Well, I am done editing the last of my special needs mini-sessions. It was a great year with so many familiar faces, and welcoming new families as clients, as well. I’m so happy we were able to offer these specials to such deserving families. I asked families to share about their wonderful children, so you can meet them.
First up is 11 year old Alex. At two years old, he had a speech delay. A speech therapist recommended he be evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. He was then diagnosed with autism at two and a half years old. Subsequently, he got early intervention for five months. At four years old, the words starting coming. He is now highly verbal with a large vocabulary. He loves to read and go to the library. In fourth grade he was diagnosed with ADD. He now attends mainstream middle school in co-taught classes with a special education and general education teacher in each class. He also receives speech, occupational therapy, and social work services in school. Alex was a very happy boy for me and loved giving hugs and placing my hands on his ears while smiling at me.
Next up are these wonderful siblings – older brother, Aidan (12),and twins Connor and Ashley (9), though you would never know they are twins. Each child is unique and has enriched their parents’ lives. They started on this adventure thinking they would be the teachers of their children, but so far, their kids have actually taught them much more. Aidan is academically gifted and mature beyond his years, with a dry sense of humor he saves for those closest to him. Connor is an elite swimmer and has an altruistic soul, with the kindest heart towards all people and animals. Ashley can warm your heart with her hugs and smiles, turning the worst day into a great day simply by being there. Ashley has Down Syndrome with a severe speech delay caused by verbal apraxia. She is also a cancer survivor (diagnosed with Leukemia at age two). Even though she has what society calls a disability, she is strong, social, funny, compassionate, and has so many abilities that her parents can’t possibly list them all. While she is delayed, and with that comes many challenges, her entire family has learned so much about patience, humor, priorities, kindness, perseverance, acceptance, and compassion from Ashley. Her mom’s hope is that these pictures not only show her adorable children, but also capture their inner beauty and allow others to see the very special bond that exists between them.. Each day, she looks at her three kids and feels like the luckiest mom ever.
Next up is 8 year old Bella who is a high-spirited little girl that was diagnosed with Autism at 33 months. She also has apraxia, which impedes her to verbalize orally. The sounds that come out of her mouth are sounds which occur mostly spontaneously when she is excited and overstimulated. Instead of recording of Bella’s first words, her mom has a recordable frame in which holds the sound of her laugh from the age of 9 months instead of her first words or emerging sounds. The words have not came traditionally, but the spirit of her special language with her mom is breathtaking. Her spirit and love to be in the community is heard from miles away, running into stores, and other days holds her mom’s hand, putting it over her mouth. Bella utilizes an AAC (Augmentative Assitive Communication) device that provides output from a computer generated voice. Bella’s voice with this communication device is still emerging, but she is able to express her wants and needs especially her love for cheeseburgers, pool, playground, Target, Chickfila, McDonalds and pictures to just name a few. Her mom hears, ” I want cheeseburgers” on a daily basis. Bella’s spirited personality can bring challenges like running care free and without thought. Bella attends Alexander Leigh Center for Autism, a therapeutic day school in Crystal Lake.
Next up is Georgie and his little brother, Jackson. I have been photographing Georgie for years, and he has come such a long way!! Georgie was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3 yrs old. He had no words when I first met him, but now he can communicate with us, and asked his mom about seeing all of his classmates (one by one) during our session. These brothers have a wonderful bond – they are best friends.
I’ve been photographing these twins for years, as well. Born 8 weeks premature at 2.5 pounds (Philip) and 3 pds. 12 oz. (Emily,) they had a rough start. Philip then got ill shortly after birth and spent 90 days in the NICU. They had speech, OT, physical, developmental and feeding therapies throughout the last 6 years. They were both diagnosed with Autism around 2 1/2 years old. Through long days of therapies, the amazing district preschool, and hard work and persistence, both kids are thriving. Both are in mainstream classrooms and doing great. Life at home is crazy, busy, but fun! Both kids have recently started swimming lessons. Emily started Daisies (Girl Scouts) this past year, and Philip plays baseball for the Miracle League. They have really come a long way since I first met them, especially Phillip.
The last session of this wonderful day was, unfortunately, the hardest. Three year old Cole came in the door crying. He had fallen asleep in the car and was woken up and just beside himself. Cole has Autism. He started preschool last October and has made a ton of progress. He started school with maybe five words and had to use a communication book to speak. He now has 100+ words and is starting to speak in 2-3 word sentences! Successes like these make all of his parents’ advocating worth it! His favorite things in the world are Netflix (so he can watch Ninjago wherever he goes), his Thomas trains, and his daddy. While in studio, he just clung to his daddy and cried with the sweetest sing-song voice. It was heartbreaking. I had them go sit on the bed while my assistant and I ignored them. They watched some Ninjago, which at least got him to stop crying, but if he saw me looking at him, he would start saying “nooooo”. I took pictures at this point of his parents and his body, not worrying about his face. Then later, they were tickling him, and I was able to get some of him smiling. It only lasted a few minutes before he was upset again. But through the magic of PhotoShop, we have family pictures with everyone smiling.