Friday, May 31, 2013

Linear Thinking at its Best

Speech is a thing that is almost universally hard for those on the autism spectrum.  Some of those with autism  never speak, some speak in ways we would not expect, some start speaking in the expected time frame as children, only to find as they grow that speech is not the same as communication.  

Others, like little C, need to learn to speak--need to pick their way deliberately through the maze of communication skills that most children master at an early age, and with ease.

He's come a long way, this kid.  I sometimes forget just how far, and how much of an effort communication still is for him, in some ways.  It amazes me, really, when I get small glimpses into what his process is for communication.  It humbles me, too.  He's fought so hard to get where he is, and although he has every right to be grumpy and frustrated and angry sometimes, he almost never is.

Seriously, some days I'm in a bad mood and even I couldn't tell you why.

I got one of those glimpses into little C's head tonight.  When I came in the front door from a run, he was crying--brokenhearted--in the middle of the kitchen.

When I asked him what was wrong, he slowly, haltingly sputtered out, "I want them inside."

"Who do you want inside, baby?"

"They're outside."

"What's outside, baby?  What do you want?"

"They're outside and I want them inside," he wailed.

At this point, he was spun up.  It's heartbreaking, when he struggles like that.  Generally, we've learned to get past this point and help him articulate what he needs, but he still stalls when he's particularly upset.

Tonight, he was particularly upset, but I knew we had to hang in.  We didn't get this far by letting him skate.  So I tried again.

"[Little C].  Tell me what you need, baby."

Tears streaming down his face, he took a deep breath and hiccuped the words, building them painstakingly in his head as he went.

"Lightning McQueen...and Mater...are outside, and I want them inside."

After congratulating him for doing such a great job in letting me know what he needed, we walked through putting on his shoes and socks, I took his hand, and we went outside to retrieve his friends.  Sure enough, they rested peacefully underneath our slide in the back yard, waiting for him.

It turns out that at some point while I was out, he realized he wanted his toys, and remembered where he had left them.  In order to get them, he needed to go outside.  In order to go outside, he needed to put on his shoes and socks.

Shoes and socks are our latest battle here lately.  Motor skills have been lagging for a little while, but so often it is easier--and quicker--just to dress him than to work with him in dressing himself.

So, he's been a little spoiled, this kid.  This has resulted in a rather traumatic transition to having him dress himself every morning.  Shoes and socks have become sort of a mascot for this daily frustration he feels.

Once he realized he would need to put on his shoes and socks to retrieve his toys (and knew his daddy wasn't going to do it for him), he started melting down.

He pulled it out, though.  Although it's hard for me to realize how much of an effort this type of thing still is for him at times, I was so, so proud to watch him realize what the problem was, and then take the steps needed to get through it. 

Moments like this are the ones that get taken for granted by typical parents every day.  As hard as the hard times can be, I don't know that I would have known the depths of pride and gratitude that this kid has introduced me to, were it not for autism.

He's climbing mountains - slowly, methodically, but one damned mound of dirt and rock at a time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Few Updates

Strap in, folks.  This is gonna be a little schizophrenic (I know.  Contain your shock, K?)

1) The "1 in 50" Parenting project has been sidelined, perhaps permanently.  I got a letter from the editor last week, announcing that the company had been bought out by a rival, and the magazine would be discontinuing publication after their July issue.  Aside from my initial disappointment at my article going *poof*, I really was pretty saddened by all of this.  This was a great company, with editors who had been kind and encouraging during my interactions with them, and with employees that had apparently all been given very little notice before being let go.  Yet another casualty of the digital age, I supposed, but a sad one.

2) Facebook is an even bigger @sshole than I thought.  Not only will it still not allow me to create a business page, it's locked down my personal account because it's pissed at me for trying too many times to create a business page.  I now have limited Facebook access for the next 30-days.

3) I refused to accept did not realize how addicted I was to Facebook until said lock-down.  It has not been a pleasant 24-hours.

4) Google+, however: Not an @sshole.  I was able to create a business page there with almost zero effort.

5) I kinda <3 Google+.  It's much easier to navigate and interact with, and the photos are gorgeous compared to Facebook's compression-riddled mess.  It is, however, still kind of a ghost town.  But, my page gets prioritized search results, so there's that.

6) 48 hours of working on logos and watermarks makes me realize that graphic arts designers earn every penny that they make.

7) I need a website.  No, strike that, I need someone to make a website for me.  I've just dipped a toe in this overwhelming pool thus far, but I am already feeling extremely ill-prepared for this.  I haven't touched HTML since the days of Geocities.


8) Bubbly, effusive, grateful moms of kids you've photographed are the best.  I recommend that everyone get one, really.  Huge morale booster.

9) I've discovered the "scheduled post" option in Blogger.  Something happened with Little C tonight that I want to blog about, but I don't want to include it in this schizophrenic mess, so I'm going to employ this new button I've discovered.  This means you'll get another post from me this week, in a much more coherent format.   So, um, yay?

  Schizophrenic me, signing off.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Presto Change-O

So.  I am tired, y'all.  The good kind of tired, mind you, but damned tired.

