world autism awareness day | madison, wi autism & special needs photographer

5 years ago
World Autism Awareness Day!

Happy April 2nd! Today is World Autism Awareness Day and if you've been following me on facebook, you know today is the day I'm kicking-off my autism blog series to increase awareness, acceptance and tolerance of Autism Spectrum Disorders.  In conjunction with the Stories of Autism project, I'm proud to say NBC 15 WMTV is televising (TODAY!) one of the participants I photographed, Ben Goldschmidt, to tell his story of how he uses his "abilities" daily to find success.  The NBC story link will appear here shortly.

To get you up to speed, over the past six weeks, I've photographed 11 children who participated in the Stories of Autism project with me.  This non-profit organization has made increasing autism awareness its mission by offering families complimentary photography sessions of a subject with autism and a portrait in exchange for sharing their personal stories.  The stories I've collected have been real and honest.  They have illustrated the challenges that autism may bring to the table yet never lose sight of the joy and love their children give.  All of the stories have made me smile and some have made me cry.  I thank each family for reaching down deep and facing that truth within them to write their very personal story.  I'm sure this wasn't a simple task but this offering is truly a gift.

The incidence of autism is at its highest, ever.  Newly released statistics from the CDC now indicate approximately one out of 88 births resulting in some sort of Autism diagnosis,  This staggering statistic means that nearly everyone is touched, somehow, by this disorder.  For this reason alone, I feel it's our jobs to understand Autism Spectrum Disorders a little more by knowing what some of the characteristics are associated with this disability.  Perhaps our compassion for others will be influenced when we realize the challenges that may accompany a child who has autism as well as the family who loves them.

What is Autism?

Let me start by stating that autism does not display itself the same in every case, in every individual.  Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that different people with autism can have very different symptoms.  One person may have mild symptoms, while another may have serious symptoms.  Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

Some characteristics include:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

I cannot stress enough to you how important it is to seek professional help if you suspect your child may have autism. Autism is treatable. Therapies and strategies and professionals do make a difference.  Although children do not "outgrow" autism, studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.  And many of the stories you will read this month support this.

2012 Stories of Autism

Now for the fun part, bookmark the blog at and return all throughout this month, Autism Awareness Month, to meet each of the kiddos I photographed for Stories of Autism.  Read their stories and see many of their gallery images to fully understand how special they are.  Let's kick it off with a glimpse of each participant!


Autism Resources:

In an attempt to provide families support, various resources will be shared on each blog post. Please feel free to research these resources and gather information for your family as needed.

Autism Society Greater Madison-  The ASGM is an affiliate of the Autism Society, a nationwide organization. They serve southcentral and southwestern Wisconsin including Dane, Columbia, Sauk, Iowa, Rock, Green, Lafayette, Grant, Richland and Crawford counties.  This organization has been supporting families affected by autism and the professionals who assist them since 1969. Their mission is to improve the lives of those affected by autism through social/networking activities and education.  Support Group meetings are open to individuals on the Autism Spectrum, parents, family members and friends who want to share and learn from each other. All meetings are free and open to the public.  You may contact them by calling (608) 213-8519 or via email at

Friends of Autism- Friends of Autism is volunteer-driven and committed to autism research, awareness, and education. Made up largely of parents of children with autism, educators and healthcare providers, this organization works to identify gaps in current autism treatment and education services and takes the initiative to raise funds to fill those gaps.  Community events such as walks and golf outings are organized to raise money and awareness.  Check out their site or email for more information.

Whew! Lots of information so thank you for reading and processing it all! Tune in later this week when I share Cameron's story and pictures along with more resources related to autism.

All the best to you!  - Carrie


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