Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why posed pictures are hard

This year, I signed up Soren for school pictures. And it didn't happen. I mean, not at all. His teachers were apologetic, explaining that he just couldn't handle the chaos, but honestly I was a bit relieved. I don't want to see such a picture.

My boy is beautiful, and there is nothing like capturing his smile, which crinkles his eyes up and puffs out his still-pinchable cheeks. I treasure photos of him, as you can tell from my posts on this blog. But forcing a photo of him at a certain time is difficult for both of us, on many levels.

  • A scripted photo insists on activities that are concocted and unnatural: posing, sitting still, forced eye contact (artificial eye contact with a camera, no less). All these things are hard for Soren.
  • A posed photo is difficult for me. Picture me manhandling my very large six-year-old's bottom in place among others on a couch, maybe even holding him down out of view of the camera, hoping he'll stay for five seconds. This is a dance that's awkward and hard and a contrast with the ease with which the other kids can handle a photo session without parental supervision (or force).
  • The resulting photo is often painful to see. It's an inaccurate snapshot of who my child is (normally tuned in to most people, especially cherished adults in his life). The posed photo shows him looking different, distant, set-apart. This is a tangible reminder of his difference. It's a relic that will live on, too. This isn't who he is. This is only who he is in pictures. 

I understand others' desire and expectation to have family/peer/school photos of Soren. I wish it would be feasible and easy to get them. But these shots don't show my child. They show his challenge, not his strength. Candid photos we have show so much more.

We've tolerated family pictures so far. I'm brainstorming ways to capture my kid in more natural ways even during times that we typically have group photos, like holidays and birthdays. I don't think I'll do individual school portraits any more, though. It's just not worth it.

I won't show the examples of the posed pictures we do have, for the above reasons. But here's why candids and spontaneous shots make so much sense for Soren. Can't you just sense who my child is in the following shots? These are keepers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sensory-friendly costumes

Soren doesn't understand Halloween, though we've talked about it with him and read books about it. We haven't taken him trick-or-treating, assuming that crowds of strange kids and adults in weird costumes and masks roaming his neighborhood would be scary (and come to think of it, it is a strange tradition.) That's not to say that we'd never take him to try this, but right now, it doesn't seem like something he'd enjoy (though that boy does love candy!).

But dressing him up is important to me. It's a way for us to participate in the holiday. It's a mama privilege. So I indulge. I don't think he'd get the idea of most costumes, but if the costume is right, I don't think he minds.

And that's the challenge for me as I consider costumes each year. And I imagine that there are quite a few other parents whose kids have sensory issues that limit costume choices. The costume needs to be right: no hats, makeup, gloves, masks, hoods, glasses, tails, or accessories to hold. It needs to feel like regular clothing to our kids.

Don't bother going to Target for this kind of get-up. Most ready-made costumes feature hoods or masks (and you'll find mostly commercial tie-in costumes, but that's another issue). Luckily, there are loads of ideas online that use sweat suits as a base for costumes. (Just Google "sweat suit Halloween costume.") By using a plain sweat suit and some DIY skills, we can make a costume that feels like cozy clothing.

Here are some of the ideas I've collected:
  • Skeleton: Use a black sweat suit, with white bones painted on, maybe in glow-in-the-dark paint.
  • Superhero: Use any color sweat suit and add an initial with felt or paint. You may want to add cuffs or lightning arrows, too. I used this as an inspiration for Soren's costume last year. 
  • Pumpkin: Use felt or paint to make a jack o'lantern design on an orange sweat suit.
  • Devil: Use a red sweatsuit, maybe with a little tail sewn on. No need for ears, pitchfork, etc.
  • Most animals, especially those that you can identify from their coloring instead of their head or tail detail: Dalmatian, pig, cow, and bee, for example.
  • Clown: Add felt or paint balls or stripes in primary colors to a sweat suit of any color.
  • The sun, moon, or stars: Use a black or blue sweat suit for the moon and stars, and white, yellow, or orange for the sun. Add details with paint or felt.
  • Olympic gymnast or track star: Use a white sweat suit with national colors or stripes.
  • TV or iPad: Add a big white square to a black sweat suit.
  • Sound of Music boys: Use brown or khaki shirt and shorts with painted-on suspenders.
  • Crayons: Use a colored sweat suit and add black cuffs and lettering.
This year I think we'll opt for a giraffe costume: I'll use a brown sweat suit with spots created in reverse with masking tape. There will be no antlers or tail, since Soren wouldn't tolerate those, so I hope the coloring will be obvious enough to identify this as a giraffe costume. I'll post a picture once this is done.

And just for cuteness, here are the past three years of costumes for Soren:

Penguin. When sensory challenges were not an issue.

French sailor. My favorite. The hat came off right away.

Super Soren, in the rain. He was not thrilled that day, but I don't think it was because of the costume.

If you can think of other simple clothes-based costumes, I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vacation to Bend

Last week we spent a glorious six days in Bend, Oregon, with my parents. We had no agenda--just time for walking, biking, hiking, hot tubbing, eating, and movie watching. Erik and I had a wonderful date night. We pulled Soren out of school to do this getaway, which was worth it (and might be considered therapy, right??). 

The only downside was the near-constant monitoring of Soren on the second-story open catwalk in the house we stayed in. He has a compulsion to climb and hang in precarious places. There was an unfortunate iPad screen incident from this perch.

Soren is in a phase of compulsive hugging and snuggling. It was really amped up with his beloved grandparents. I'm sure some expert would tell us we need to curtail that behavior, since it isn't socially acceptable with strangers. But right now, I'm eating it up. 

Sparks Lake area

Poor Seattle boy, a snow rookie

Well, of course you need to sample it.

En route to Mount Bachelor

 Lots of hiking/walking. 

Soren started out walking...

but really wanted to travel this way.

The colors!

Osprey nest

Some Grandpa time.


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