Do you carefully select which photos based on whether or not you can “see the Autism”?

My wife and I took some photos in the backyard this week-end, she wanted to try to get group shots right without having someone be out of focus… this meant that I had to get my 2 boys in close with me for some family photos.

As we went through the dozen or so photos, we settled on two pictures that were ok and put those online. But even out of those two, we only ever really used one of them… I use it for my Facebook profile picture right now.

We’ve always done it but it wasn’t until this week-end that we really started to put some serious thought into it.

On one hand, we want these pictures to look back on and we want to see the wonderful little boy as we always see him, a regular kid living his life as he should. And being rather well versed in Autism now, we know that later we’d look back and go “oh… yeah… you can see the Autism so clearly”.

On the other hand, is it kind of deceiving, or even lying? To be showing these pictures to everyone as if to say “this is it, there’s nothing more.. no other pictures.”

I like to think that we all do it, right? Bad hair pics, blinking, food in our teeth, acne breakouts, gut hanging out the wrong way…. we pick the best pics of the best and share those ones. It’s quite a natural thing to do, we want to look our best.

Still though, I can’t help but feel like I’m doing something wrong when I do it. I love that I can put a smile on people’s faces when they see this great kid being happy and being a kid… but I feel like I’m not telling the whole story too.

On the flip side, almost every photo I see online where you can blatantly “see the Autism” is usually accompanied with some caption like “Can you tell which child is Autistic?” and that kind of bothers me. They say that you can’t just see that a child is Autistic like you can some other disorders/disabilities but as parents we know, if you take a hand full of pictures, you’ll see it.

I think I could talk in circles about this for a very long time, trying to convince myself the goods vs the bads…

This post wouldn’t be complete without some examples, so I’ll use the two I mentioned earlier.

Cameron, Tyler, Stuart

Notice Cameron's jaw pushed forward, hand sitting awkward, awkward hug...

It’s so subtle and yet, so glaringly obvious. Keep in mind that this is one of two that made the final cut out of more than dozens. And in comparison, the next photo, which is the one I used on Twitter and Facebook.

Nice smile, just a natural part of the picture

You can see how much of a small difference there really is but when you know what you’re looking for, or avoiding in this case, it’s a big difference. And as I said, I feel like I’m not telling the story accurately by favouring one photo over another, but I just can’t see myself changing that. I choose the better photo because that’s what I do, that’s what everyone does.

Do you find yourself choosing the photos where you don’t “see the Autism”?

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.


7 Responses to Do you carefully select which photos based on whether or not you can “see the Autism”?

  1. Big Daddy October 18, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    After reading this post I looked around our house and found that many of the older pictures we have hanging seem to “hide the autism.” I don’t think we did it concsiously. However, the newer pictures seem to reveal the “real” Griffin. I think he looks adorable in all of them!

  2. Lou October 18, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Hi Stuart

    Personally I think it’s important to capture as much as possible. I choose to show some of my photos of my son to illustrate and celebrate all aspects of autism (not only the smiles). May be easier just to point you to some links. hope you don’t mind me doing this here.

    Have to agree with Big daddy – he looks adorable.

  3. Joe Harris October 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    This was a thought provoking questions for me. As a photographer, I suppose what I tend to do cold be considered “hiding” the autism. But I don’t look at it that way. As with any other subject, I choose photos that are comfortable and relaxed looking. The photo I select is no more less my son than the one that I don’t (or vice versa), whether I choose the “autistic looking” one or not.

  4. Donna Seen October 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    Great topic of discussion Stuart and as an aspiring photographer, and an interestested follower/watcher/learner/teacher of people with autism, it’s got me thinking.

    I definitely agree that we all do it. Basically put, I’m fat. Ok so I’m a lot less fatter than I was a year ago but I’m still overweight. As I photograph my weight loss journey it takes all my strength to put the photos out there that tell the true story. Normally I’d toss most of the photos I take of myself to ignore the fat, but in this effort to accurately track the journey, I’m needing to be brutal to myself and honest with everyone else about what my body really looks like along the way. I guess the difference for me is that hopefully, if I work hard, this ‘fat’ thing will gradually disappear – autism won’t. But the thoughts are still in there.

    I actually love photographing children in their natural way and if their natural way is awkward poses, flapping, not able to look at the camera, then that’s what I’ll take and I often think those photos can be the best, because they tell the true story.

    For the record, I actually prefer the top photo. In that instant I can see, that whilst there may be a flavour of autism, there’s a whole barrel load of family love pouring out of your boys – a bit of awkward loving never hurt anyone (I don’t think) hehe

    Great blog post 🙂

  5. Daan van Dongeren October 19, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    I can look for hours on my parents attic and maybe find a few photos of myself around that age. I hated being photographed. Now, i have nothing to look back on.

    I can’t speak as a parent. It’s fairly easy for me; when looking at photographs of your kids you shouldn’t even be having autism in mind. Just your kids, smiling, having a great time with dad, mom or whoever. It’s Cameron you are looking at, not autism itself.

    You capture your boys as they are, would be a shame to rule out photos because of autism.

    My English can be very poor at time, and i’m doing my best to get it out of my mind on paper in English haha. Also, i hope i got your blog right so i’m not saying weird stuff in your comments 😉

    • Stuart Duncan October 19, 2010 at 10:56 am #

      Your English is just fine, don’t worry about that!

      My son shy’s away from the camera as well, I bet it’s a pretty common thing in Autism, but us stubborn parents tend to get those pictures anyway.

      Yeah, we try to take and keep every picture, but the ones we share tend to be ‘certain pictures’ and most of the time, we don’t even really realize we’re doing it.

      Naturally we all start picking the photos that ‘show the Autism’ once our goal is specifically to discuss Autism.. if we didn’t have these blogs however, if it was just family and friends that were to see them, our selections might be a little different.

  6. Tammy October 19, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I do that. Until now, I don’t think I actually realized that I do. I like to share pictures of my son when he smiles. It’s not often that I get pics like that, so I love sharing them when I do.

Leave a Reply