Broad Spectrum entry - You think you know but you have know idea!
I’m stalling. I have been for about a year or so.
I have needed to start blogging about my photography work with people affected by autism but I haven’t really been able to get myself to do it. I have blogged a few things from time to time about some of the work, but not all of it. I think part of this issue is that there is so much I want say about autism. I want to talk about the work I do. The families I encounter. The children and young adults I spend hours with when I photograph them. How I see my camera reaching in to them and pulling something out that most people don’t see. I want to talk about how I KNOW people with autism are reachable. I have seen it with my own eyes, but unfortunately, these people can’t communicate to us back. At least in a way that we are able to understand. But these people afflicted with autism try so desperately to communicate in their own way. I think that sometimes my just being with them and trying to enter their world, even just for a second, makes a connection. But who the hell am I? What the hell do I know?
I wrote this right after I received a call from my son’s social worker at school. For some reason he was suffering from extreme anxiety and it was affecting his entire day. This was about a month and a half or so ago and things are better. At least right now. But I’m sure the autism monster will come out to play soon. But for now, our holiday was a mellow time, which we all needed.
I know that when you are handed a baby as a new mother, you know things. You can sense things. That small person in your arms is really born with a disposition. Something doesn’t “feel right” but people tell you are crazy. An anxious mother, a neurotic parent. But that voice that keeps saying, “What the hell is wrong with my kid?” and it’s pretty damn loud. You hide in shame because all the while your child is having huge tantrums, flapping, making funny sounds, running through doors, obsessing about trains, finding attachment in objects that most kids don’t (like golf balls, and wooden spoons) not able to sit in a stroller. Meanwhile, your friend’s babies are taking in the environment around them, and then it all starts to makes sense. You wonder what people will think? How will your families react? Guess what? You get blamed...a lot! And what about your partner? How will they respond? Will you become partners in crime and fight the autism monster? These are just some of the things I asked myself as my son’s symptoms became louder and louder.
I choose to treat my son’s ASD as a behavior that can be controlled to a point. I choose to not give in as much as I can to autism today. Some days I do need to ask myself, “Hmmmmm....is this 8 year old typical bullshit or is THIS the autism taking over today”. It’s usually a tough call.
Today was a hard day. But tomorrow could be a good day. Hell, 4pm today could be a good day. But this morning was a sucky day.
Below are some more samples from my Broad Spectrum project.
This student enjoys the morning sun after breakfast.This student and her aide are getting ready to attend lunch at the school house on the Beaver Farm campus.This student was having a difficult morning. He is totally nonverbal so from time to time he just drops his body to the ground. He doesn't hurt himself but his aide must take precautions just in case he tries to. The director of Camphill, who resides on Beaver Farm with his wife and two kids, has trained their golden retriever, Floss, to help calm the students when they are experiencing anxiety. As you can see from the image above it is working for this particular student.Now relaxed, the student can go about his day with his aide at his side. Calm and ready for his schedule. This student is over 6'3' tall but is the most gentle, funny young man I have ever met. This was my 2nd visit and I believe he remembered me just by the connection made in this photo. He was placing his napkin on his lap for breakfast.Chores and routine are a daily part of life on campus. The students know what is expected during their day and if something is thrown off, in terms of routine, it can be very hard on a student as well as the staff. Above, Annie the director's wife and backbone of Beaver Farm, helps a student complete his job of prepping the breakfast dishes for the dishwasher. Annie is amazing.During my first visit to Camphill I was only allowed limited access to the school. But my return in March was different. I had earned their trust and was allow all access. I was even allow to attend therapy session, which is usually off limits to probing eyes. These next few images (above and below) are during this young boy's physical therapy session. At first he had a difficult time with me being there only because he couldn't focus on anything other than a stranger in the room. But I just sat quietly in the corner until he adjusted to me and that was that.