If you’re the parent of a special needs child, then it’s more than a little likely that you and your family have your own set of challenges when it comes to capturing them on film. Naturally, special needs children don’t always respond to outside stimuli in the same way that other children do, so getting them to pose successfully can often be difficult. I’ve been told by special needs families in the past that they don’t feel the shoot will go smoothly. Often parents feel especially apprehensive about taking their children out of their comfort zone.
That’s where a little hands-on experience can really help. For instance, I’ve had the pleasure of working personally with many special needs children over the years and collectively, they’ve covered a lot of range as far as the needs they had. Some have Down’s syndrome. Others are dealing with cerebral palsy, Asperger’s, pronounced autism, or even blindness. The solution on the photographer’s end should always be to find a way to connect with the child, discover their needs, and then continue in a fun way that works for everyone.
Choosing environments where the child feels comfortable
Photographing children with special needs is no different in that the key to capturing absolutely charming shots of them lies in making them feel comfortable and at home, as well as in choosing locations where they’re sure to be safe. This can even mean actually doing the shoot in the child’s home, although places like the park or the beach that bring out the best in kids are terrific ideas, too.
For instance, I once worked with a family that wanted portraits taken of their 14-year-old son. He just happened to have severe autism and the challenge involved with this particular boy was figuring out how to deal with the very limited attention span he had. He had a tendency to run away and get lost, so we decided to do the shoot in the family’s back yard so that there wouldn’t be any “unplanned adventures”, so to speak.
The yard and family property gave me some wonderful opportunities to capture him engaging in activities he enjoys and playing with his siblings. I just joined right in and made myself at home with the family, encouraging everyone to act naturally and play. I captured some wonderful memories that day as a result and the family was very appreciative.
Photographing Children with Special Needs – bringing out the joy
Another incredibly important part of photographing special needs children lies in being resourceful enough to connect with and draw out that natural enthusiasm that all children have. An easy way to do this is to set a scene that involves places, people, or animals that make them shine from within with happiness.
For instance, I once photographed a boy with Asperger’s at a beach location. The key to getting the happiness he felt inside to express itself on his face was to encourage him to play with his dog that he dearly loved. The radiance and joy in his face shone right through and I was able to capture it on film for his family to treasure forever.
In a nutshell, shooting special needs children is very achievable. With a little planning, creativity, and a relaxed fun approach that includes everyone involved, we’ll create wonderful portraits of your children and make some memories to treasure for years to come.
Feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have.