In the grand scheme of the globe, we are still considered to be a young nation.  We are a vast melting pot of various cultures, religions and ethnicities.  Like young family members, we debate and disagree amongst ourselves on a daily basis, yet one thing holds true.  Like any sibling that argues with another, should a third party come in and threaten our great nation and we become one….Americans.  That is one of the many beautiful things about this nation.

Many internal, national events of this past year seemed to have threatened our siblinghood.  There are many debates being waged.  The definition of marriage, the value of a flag, the depth of one young man’s hate…the list goes on.  Today though, we need to remember that we still share a common core, we are Americans.  That label knows no color, no gender.  That is one label we share, the common bond to holds us together.  No family is perfect, our national family is no exception.  However, today is the day we celebrate that which makes us all one, the birthday of our nation.

Independence Day 2015

Christian - PreK End of Year Celebration

I love my little guy. Let me repeat that, just so I am perfectly clear. I LOVE my little superhero.  I love his sweet, loving nature.  I love his smile.  I adore his laugh.  I love his current need to wear a fedora when he heads out for the day.  I treasure how he hugs his sister until she squeals to escape.

However, I do not love some of the obsessive actions his autism causes. For instance, his never-ending need to empty EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING. If it is in a container, and he gets his hands on it, it MUST come out. Potato flakes, powdered sugar, juice, soda, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, air freshener, furniture polish, eggs, window cleaner, dish soap, beads, straight pins, paper…the list goes on for miles, but you get the picture. Couple this with an equally never-ending need to play with all sources of water in the house, and you can get the beginnings of a picture of the chaos this brings about.

This is our ebb, one of several actually, BUT, I love that little monkey.  I just really wish I could do laundry and brush my teeth about now, but alas…he’s made off with toothbrush #120432 and just destroyed 120 Tide PODS…that I bought yesterday. However, that is all absolutely miniscule in the face of his autism-based elopement compulsion. That has truly aged me, stressed me nearly to the point of breaking and has reduced me to tears so many more times than I can even begin to count or want to admit.

Let me make another point crystal clear, none of that is his fault or within his control. Our battle with this exhausts him as well. I would never want him to feel shame or guilt over this.  So, the intent of this post is not to “out” the little guy, but to paint autism in a realistic light. We are full of hope. I hope that, through his therapy and our hard work, my little guy will be able to develop impulse control. This same lack of impulse control causes his life-risking elopement behaviors. So, trust me when I say that I hope and pray daily for his continued growth and development.

Most of us in the autism community are truly full of hope. Still, we also deal with our moments, and sometimes days, of despair. A not so popular, or maybe the better word is infamous, Autism Speaks post shared a very real, raw look in to the depths this despair can reach.  One article talked about a mother who admitted to thinking about driving her van off a bridge with herself and her ASD child inside. She took a mental time out and did not act on the thought, but that was the level of desperation at which she had arrived….and she bravely, openly admitted it. This isn’t the action of a coward or someone who should be shunned. She spoke about her breaking point because she understood that there are hundreds of thousands of families dealing with the same isolation and ASD-based struggles. She understood the importance of letting them know that they were not alone, that someone out there “got them”, faced what they are facing, and got help to make it through to a better place. Autism Speaks has also come under heat for talking about the 75% divorce rate among families impacted by having a special needs child, the prevalence rates of depression as well as other impacts of the diagnosis on families.

None of this was done with the intent of making those with autism feel guilty because of the stress endured by their families. …and not everyone deals with the same autism. Some have symptoms that are not life threatening, that never self-harm, never wander. I can totally understand some parents and adults with ASD embracing their diagnosis and running with it. I applaud them and support them 110% in their journey. I also completely understand and fully support the crucial need for autism awareness and acceptance for the PEOPLE who are impacted by ASD. …but I cannot and will not accept autism, or rather our particular flavor of it. It (the disorder) is a dangerous and un-welcomed intruder in my child’s head.

I love sunshine, kittens and rainbows, they all make great photographs. ….but the ASD world has stormy, dark days that people should not be ashamed or afraid of admitting. We all have different experiences and different challenges that we face. I cannot accurately measure someone else’s ASD struggles based on my own or vice versa. Some face teen children who’s toddler meltdowns were heartbreaking to watch and have now turned harmfully violent. They face the unimaginable choice of having to institutionalize their child for their child’s safety , as well as their own. As a parent, just the thought of someone having to make that choice has me in tears. Yet I see it time after time, on autism parent support boards. Are they wrong for not wanting to accept autism with open arms?

