"Special need children" was not really part of my vocabulary until I found out about possibly having someone affected by the Autism Spectrum as part of my extended family. My sister-in-law, Genevieve was diagnosed with Autism when she was around 26 years old. When I first met her, I noticed that she was different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. I didn't have a whole lot of knowledge about Autism. I was not aware of it. The first impression I had with Gen was that she is this super sweet person, but sometimes, it is a little hard to communicate with her. I didn't know if it were my language barrier or there was something else. However, I thought it was fun to be around her most of the time.
When I married into the family, I got to live pretty close to Gen. Interacting with her on a daily basis definitely helped me to understand Autism a little bit better. Honestly speaking, I find it frustrating sometimes for me or tricky to my brain to say the least. But when I do look past the frustration, there is always something shining and precious.
Gen knows so much about Disney and princesses. Gen likes to color. Gen likes to sew. Gen likes to go to Comic Stores. Gen is brave(because she's not afraid of scorpions). Gen is the sweetest Aunt. Gen is kind. Gen is loving. Gen cares about others.
Gen also has struggles just like all of us. Gen feels sad when things don't go as planned which might happen more in her world. Gen misses home when she is at school far away from family. Gen might not want to go to work when she had a bad day. Gen wants a hug when she feels lonely or she might want to just be left alone when she is frustrated.
See, Gen is different. But she is just like all of us--different and unique in our own ways. As frustrating as it can be sometimes trying to communicate with her, she is family and she is our friend. We love her the way she is.
I had the privilege to work with other families touched by Autism Spectrum through my work. Each child is different but the one thing remains the same across all families is the love we can feel within the family bonds. Parents, grandparents and siblings.
When the co-founder of the non-profit organization, Spectrum Inspired, asked me to join their force and be a volunteer photographer I was beyond thrilled.
SPECTRUM INSPIRED is a global community that connects, supports and uplifts individuals and families touched by Autism Spectrum Disorders. In order to educate the general public, our team uses Lifestyle Photography to document a diverse group of children on the spectrum and their families across the globe in effort to normalize and destigmatize ASD. It is our mission to give families a platform to voice their struggles, celebrate their victories and share their story; all the while, removing the stigma and stereotypes of what is thought to be representative of Autism and show the world just how broad and beautiful the spectrum is.
Even though my own child has a different kind of special need, I can totally relate being a mom who has the extra stress about all the medical attention needed while I think wholeheartedly my child is perfect in the imperfect way. I hope that through the lenses of us photographers, we can get a better idea about what Autism is like and be inspired by the families' stories.
If you are a lifestyle photographer, please apply to become a volunteer so we can better share these beautiful stories!
Let's paint the world blue! Let's inspire the world!