Joseph: Stories of Autism [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Burlington Special Needs Photographer]

This Stories of Autism photography session was very unique in that Joey’s mother requested that I document Joey with the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) therapist that has “given Joey his voice.”

Arrangements were made, and on a Friday morning in February, I was able to witness his RPM session with Alyssa Roberts first hand. I have been able to see RPM used in person many times now, but watching a student who has only been able to make a few sounds, answer grade-level academic questions is truly remarkable.

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From the Halo-Soma RPM website: “RPM uses a “Teach-Ask” paradigm for eliciting responses through intensive verbal, auditory, visual and/or tactile prompts. RPM presumes competence to increase students’ interest, confidence and self-esteem. Prompting competes with each student’s self-stimulatory behavior, and is designed to help students initiate a response. Student responses evolve from picking up answers, to pointing, to typing and writing which reveals students’ comprehension, academic abilities and eventually, conversational skills. RPM is a low-tech approach in that is requires only an instructor, student, paper and pencil.”

2017-04-18_0006The essay from Joey’s mother follows:

Joseph

Joseph was born on September 1st, 2002.  He had thick black hair and a healthy cry.  No one could have prepared us, his parents, for the long journey ahead.  He was a typical beautiful baby boy.  He walked in his first year and began to say a few words.  He loved playing with his brother and followed commands.

2017-04-18_0011We noticed a change in him around 1 1/2 years of age.  It was difficult to gain his attention, he was crying a lot and spinning around in circles.  He regressed into a world of silence.  For us it was like tripping on a gnarled branch crossing the way ahead.  We weren’t sure if something might be wrong, but things did not feel right.  Fear, darkness, and uncertainty set in, as if we had been pushed down a cliff and fallen into a deep ravine.

2017-04-18_0003Joseph was evaluated and then evaluated some more.  He began speech therapy at the age of 3.  Eventually he was diagnosed with severe PDD-NOS at the age of 4.  He spent the next 4 years in intensive ABA therapy, private speech therapy, and occupational therapy.  Over time he began to lose the few words he had, but was able to understand language and follow simple commands.  He was taught simple sign language and PECS to use at home.

2017-04-18_0008Our young family climbed many hills together in search of an unknown destination.  We tumbled over boulders and found our way around branches along the route.  There were so many high points like when his older brother spent an entire summer trying to get him to say, “Hi,” and he did, or when we were able to go on vacation for the first time as a family, or go out to eat at a restaurant without a meltdown.

2017-04-18_0014There were also many low points like his aggression and chronic illnesses.  We tried so many different strategies in order to help Joseph: GFCF diet, B12 injections, vitamins, probiotics, and finally medicines.  We kept drifting along the narrow path of solitude in hopes of finding a cure.  Joseph remained silent.  He had been in special education, speech therapy, and occupational therapy for well over a decade with minimal improvement.  I remember when he was first diagnosed, I poured myself into books.  I will never forget reading about a woman, Soma, from India, with a son, Tito, who was able to speak with the use of a letter board.  It seemed so interesting to me at the time, but also seemed so distant and far away.  Little did we know that eventually an Autism organization would sponsor Soma and her son to travel to the United States in order to teach others how to use this technique.

2017-04-18_0001Almost a decade later someone from my area would travel to another state to be taught by Soma.  She would learn how to use this technique, and a few friends, recommended that we try this therapy with Joseph.  Feeling lost and hopeless, all we could see was a deteriorating path that had seemed to come to an end.  We hired Alyssa to try Rapid Prompting Method with Joey last summer. 

2017-04-18_0002After a month,  Joey seemed happier.  It was like seeing sunlight peek through the forest cover of the treetops.  He was indeed able to learn how to use a letter board and communicate lessons he had been taught.  We had finally found a glimmer of hope for Joseph in our weary travels.

