I’ve attempted to write this blog post all day…literally all day.  I think I’ve had a horrible case of writer’s block.  I’ve wanted to put together the perfect combination of words since this session this past Saturday to do this family justice.  More like finding the perfect words to somehow detail the happy tears and pure giddy feeling I had at the start, during and after this session. The happy tears for all their son has accomplished in living with Autism.

{disclaimer: I have full permission by the parents to share their son’s life with Autism but will leave his name out for some privacy:)}

I first photographed this family 8 years ago before their world was rocked when their son was diagnosed with Autism.  The irony in our chance meeting is in my former life…before marriage and children…I began working with children with Autism 20+ years ago.  I’m not an expert in Autism by any means but likely more familiar than the average person.  Over the past 8 years I’ve watched and listened to their journey as they began learning how to help their son through his challenges.  And at times, my heart hurt for them as I heard struggles after struggles their son was going through.  Their struggles in finding a good fit in education, therapy, medical care and meeting his overall special needs to live the life he deserves as a child.

The right location for a session with this family is a high priority, along with time of day.  It was decided their home would be the best place for him to be most comfortable and less stimulating.  When I arrived to their home for the session, their son greeted me at the door…I’m not sure if they planned for this but if they did, than they had a well played plan.  I was totally caught off guard when the door opened and BLOWN away by their son’s greeting.  I can’t even describe it.

Let me put it this way, I remember a conversation with his mom when she once shared she only wanted to hear her son say simple words that come easy for majority of children.  She wanted to hear….mom.  i love you.  dad.

And when I arrive to their how and their son opened the door, I heard so many words coming out of his beautiful mouth.  And he was using the words and phrases appropriately.  I know …appropriately reads weird. I totally get it.  But for a child with Autism, they are literally taught all the basics words, phrases, how/when/tone/speed to speak, requests, feelings, basic behaviors in a repetitive/discrete trial process called Applied Behavioral Analysis. Where as typical children have an easier time developing receptive and expressive language skills through interacting, relationships and observing. (sorry, I got a little special ed geeky on ya) Relationships and communication are two of the biggest impairments a child with Autism, or developmental disability, lives with.

Just to stress the feelings of shock and awe I had after the greeting…I couldn’t form words to talk to his parents as I walked in, I just smiled at them.  After I collected myself,  I couldn’t stop commenting on how engaged he was, appropriate in talking with me and I just couldn’t believe how much progress he has made in the past 2 years.  I know I know…2 years is a long time, but in reality, for the parents of a child with Autism it’s not when they’ve waited yeeeears just to hear mom or dad or “I love you”.

I’ve learned a great deal working with children with special needs over the past 20+ years but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is….

Never underestimate what a child is capable of despite the mounding obstacles and challenges they face.

Never assume there is a cap to their potential.  

The sky is the limit in what they can achieve and accomplish, it truly is!

I’m not really sure what I expected their session to look like. I do know I wanted their session to exceed their expectations in capturing who they are together, even through the challenging moments.  I wanted for them to say the session was worth any stress or worries they may have had.  But more importantly, I wanted them to see their son as they see him every day.

I wanted them to see their son’s smile, how his amazing blue eyes lite up when he sees them, the tiny dimple in his cheek that appears when he precisely enunciates dad-dy, the look he gives when trying to get a reaction and more importantly how he loves his mom and dad.

In the end, I hope I captured him in all the glory of his accomplishments and the very moment before he conquers the next obstacles ahead.  THIS BOY…this boy is about to do great things.  He is going somewhere.  I believe it with all my heart.  And I can’t wait to hear about his victories!

To the Gonzalez family, I love each of you and thank you once again for welcoming me into your family to capture this fleeting stage in your son’s life.

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