Autistic children have a unique way of perceiving the world. They often have overactive perception, memory, and attentional processes that manifest as sensitivity to sensory stimuli. The ways autistic children have learned to adapt to their perception of an intense world are easily misunderstood. Photographer Timothy Archibald began photographing his autistic son to capture the unique way he interacted with the world around him. Photography can be a valuable creative way to connect with your autistic child.

Perspective-Taking

Children on the spectrum often struggle with understanding the desires, intentions, and beliefs of others, which can make it difficult to connect with others. Due to sensory sensitivity, they are often hyperaware of their own emotions and feel things intensely, but find it harder for them to communicate to others how they are feeling. They may also be more likely to assume that their emotions are universal and that other people have similar emotional experiences. Difficulty reading context clues, like facial expressions, impact their ability to accurately guess what other people may be feeling. They may struggle with knowing how to ask appropriate questions that would help them understand other people’s perspectives.  
Activities, like photography, offer a visual format for your autistic child to practice perspective-taking. As they may find it hard to imagine how other people perceive them, photography helps them take a step back and look at themselves through someone else’s eyes. It can be a useful tool for building self-awareness and 

Embracing Their Uniqueness

Many teens with autism feel socially isolated, misunderstood, and struggle with low self-esteem. Photography is a way for them to be seen and to feel less invisible around others. Looking at photos can be a great way to encourage them to talk about what they see by connecting to memories, examining their facial expressions, and appreciating the beauty of the work that they may not be able to do in the moment or when they are overwhelmed. 
Timothy Archibald explains, “I never wanted my son to think he was ‘normal.’ I wanted him to be aware of how different he was and see that as an asset.” While it can be difficult for teens to internalize positive messages they hear about themselves, photography is a tangible reminder that these things are true that speaks to them in a language they can better understand. This encourages them to honor their personal experiences rather than comparing them to other people’s. 

Bonding Over Creativity

His portrait project began as a way to highlight his son’s social withdrawal, but as his collection grew, he gained a greater appreciation of his son’s quirks and learned how to release his desire to control situations as a photographer and a parent. Empowering his son to take the lead in the project allowed them to bond over their shared interest in photography and helped them strengthen their relationship.
Various forms of artistic expression are often used in family therapy to improve communication and perspective-taking. Creative activities, like photography, painting, or drawing are a great way to connect with your autistic child that don’t require a lot of social pressure. 

Seven Stars Can Help

Seven Stars RTC is a residential program for teens ages 13-17 struggling with Autism-related issues. The program provides acute care stabilization, residential treatment, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, skill-building, and positive psychology. These various programs and therapies help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and emotion regulation. Seven Stars provides students with individualized access to the resources they need to transition to the real-world practicing healthier habits and self-control.
Contact us at 844-601-1167 for more information. We can help your family today!

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