2017-04-18_0010Joseph’s school was also supportive and wanted to be taught how to use this therapy with him in school.  He went from a diagnosis that saw him as an 18 month old cognitively to someone who had the ability to take a pre-Algebra test and be in a regular education Science and Reading class in 8 months.   This gift was the ability to give Joseph, at the age of fourteen, a path outside of his world of silence and solitude.

Sonja, mother of Joseph

Burlington, Wisconsin

2017-04-18_0015RPM – Rapid Prompting Method

To read more about Stories of Autism, click here.

For an Introduction to the 2017 Stories of Autism Gallery, click here.

Links to other RPM-related posts from the blog

 

Maurice: Stories of Autism [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Kenosha Special Needs Photographer]

Maurice has already made an appearance on the blog on the post “2017 Stories of Autism Introduction.” If haven’t taken a look at that post already, please do so. It gives a general overview to the Stories of Autism project and a little insight into Maurice’s life. Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington WaterfordWhen I arrived at Maurice’s house, his mother had his box of drawing journals and notebooks on the table. She had already explained to me how much art was essential to the way he processes emotions. As Maurice sat down and began to look through his past work, I took note of his surroundings. Behind him is a case full of the family’s school art projects. He sits at a table that was hand-crafted by his father. Even the colors in the room and the little rainbows of light dancing on him suggest the value of art and creativity in this family.

It was a joy to witness.

 

From his mother’s essay:

Maurice

The other day Maurice told me about a man he knew who had an “angry blaming brain.”  I asked him about what kind of brain he had, and he told me, “a courageous brain.”  And he is so right!  Over the last 17 years, Maurice has faced his fears, pushed through years of not being able to communicate, and has worked to achieve peace in his body and mind.Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington Waterford

Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington WaterfordIt was so hard when he was diagnosed at two years old.  I think I cried every day for an entire year.  I am a school librarian and I picked every baby book with care and read them to him a zillion times, and it hurt so much to watch him just stare at the pages and never say “duck” or “ball.”  And then when he started to stim by making a little hum and grunt as he mindlessly turned pages, I felt something like horror.  Where was my child’s mind and soul?  Did he know who he was?  What kind of life would he have?Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington Waterford

Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington WaterfordAnd then I remember the day that he figured out that if he said the name of a stuffed animal, I would put it on his bed.  He threw them off and I happily handed them back for hours, just to hear those glorious words!Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington Waterford

2017-04-13_0014Fast forward 12 years; he is seventeen. He independently rides a bike and swims to relax. He cooks food when he is hungry.  He reads at a fifth grade level.  He participates in theater and writes adaptations of folk tales that include family members and friends.  He draws comic illustrations of people he knows that show exactly what they think and feel. He taught himself how to do that by watching Blue’s Clues!Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington WaterfordHe trusts me now, despite all those years of frustrating and angry moments when we couldn’t communicate. It started when he allowed me to carry his transition toys, but now he hands me his feelings and his worries.  We talk about how to “let ideas flow through your brain like a river” rather than get stuck on them.Kenosha documentary photographer Racine lifestyle Milwaukee Burlington WaterfordOne day I called him at home and asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was “practicing life balance.”  He still gets upset when he thinks he has done something wrong, but he believes me when I tell him that “practice will do the work.” In those golden moments, trust fills the part of my heart that was bleak and empty when he was young.

Jennifer, mother of Maurice

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Racine documentary Kenosha lifestyle portrait photographer

Annabelle: Stories of Autism [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Milwaukee Special Needs Photographer]

I’ll admit – when I received the email asking me to consider featuring Annabelle in the Stories of Autism gallery, I clapped my hands together in excitement. I’ve only photographed a few females for the Stories of Autism website, and it is important that they are represented. Girls on the autism spectrum are often misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. (Here are links to a few interesting articles about that: here, here, and here.)

Annabelle’s mother warned me of her attachment to the Ipad – and her love of treats and balloons! (Note the placement of the Bottle Caps box in one of the images below.) Our photo session overlapped with her ABA therapy, so I had the unique opportunity to photograph her while working. I kept the therapist out of the image frame, but some of the skills that she was working on are documented below.

