laid on a table, and autism’s predisposition to avoiding being touched by strangers, coaxed to smile on cue with required eye contact, and the obnoxious sounds that photographers make in an attempt to get the perfect smile, Caden hated the entire picture process. Eventually for everyone’s sake we stopped trying but that doesn’t stop me from wishing, dreaming, and honestly getting down right jealous when friends post their pictures on facebook.
So when school pictures rolled around this year I decided to keep my expectations low. I wasn’t going to get disappointed if Caden chose his Mario shirt over the cute polo I had picked out with pictures in mind over the summer. I wasn’t going to get upset over the fact that I was cutting Caden’s hair while his friends were getting trims from professionals in anticipation of the big day. I even vowed and stated to his teacher that the picture wasn’t that big deal, what really mattered was him not getting overwhelmed or afraid in the process.
Much to my shock Caden liked the shirt I had picked out, put it on, and wore it the day of pictures without a single complaint about the collar. Thankfully I managed to trim his hair somewhat evenly and he didn’t even have any oops on his forehead or ears (Before those of you without children who have autism pass judgment on this one try this little experiment first. Take your child the night before their birthday and give them an entire bag of pure sugar and let them wash it down with some caffeine. Then lather them up with grease—any variety will do. Your job while they run uncontrollably around the house it to get the scissors close enough to their hair to chop at it while trying not to cut said child. For added fun have someone else run in and out of the rooms, shouting the child’s name so that you can get lots of head jerks and unsuspected movements to really challenge your scissor skills. Now pass judgement…go ahead…yep that’s what I thought). He was even a little excited about pictures, particularly the class picture with his friends.
His teacher texted me later that morning and said things went well. No meltdowns, no 911 calls, and no crying/screaming child yields a pretty good day in our world.
When pictures came back a few days ago, I was pretty darn speechless. His picture is good—he doesn’t have that vacant stare that he’s known to adopt when forced to smile or “look this way” and his class picture is precious. Even more special than the picture is listening to Caden talk about “his friends” and the fact he wants the picture framed and hung up in his room.
I should mention before child #1 loudly states "it's not fair" in the special way that only an 11 year old daughter can, that Ryley's pictures were beautiful and made me a little sad to see how much she's grown up in the last few years.
The story would be so beautiful if I could just leave it there but of course this small victory has me wondering if I could push my luck. Wouldn’t it be Kodak perfect to get Caden and Elf’s picture taken at the mall…maybe during the holiday season...maybe when the mall is super crowded...maybe when the photography studio is running way behind on appointments..maybe when the studio is decked out to be a virtual sensory overload for the neurotypical child? Heck maybe I’ll even give him a bag of sugar with a few cups of caffeine just to add to the drama, intrigue, and potential of the moment………