Let me say it yet again, so there is NO mistaking. I LOVE MY CHILD! At this point though, I do not love his ASD. How can I? It is trying its best to kill him. Yet according to those who push autism acceptance, I am dead wrong. I am wrong not to embrace his “differences” as if they were just benign challenges. This is where the mama bear in me starts growling internally. I love that his ASD has taught us to celebrate little victories, to appreciate even the smallest milestones. That is the delightful flow of our ASD story. Still, I will NEVER love and accept the part of his ASD that is actively causing him to risk his life. Here’s the thing though, you don’t get to heal half and keep half, and as of now, there is no cure.

A legitimate, safe, proven cure… I would give it to him in a heartbeat. Not because I wouldn’t miss our dino-naming contests, or him telling me on repeat that he loves my hugs. Not because I am too weak to deal with the challenges we face, but because I do not want my son to become an elopement death statistic. To the outside world, they are just that, statistics. Some might remember the names of our fallen angels for a bit, but the memory fades and the child eventually becomes part of an ever-growing number.

So where does my support of Autism Speaks come into this? They are devoted primarily to funding the science of understanding the root cause(s) of ASD and as well as research development for possible cures. They have been criticized for not funding enough family support efforts. However, that is not their primary mission. They have great resource listings for agencies who DO offer those services, but their mission is a scientific one.  I do not begrudge that one bit. There is a saying, “jack of all trades, master of none”.  I’d much rather they focus their funding in this direction, on a single front, rather than spreading it around and diluting their ability to be effective in the scientific realm. They have chosen this battlefront to help all of us who do hope for a cure,  and for answers as to why the rate of ASD is increasing. That is quite an enormous task in itself.

Back to those names-turned-numbers, the ones we’ve lost. I know the panic their parents felt, because I also held my breath when I read the NAA (National Autism Association) announcement of their elopement. I can clearly imagine the devastation, and I too wept when I read the crushing news they’d been found…too late. I’ve lived it over and over, because it is also my nightmare. The one time we don’t find him quickly enough. The one time he makes it into a neighbor’s pool. The one time a car is racing down our street and doesn’t see him in time. The one time the wrong person finds him wandering, and he is never to be seen again.  Just. One. Time.  That is all it takes. For children with this compulsion, it isn’t a matter of IF they will elope, but WHEN. They are hyper-vigilant and look for the smallest of opportunities to bolt. Maintaining 100% containment is impossible.

So I ask… Would you accept it if your child had a brain tumor that was killing them? Or would you do everything in your power to help find a cure to save them? I think the answer to that is pretty clear. It should be equally clear that I have every right to hope for the same, a cure. Autism is being sold as a quirky, beloved savant mix, a new personality norm that should just be embraced. For some, that may be perfectly fine, and absolutely true, but it is not the case for everyone. We are different, not less, but we are also different from each other as well. It is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Embrace us, accept us, understand us, but know we all have separate and different paths.  …and that is why I still support Autism Speaks.

  • Cara - As a mom of twin boys, both with ASD, I agree 100% with everything you are saying!ReplyCancel

    • Amy Vanwyk Photography - Thanks, Cara! I hope that you and yours are doing well. :o)ReplyCancel

I got the absolute pleasure of capturing this little guy’s fifth day of life, a few weeks ago.  As much as I loved the posed portraits of him, the storytelling images with mom and dad just captured my heart.  There is just SO MUCH love in this little family, and it was an honor to be able to preserve this time for them.

Willow’s take on little Killian as we watched his reveal video together: “Awww, he’s so cute! He’s awake, and he’s got his blankie! Awww, he’s sleeping, he’s just so cute!”

Yes, yes he is….just so cute. :o)

There are only 5 days left to schedule your newborn session with the Newborn Sale-abration 50% session reservation savings!  Reservations will never be this low again, so don’t miss out on this amazing savings opportunity.