Her mother’s essay:

Annabelle

Before Annabelle was born, I felt something was “off”. When I was pregnant and she would kick, if others would try to feel her or the kicking she would move away. Somersault away. While in labor, she gave the nurses a run for their money as they tried to readjust the belly monitor due to her constant moving. Shortly after Annabelle was born, I came to a conclusion. Either I was the worst mother in the world, or something was off with my child. She would cry non-stop. My former pediatrician dismissed it as colic or GERD, however; the crying continued on. Sleep was also unusual. She wasn’t sleeping, hardly ever. I thought newborns were supposed to sleep often and wake frequently to eat.  

When Annabelle was 4 months old I noticed she wasn’t hitting her gross motor skills. A nurse practitioner suggested we consult with birth-to-3 to have her evaluated. With my new pediatrician’s approval, we enrolled into birth-to-3 for physical therapy when she was 6 months old. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of our non-stop therapy schedule. She progressed physically with birth-to-3, eventually walking at 14 months, but speech delays became evident. We eventually had Annabelle tested for autism when she was 22 months old. We were told it looked like “just a speech delay.” Hearing Annabelle would be ok, we decided to expand our family. Annabelle continued to be non-verbal and have delays.

After months of ongoing concerns with Annabelle we decided to get a second opinion when she was 2 1/2. It’s Martin Luther King Day 2012, I am holding Annabelle’s newborn sister and sitting in another pediatric neuropsychiatrist’s office. This time, the results were different, “Annabelle has moderate autism, she needs intensive ABA therapy right away, but your commercial insurance probably won’t cover it, so you have to sit on a wait list for 2 years. She is going to need ongoing services and specialized therapy”. This time, the diagnosis was real.

While waiting on the statewide ABA wait list, we enrolled Annabelle in every service possible. This included private speech, private occupational therapy, a group speech/OT class, and she remained in the birth-to-3 program. Once Annabelle turned 3 we enrolled her in our school district’s early childhood program. School then provided speech, OT, and PT. We finally began ABA in summer 2013 when Annabelle was 4. With ABA we started with the smallest tasks, such as sitting still for just 3 seconds. She did intensive ABA for 35 hours a week for 3 years, plus school and OT. It was a full-time job for such a little girl.

Today Annabelle is in the 1st grade. She has a modified (shortened) school day. Her school is amazing. We are so proud of how far she has come! She is sitting with her peers, coloring, cutting, gluing, listening, and participating with her class. At school she also receives speech therapy, occupational therapy, special education and specialized gym. Annabelle has a wonderful 1st grade teacher and special education teacher. She also has a speech therapist, occupational therapist and several aides that help her and stay by her side. She enjoys her classmates and they enjoy her. Her class has learned how to exchange PECS with her. She has even made a best friend! She sits in the regular lunch room and participates in recess with her peers.  Fortunately our school is very inclusive and collaborative with us. School has been such a positive experience for her and we are incredibly thankful for this.  

Annabelle is also in ongoing ABA which consists of 20 hours per week. Therapists are continuously coming in and out of our house, 6-7 days a week, and most holidays. Some of them feel like part of our family. The ABA program requires a certain percentage of parental involvement as well, so my husband and I are participating in some sessions and parent training. Annabelle is still considered non-verbal as she has some words, but not many. She communicates with PEC’s (a picture exchange system). The goal is always to develop communication verbally, but to give her other means to communicate if regular verbal speech doesn’t develop.

Our biggest current challenge is communication. With Annabelle being non-verbal I can see how she gets extremely frustrated with not being able to tell us what is wrong or what she needs. When she is really frustrated, she may try to hurt herself with self-injurious behavior. She continues to make strides with PECS, but still has a long way to go. As she grows more proficient with PECS we will be exploring the option of teaching Annabelle how to use an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) application where her PECS are on an iPad and when she touches them a voice is created.

