Tips and Hints for Photographing the ASD Child
What to expect from children living with ASD: One of my favorite sayings about children living with ASD is, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.”
The best way to prepare for each child is to ask their parents to tell you about their child. Ask them, “What do I need to know about your child to make photographing them a success?” This one question will often guide you to a successful session.
Here are some tips and hints for photographing a child living with ASD.
Be Ready. Be Patient. Overshoot.
- Some children have a desire for “sameness” (schedule, toys, clothing, etc.) - Surprises are generally not appreciated by children living with ASD. Make sure their parent has explained fully what is going to happen during their session.
- Difficulty expressing needs - A child may point, use gestures or tantrums instead of using words to express their needs. - Be patient, ask their parent to help you understand their needs. With my own sweet Caroline, there is no moving on until that need is met- so in order to pursuade the child to cooperate, the parent or photographer may need to do their best to meet the child’s need first- whatever it may be.
- Activity is noticeably under active or over active - The overactive child proves to be more of a challange to photograph. (Hello Caroline) I have found it helpful to have an item or activity to entice them to slow down. A favorite item could help keep them grounded. - Shameful admission: I used a smartie for each exposure to entice Caroline to stay in “good light” when she was younger. Make sure this is OK with the parents!
- May be non-responsive to verbal cues. - Most spectrum kids are visual – meaning that they are slow to process words or may seem like they are ignoring you. Don’t expect them to respond to your suggestions. - It may be helpful to show a child what you need them to do instead of telling them. - You may want to ask the parent if they use visual clues at home. If so, come up with your own cards that show a person smiling, or sitting or whatever you would like that child to do. - Ask the parents if there is a word or phrase that the child responds to, use this word or phrase when you really need it- be ready and DO NOT OVERUSE IT.
- Poor eye contact – If you would like the child to look at the camera, it may be helpful to have an item that the child is fond of and hold it close to the camera. - For our sweet girl, it was impossible to get her to look at the camera… my husband would have to stand directly behind me and do something to hold her interest (flooping moose ears, pretending to put his finger in my ear, any other embarassing act that holds their attention.)
- May respond negatively to new people or crowds or not able to mix well with others. - Make sure not to put them in a situation where they are uncomfortable. - Use a long lens. Give the child their own space.
- May not like hugs, to be touched, or to be cuddled. – Be kind, but keep your distance.
- Sensitivity to loud noises, tags in clothes, coarse clothing, lights, and smells. – Try to get this information from the parents before the session. - If the child has an aversion to bright lights- strobe lighting may not be a good idea. Have an alternate plan (window, continuous, or natural light) if the child can not tolerate strobe lighting.
Be Ready. Be Patient. Overshoot.