I had my first official photo session yesterday, and I got paid for it.

Shocking, right?

I've come to the conclusion that I'm apparently incapable of going at anything at less than the speed of obsession.  Seriously, who knows if I'll end up being a whole lot of good at this photography thing, but damned if I'm not gonna know every nook and cranny of it eventually.  At least in theory--putting theory into practice is a different animal all together.

I put it out into Facebook land a few weeks ago that I needed guinea pigs.  You know, the hapless, furry and defenseless little creatures previously used for lab experiments before PETA got all huffy?


Anyway, it seems that people are perfectly willing to be hapless guinea pigs, if the price for being such is free.  I was flabbergasted, really.  Facebook comments and messages started coming in from people I barely remembered I knew, and I was all, "Are you sure?  I mean, I'm new at this.  And by 'I'm new' I mean 'Please don't get made at me if I screw up your pictures, K?'"

And then the people that said they wanted me to take pictures for them actually scheduled sessions with me.

I kinda thought they were bluffing, really.

So the first session was "booked" and as soon as I got over the giddiness of "booking" and me in the same sentence, I was all Joe Photographer.  Seriously, I went out there with my bag, and my light stand, and my off camera strobes...and then as soon as the guy showed up, I promptly forgot how to use all of the things.

All of them.  Except the point and shoot camera-thingee, so we actually ended up getting some pretty good photos.  Even if I did try to blind the poor guy with my reflector at one point.

Oh well, I'm sure his LinkedIn profile is very GQ, now.  Plus, there was last minute Mexican food afterward with a friend/stuff holder, so: WIN!

Then came the magical engagement session.  Well, "engagement session" is probably a bit glorified, since it was initially booked as a regular I'll-stand-still-and-let-you-take-my-picture session, but then the girl got engaged, so then it turned into a I'm-so-excited-about-my-new-ring session.

I planned, I Pinterest-ed, I packed a (little) lighter for this one...and forgot to check the weather.  So we ended up eventually arriving on location (which, incidentally, have I mentioned that I have no sense of direction?  Apparently this is important for finding the locations you would like to use for shoots), shortly before a monster lightning storm.  As in, I looked up at one point, and this chick's hair was standing literally straight on end.

At which point we decided that Hey, maybe we can take shots of the ring INDOORS!

Which we did.  And I got some hella nice macro shots out of it.

So if I were to tell you at the beginning of this week that I had one adult male who acts like he's been modeling all his life, one up-for-anything adult female with an exciting recent life event, and a family of five, including three kids under ten, one of which was a baby lined up...which of these would you have said were going to go down the proverbial drain?

Yeah, I had pretty much guessed the kids, too.

But wait, there's more!

This wasn't just any family, folks.  These were some of the most laid back parents ever, and the cutest and most cooperative kids--together in one absolutely beautiful location.

I'm almost kinda mad at them now, because really, they're setting me up for failure on my next session.  It's not at all reasonable to expect that kind of experience to ever happen again.

They were cute.  They mugged.  They stood still when I asked them to, Glory to God.

What the hell?  My own kids don't do that.  Ever.

(Okay, fine.  The cuteness and the mugging happen from time to time.  Mostly when other people are looking.)

Anyway--I had fun, the family had fun, I [mostly] remembered how to work my camera, and the dad insisted on paying me for what I had offered as a free, experience-building session, just based on what he saw on my camera's LCD screen.  And I've got at least one referral already lined up from them, and the dad wants my card to pass around.


What I do have now, however, is a logo.  A logo created with excruciatingly poor Photoshop skills, while brainstorming with a friend over Facebook, and in between editing photos in Lightroom.


It looks like I'm totally good at this, right?

I sure hope so, at least, because in the next two weeks, I've got one [thankfully small and informal] wedding to second-shoot, one special-needs water-park/luau event (How the hell does one shoot a water-themed luau? Anyone?), and a horse-therapy center that is supposed to call or email at any time regarding some pro-bono promotional shots.

See?  Full throttle, that's me.

The eventual goal is to get proficient enough to actually do this, and do it well--making my services (such as they may ever be) available to special needs families and organizations as much as possible.  Every time I am able to take a photo of Little C in which he makes good eye contact, or engages the camera with a smile, I am ever so grateful that I have picked up this camera.  Until I did, I hadn't gotten a frame-able shot since before we took him into a studio when he was around eighteen months old.  I can still remember the paint-peeling screams coming out of him at the pop of the strobes, the panic at the attention of the camera-man.  I remember tiny toddler hands clenched so hard to his ears that they were bright red when I tried to pull them away.

The thought of overwhelmed kids in crowded studios, and sad parents with empty picture frames depresses me.  More than that, though, it motivates me.

So.  Bayou Rose Photography for the win, K?


PS- I am Cydley99 on Flickr.  Also, the new Flickr is awesome.  Follow me?  Please?

PPS- I will [hopefully soon] have a Facebook business page.  As soon as Facebook stops being an @sshole, anyway, because apparently they think I'm doing something shady and won't let me create a page right now.


Anyway, follow me at Bayou Rose Photography, eventually?  Please?