Annabelle amazes us daily. She continues to learn new tasks, try new things and participate in activities she would never try before. This week we celebrated her attending first field trip with her class. We get excited when she tries new foods. We all called and texted each other with excitement when she started eating peanut butter. You learn to celebrate any achievement. Her love for nature is unmatchable. When she stops to stare at the trees blowing in the wind it makes me stop too. She will like to stand in the driveway to feel the rain on her face. She loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, her iPad, french fries, chips, bottle caps candy and long car rides. Occasionally we hear a clear word and it’s music to our ears. Her latest word is “eeeeeeeating” when she’s hungry or eating. It’s so exciting to hear!

As parents we hold hope that Annabelle will continue to grow, develop, learn how to communicate and just be happy. As a parent you do the best you can. You listen to the doctors, teachers, therapists and experts, take their recommendations, collaborate, try new programs and therapies. But in the end you know your child best. If things don’t work out, you readjust. I’ve learned to take things one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time and occasionally sometimes one minute at a time.

Angela, mother of Annabelle

Franklin, Wisconsin

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To read more about Stories of Autism, click here.

For an Introduction to the 2017 Stories of Autism Gallery, click here.

 

 

Chris: Stories of Autism [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Portrait Photographer]

Union Grove headshot lifestyle photographer, Burlington, Racine, Kenosha, Waterford, books, libraryFrom the first few sentences of his e-mail to me, I knew that Chris needed to be part of the Stories of Autism gallery.  His perspective is incredibly unique in that he was diagnosed with autism as an adult. Upon learning this, he was forced to look back at many of the experiences and relationships that have shaped him as a child and young adult. Chris spent countless hours at the library researching autism, so it was fitting to document his time there.

Union Grove headshot lifestyle photographer, Burlington, Racine, Kenosha, Waterford, books, libraryFrom Chris:

At 30, I was diagnosed as high-functioning autism spectrum (formerly known as Asperger’s until the DSM-V manual change), when I sought counseling for depression and anxiety, common on the spectrum when trying to fit into the neurotypical world. It came as a shock. I wondered if my fiance would stay with me. Would my supervisor think I was competent to do a social job as Program Director of a nonprofit? I began reading all of the books about the autism spectrum at the library.

2017-04-06_0009It explained a lot going back to childhood; in talking to my best friend’s mom, I learned he was also on the spectrum. What helped a lot with self-acceptance were celebs that came out like Daryl Hannah, Dan Ackroyd, Susan Boyle, Eminem, etc.Union Grove headshot lifestyle photographer, Burlington, Racine, Kenosha, Waterford, books, library

2017-04-06_0008I connected with Autism Solution Pieces, a nonprofit started by two autism warrior moms. Since there are not only adults with autism, but the children on the spectrum are growing up, we formed an adults group called ASPies Unite, beginning with a bowling outing. ASP has since invited me to join their board of directors.Union Grove headshot lifestyle photographer, Burlington, Racine, Kenosha, Waterford, books, libraryMy diagnosis gave me awareness to work on challenges and build them into strengths. Although I have quality of life with a family, a degree, and a career, I don’t want to pass as normal- what’s that anyways? I can be a role model and inspire hope with my story. A diagnosis helped with awareness to learn more about myself, to build weaknesses into strengths, like improving on studying body language and remembering to smile or make eye contact. Along with the challenges come gifts, and I wouldn’t change if I could. I can bring hope for others to have independence and a meaningful life as they define it. As my dad told me growing up, “You can be whatever you want to be and do anything you put your mind to.” I’ve fully come to love and accept myself, and I’m proud of who I am.

Chris Rosin

Racine, WisconsinUnion Grove headshot lifestyle photographer, Burlington, Racine, Kenosha, Waterford, books, library

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To read more about Stories of Autism, click here.

For an Introduction to the 2017 Stories of Autism Gallery, click here.

Autism Solution Pieces

Graham: Stories of Autism [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Special Needs Photographer]

Racine Special Needs Photographer, Burlington Autism photography Union Grove family documentary photographer

Graham is a little ball of energy with a big personality. When I look back at this images, I’m amazed at how many of those soulful looks I got on camera, because all I remember from our Stories of Autism session is his laugh. He is charming, bright, and silly.

