As we have discussed a few times in the past, autistic kiddos are not always the most cooperative when it comes to taking photos. I am a bit of a photo fanatic, so I know firsthand all the difficulties that we can have with my own boys in this area. During personal photos and professional family sessions, I have a lot of tricks that I know to use to get my boys to look at the camera and show off those beautiful smiles. But school photos have their own unique set of difficulties, often leading to lackluster picture set to be in forever yearbook print. Over the years, I have found some good work arounds that have really helped make sure my kiddo has a school picture that he will be happy to look back on and makes me smile to look at too. Here is what we do:
- Prep your child
I am a big advocate for picture schedules and some form of social stories. So, a few days before school photos, we discuss the basics of what I want my son to do. We also look at past school pictures to help him remember and understand what we are talking about. It is definitely a good way to at least set some groundwork for success.
- Ask for a school helper
If your child has an aid in class, this is the best person to reach out to. If they don’t have an aid, their teacher may be able to help. If your kiddo is like mine, he will not look to make sure his hair is still combed, or that his shirt is tucked in. If I’m being honest, my son probably wouldn’t even look for the camera if someone didn’t tell him too. Tell your helper what to check for and see if they can assist till photos are done. From experience I have found that having this helper is a good way to make sure the photographer doesn’t just settle for the first rough shot.
- Time sensitive
The photographer on school picture days has an entire school worth of kids and staff to take photos of. This means that photo time allotted per child is very short. For kids that know the drill of stand up straight, look, and smile, it is pretty easy. My child will almost never make getting a picture this simple, hence why school photos can be hit or miss, often with the latter being more frequent. Think outside the box for ways to get your child to quickly look and smile. Maybe this involves additional assistance from their helper by giving them phrases or noises to say to help get their attention. You may even be able to give a funny picture to have them hold up to help or ask if you could send in a reward item they can bribe your child with if they do good.
- Earlier the Better
For my kiddos at least, I have found that the earlier in the school day that the photos are taken, the better they turn out. The longer the time goes by between getting to school and photos, the longer the chances of them making their hair crazy, spilling stuff all over their clothes, or just becoming a bit worn down and less cooperative. If you know this is the case for your child with special needs, then don’t be afraid to ask for an accommodation to see if they can go get their snapshot with an earlier group.
I know a lot of people probably feel like this topic is so far down on their worry list, and I definitely get it. A bad school photo is a first world problem for sure, but at the same time it is a fixable problem, which are my favorite to tackle. When I open my child’s bookbag to find a great photo showcasing his beautiful smile it definitely makes a little extra effort on my part feel worth it in the end. And I love knowing that anyone who buys the yearbook won’t look back and see a photo showcasing those social struggle attributes like just staring off into space without focus or a smile, but will instead find a photo displaying him as the happy, handsome boy that he truly is.