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If you missed out on last month’s newborn model call, you still have a chance to secure your newborn session at 50% off of our normal pricing. Even if you are not due in the month of June, if you complete your reservation between now and June 30th, you will receive 50% off of your session retainer.  Also, if you are an active duty military family or have a special needs family member in your home, you will receive an additional 20% off of your portrait purchases as well. While the 20% discount is our customary policy, our newborn sale is for a limited time only. You can also take advantage of a reduced-fee maternity session add-on, with the purchase of a newborn session.  Spaces for these sessions are limited. So, reserve your session today!

Yes! I want to reserve my Newborn Sale-abration Session!

CUSTOM NEWBORN SESSION – $172.50 (Originally $345)

This session delves into a more creative approach to newborn photography.  Your session will last from 4-5 hours, as I like to take my time to make sure everyone is as relaxed as possible.  Services are provided in your home, for your convenience, and will yield 20-25 images in an online gallery for your review.  While the primary focus in this shoot are posed newborn portraits, 4-5 images will be set aside to include your little one’s immediate family (Mom, Dad & up to 2 siblings).   Additional family members can be added for $15 each.  We will work together in the weeks prior to your little one’s arrival to develop scenes created especially for them.  Please book this session around 30-32 weeks to ensure that we are completely prepared in the event of an early arrival.  It is my preference to shoot this session within the first 1-2 weeks after birth.  This session retainer includes my time and talent only and does not include any additional products.  (Packages that include products are available.  Details will be provided with your Newborn Session Welcome Packet.)

STORYBOOK NEWBORN SESSION – $122.50 (Originally $245)

This session is a photojournalistic session, during which I will capture you and your family interacting with your new little one.  This session will include two staged newborn setups that will yield 8-10 images.  The remaining 40+ images will be story-telling/photojournalistic in nature.  This session can last from 4-5 hours, as I like to take my time to make sure everyone is as relaxed as possible.  This session is done in your home, for your convenience, and will yield 45-50 images of your family and your new addition in an online gallery for your review. Your significant other and up to two children are included in my retainer.  Additional family members can be added for $15 each.  Please book this session around 30-32 weeks to ensure that we are completely prepared in the event of an early arrival.  It is my preference to shoot this session within the first 5-10 days after birth.   This session retainer includes my time and talent only and does not include any additional products. (Packages that include products are available.  Details will be provided with your Newborn Session Welcome Packet.)

BASIC NEWBORN SESSION – $62.50 (Originally $125)

This session is designed to capture posed portraits of your newborn.  The session is considered a mini-newborn session focused solely on capturing your little one and their tiny new details.  This session can last from 1-2 hours, and is done in your home, for your convenience, and will yield 10-15 images of your new addition in an online gallery for your review.  It is my preference to shoot this session within the first 5-10 days after birth.   This price includes my time and talent only and does not include any additional products.

MATERNITY SESSION ADD-ON – $65

This session can focus on just you, or also include your family in 4-5 posed images and 15-20 lifestyle image captures.  Your session will be 45-60 minutes in length and will yield 20-25 images in an online gallery for your review.  This session can take place in your home or at an outdoor location.  Your significant other and up to two children are included in my retainer.  Additional family members can be added for $15 each.  Professional hair and make-up services can be added to this session for an additional fee.  Your images will be uploaded to an online gallery for your review.  This session retainer includes my time and talent only and does not include any additional products.

Schedule Your Session Today!

It is that time of year again! Amy Vanwyk Photography will be headed for a visit to Sweet Home Alabama from July 31st thru August 8th. We will be offering two different types of sessions, during this time, to meet your photography needs.

The first, is a storytelling mini-session, lasting for two hours. During this time, we will do posed, family portraits along with images taken during an activity geared toward your family and whatever it is you LOVE to do together(no skydiving please!). Some activities included might be a family picnic followed by a three-legged race. A family day of kite flying, bubble blowing & sidewalk chalk, an afternoon at the playground or even a friendly game of tag football. If an in-home session is more your speed, I am all for that too! This session produces images suitable for art-grade family wall portraits as well as a Summer 2015 Family image album.

Our second offer is a twenty-minute short & sweet (just like our favorite tea) session. If you just need to update your family portraits, this is the mini for you! Your portraits can be taken in your home or on-location.

Click the link below to place your session reservation today!

~Schedule your Sweet Home Alabama Session~
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