Grief, anger, acceptance, art: my journey as an autism parent has been and continues to be full of winding turns and hills and valleys.
I love my son unconditionally, as the beautiful, hilarious, challenging, and charming person he is. I worry endlessly about his future, though, and there are days when it's hard for us to like each other (though the love never goes away).
To me, the greatest gift of his autism isn't his math wizardry or perfect pitch; it's the unique and poetic way he looks at the world. In my photography, I wanted to create a tribute to that perspective and the reality of our day-to-day life.
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#1 The Other You, The One Who Sees Me
In this reflection image, my son is looking right at me. That's something he never does. Somehow, the barrier of the glass wall let him see me. I often sometimes think wistfully about this version of him, the one behind the glass. I love him the way he is, but I'd give anything to embrace the boy behind the barrier.
#2 He Hears The Grasses Whisper
One of the core characteristics of autism is differences in sensory processing. The world can be overwhelming with so many sounds and sights and smells. But this can be a gift too; my son experiences the world in a way I never will.
#3 Winter Dream
I often feel like there is something separating my son and me. We can see and hear each other through this barrier, but we can't quite touch. Here, I photographed him through a sheet of ice to symbolize that experience.
One of my son's great gifts is his ability to focus completely on something. A puzzle, a musical instrument, the way the light makes colors in the clouds... He can put all of himself into what he loves, and I try to do the same in my interactions with him.
#5 Head Under His Wing
Photographing someone with autism isn't always easy, but that's because a good portrait is about emotional connection. To connect with someone on the spectrum, it helps to enter his world. Here, he's pretending to be an owl, and owls are his current area of special interest.
#6 In There
#8 Sleepy Morning
#9 School Day Sunrise
#10 Winter Is Here
#11 Something Between Us
#12 Loving The Shadow You
Some days are very, very hard. On off days, I start the morning with my son yelling that he hates me. The truth is, sometimes I drop him off at school and try not to squeal my tires as I drive away. I feel like a failure as a mother on those days, but I also know that those are the days that prove my love for him.
#14 Rough Morning
#15 Sidelong Pickerel Smile
#16 After School
#17 You And Me, Bugaboo
My son and I have a solid but very dramatic relationship. I make him really angry with my efforts to get him to school on time or have him eat something different for dinner. But I'm there for him, even when we're mad at each other. I think, I hope, he knows that.