The Faces of Autism: Meet Beau

Meet Beau, a fascinating 5 year old boy that was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old.  Beau has grown so much since I have last seen him! He loved looking at himself on the back of the camera, often not even giving me a chance to actually take a photo before trying to see it!  

dear me photography bismarck child photographer boy sitting in blue egg chair

Beau was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 2 years old. His mom had suspected Autism very early on, knowing the signs from having an older child, Berkley, already diagnosed. Beau had the deepest craziest growling sound as a baby and toddler. He nursed until 36+ months old and wouldn't eat baby foods of any type. He toungue trusted and gaged when she tried to feed him. To this day he still doesn't allow someone to feed him often, if at all. He had a very difficult time figuring out how to drink from a bottle and later a sippy cup. Beau would lay quietly or make his growling sounds, he never cried out when hungry or wet, he was "content" or an "easy" baby. As he grew he didn't try to reach for toys, crawl to them or interact with family. He would fiddle with toys or ribbons that were given to him but didn't play with them. At 18 months he started Early Intervention and it hit his mom even harder when the Early Interventionist asked "What motivates Beau? What was something he liked that could be used to get his attention or get him to do something?" There wasn't anything - at the time he did not respond to anything other than being picked up and snuggled. Global delays was a term used to describe Beau.

Beau has a fantastically amazing memory. He can repeat long lists of words or sentences. His visual memory is even better, he can recreate whole pictures, objects and words, with modeling clay, playdoh, or kinetic sand and even with toy cars, sticks, rocks, or whatever medium he can get ahold of.  Beau taught himself to read and LOVES letters, words and numbers. Beau is an extremely snuggly boy. He loves being near his Mom and siblings and  Miss Ashley, his respite. Beau has the most amazing giggle and a great smile.  He loves his iPad games and reading. He likes to try to play Nerf guns with his bother and sister but can't quite work the guns yet. He loves puzzles and climbing and playing.

dear me photography bismarck photographer boy sitting in chair facing wall

Beau still struggles with communication. Even though he can read proficiently he doesn't know how to use language. He has a few "I want" statements that come spontaneously but many requests still need to be prompted. Beau gets upset and cries more easily now that he is trying to communicate his wants and needs with others but is unable to. His mother and siblings as well as his teacher, aid, therapist and family friends have learned his mannerisms and can help to anticipate his wants and needs and can prompt him with yes/no or choice questions or even model sentences to help him communicate. 
Developmentally, Beau is much like a 3 to 4 year old. He is good at giving "kisses" and holding hands, giving hugs on command, and saying "bye Mommy". He prefers to play alone and doesn't understand sharing or turn taking and waiting for something or someone, although he has made HUGE strides towards these goals with his play-plan at school and when using the scripted your turn/my turn model for him. He still needs to have his hand holding when the family goes anywhere. Beau does not answer to his name or STOP and will dart off at the slightest distraction. He floats along in his little world but every day he allows his mom to see more and more of this world and he is allowing her to teach him more about ours.

dear me photography bismarck photographer boy in black shirt with grey sleeves

Beau's mom on having a child with autism:
"Having a child with Autism is a lot of work. I can never really relax and that is hard. You can never really let your guard down - always being vigilant about doors, locks, sounds, ect. The numerous therapy appointments, meetings, etc. can be daunting. It is a lot. It is hard to balance typical activities and family life with all of that but they all are equally important. 
The most important thing I can share with others is that everyone is different. Everyone has likes, needs, and preferences - disability or not. Be patient, kind and accepting. 
And lastly, if you suspect any delay in language, motor skills, or have any "gut" concerns about your child or someone else's - refer to Right Track, Early Intervention, etc. Early diagnosis and intervention is key to success and progress. Don't delay. Don't worry and wait. Check it out.
I describe Beau as my 5 year old baby. He is, in many ways, a young toddler. I need people to understand that while he is a big boy, his needs don't match his age. He needs far more supervision and assistance than others his age. This makes it tough. I see parents sitting and visiting at parks or the pool, or anywhere really, while their children play nearby, this is not my reality. I cannot let Beau play with such freedom and that is hard. It is so hard to let him have the freedom he needs while keeping him safe and it is so hard to interact with other parents while doing so. I, and others parents like me, do want to talk to you, we want to visit, but keeping our kiddos safe is more of a priority. Fenced in public play areas would be so beneficial.
Being a parent to a child with special needs can be very isolating and lonely, and it is easy to get into a routine that is all about your child, or children, and their needs. So, if you know someone who has a child that has special needs, please remember to make an extra effort to reach out, whether it's a message, phone call, or a coffee date. It will be appreciated more than you can imagine. If you are a parent to a child with special needs, remember to take a little time to yourself sometimes - this is still something I struggle with! No matter how hard it is, it is worth it and you deserve it."