PPPS - Given all of the social media mentions in these post scripts, I feel obligated to inform you that I am Cydley on Instagram, although I should probably also warn you that I am extremely boring.  And, I'm not sure that I understand filters.  Or hash tags. Or Instagram.

There.  I'm done.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


From the very beginning, haircuts have been a nightmare for us. It's not uncommon, really, among kids on the spectrum, but knowing all these years that we weren't alone hasn't made it any easier.
His first haircut was supposed to be such a special memory. We strolled into the cutesy kids salon, strapped him into the colorfully painted airplane chair, and ensured our camera was at the ready.
Things went downhill quickly from there, as you can probably imagine. I wouldn't understand then what the clutching at the ears meant, that the shrieking was just a tad out of proportion to be just typical fear of a new experience. Just a year later, though, I WOULD understand... And would feel horrible for subjecting him time after time to the noisy, meltdown-inducing clippers on these visits with the expectation that he would one day just "get over it."
It's silly, really, that I would later pick THAT thing to agonize over, but it seemed at the time to be the embodiment of the moment when I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.
His hands were GLUED to his ears, his body FRANTIC to squirm away.
How could I NOT know that it was so hard for him? How could I not understand that it was TOO HARD?
I'm sorry, baby, I wanted to tell him. I just didn't know.
Post-diagnosis, we would try again, armed with positive reinforcement and therapists on speed-dial--with no success. Over time, and with the help of very patient salon workers, he stopped crying the moment we turned into the parking lot, and became willing to sit still and allow hand-cuts. Every visit, we'd bring out the clippers, though, to push just a little. To try for a little tidy-up in the back, a little desensitization, whatever we could get, but NOPE.
Baby boy was NOT HAVING IT.
As a family, we pushed for other things, FOUGHT for other things, but a haircut just didn’t feel like a mountain we were willing to die on.  I decided I was completely fine with him looking like a disheveled urchin for the rest of his natural life if it meant that I could make at least one thing a little bit easier for him.
So, hand-cuts it was.
As usual, though, baby boy had his own schedule for these things. Not ours, but HIS, and when he was ready, he was ready.
We casually suggested that maybe he was ready for the "big boy" clipper haircut this time--not really expecting much, honestly. His reaction to this, though, was surprisingly open. We settled on keeping expectations low, encouraging him to try to be "big and brave," for this adventure, and figured, hell... Couldn't hurt to try, right?
I allowed myself to hope, then. Over the years of therapy, we've more or less learned the rhythm of how his mind works. I knew that if we could get just ONE success, one shining moment when he did something that turned out to be less scary than expected, and he could be made to feel PROUD of himself, we'd be GOLDEN.
Just one, I prayed. We just need ONE perfect storm.
And hot DAMN if this kid didn't deliver.
We pumped him up at every opportunity throughout the day.
Big and brave, we chanted. Big and brave.
The time came, and I'm not gonna say his eyes didn't widen, his hands didn't creep toward his ears.
They did.
But one swipe with those clippers, a hunched shoulder...and the light dawned.
Not a day at the park, these clippers, but NOT THAT BAD.
He DID it. A milestone that we've had to wait a while longer for than most, but baby boy DID IT. We cheered, we clapped, and God knows that I will never forget how PROUD of himself he was after that haircut.
I couldn’t be prouder, myself.
So screw your typical curly-locked, airplane-riding "first haircut."
I'll take this one for the win.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I've thought for a while now that we may have a major problem on our hands with food sensitivity in this household.  Never a phenomenal eater, the list of foods little C will eat has gradually become more and more restricted.  We've tried the if-you-don't-eat-what-we're-having-you-don't-eat-at-all thing, we've tried bribery, we've tried positive reinforcement--you name it.  All failures.  Method and consistency have worked in pretty much every area save this one.

Mainly, his issue seems to lie with meat.  Specifically, any meat other than chicken nuggets.  Nuggets, mind you.  Not tenders.  Not fillets.  Nuggets.

There is some flexibility with other foods--carbs, predictably, are generally winners (with the exception of pasta, which he seems to have a particular horrific aversion to).  Red sauces are blacklisted, but ketchup, somehow, is the nectar of the gods.

Meat, though, is completely locked down.  As in, this-is-the-mountain-I-am-willing-to-die-on locked down.

I was in the running for parent of the year last week when I decided it was taste-the-meat-or-go-to-bed-early night.  He *genuinely* gagged on the minuscule piece of ground meat that made it onto his tongue, though, so we settled for swallowing a spoonful of sauce that accompanied said meat.

Winning, right?

We'd pretty much given up on this food group, honestly.  He'll put it on his tongue because he knows the routine by now, but no matter how savory the selection, he always either A) gags, or B) spits it out with a moue of distaste and mentally adds it to his list-of-things-I-will-panic-at-the-sight-of-later.

Tonight, though, I all but gave myself whiplash walking through the living room, as this extremely picky kid strolls past me with a half-eaten stick of beef-jerky in his hand.  And breath that smelled like teriyaki, y'all.

Me, incredulous: "[Little C], where did you get that?"

Little C, calmly: "[Big C]."