(Proof of that silliness below when he got so close to my camera lens that his face became distorted.)

Racine Autism photographer, Union Grove family documentary photography lifestyle

His mother’s essay follows:

Graham

Graham  is 4 years old and enjoys running at full speed, playing with dinosaurs, and singing made-up songs as loud as possible. Each dinosaur has a different roar and Graham makes sure to tell us the names of all of them! Each song usually has something to do with an activity he’s doing. He is sweet and enjoys a good hug or snuggle on the couch while we watch a movie too.

Kenosha Autism photographer, Racine family documentary photography lifestyle

Kenosha Autism photographer, Union Grove family documentary photography lifestyle

A year ago, he said nothing.

Graham was diagnosed at age three with Autism. We were completely taken by surprise because although he didn’t talk, Graham always had good eye contact, sought out human interaction, and is the complete opposite of his older brother, Tristan, who also has Autism.

Kenosha Autism photographer, Union Grove family documentary photography lifestyle

The reason we had Graham evaluated was because a friend saw a video of him getting super excited watching something on TV. Graham was sitting on the floor and kicking his legs up and down while clenching and unclenching his fists. At his evaluation, we discovered that this is a form of stereotypy.

Kenosha Autism photographer, Union Grove family documentary photography lifestyle

Kenosha Autism photographer, Union Grove family documentary photography lifestyle

Nowadays, Graham always has something to say. We are so happy to have him in therapy where he excels and surprises us with each new thing he learns. The future is bright for our sweet and intelligent boy and  we are happy to be on this ride with him!

Katy, mother of Graham

Burlington, Wisconsin

2017-04-04_0009

 

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To read more about Stories of Autism, click here.

For an Introduction to the 2017 Stories of Autism Gallery, click here.

2017 Stories of Autism Introduction [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

Stories of Autism, Kenosha Autism photography, Racine special needs photographer

Sometimes, this is what autism looks like.

Maurice had done what was asked of him, and he needed a break. His mother sat on the bed next to him and reached out her hand. She understood that he did not want to talk or to be hugged – but she placed her hand on his foot to let him know that she was there. She knew his limits and what he could tolerate.

When I look at this image of Maurice and his mother, I see a mother’s love and the tender hand of support.

Sometimes, this is what autism looks like.

I photograph for the Stories of Autism organization because I believe in the importance of stories. By learning about the personal experiences of others our level of understanding, and in turn, our compassion, can grow. Sometimes we are the one huddled in the blankets and other times, we need to be the hand of support.

Over the next few weeks you’ll have the chance to read personal accounts of how autism has influenced the lives of these individuals and those of their families. They are stories of both hardship and of great love.

The families that I have photographed for this project have given us an incredible gift. In the spirit of  celebrating their loved ones and educating others, they have open their lives and their hearts. I hope that you will follow along.

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The 2017 Stories of Autism gallery is now available for online viewing. Over the next month I will be posting the stories of the seven individuals I photographed along with more images from their Stories of Autism photography session.

2017 Night to Shine at Shoreland [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Special Needs Photographer]

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

A few weeks ago, Shoreland Lutheran High School partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation in order to put on a very special event called Night to Shine. This event was geared for teenagers and adults with special needs to give them the experience of a prom with extra accomodations.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolHours and hours of volunteer time were logged to prepare for this event. While last minutes adjustments were made, you could feel the nervous energy in the room. The picture above shows the room full of the Shoreland student volunteers who were waiting for the evening to begin.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Once they arrived, guests were warmly greeted and sent off to hair and make-up for touch-ups.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Guests could take advantage of the special shoe shine station before they went on to formal portraits. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

A printer was on site so that the guests could leave with their portrait at the end of the evening.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolFolks headed to the back of the school for complimentary limousine rides. Student volunteers helped the guests in the limo, and then raced to the front of the school so that their wheelchairs or walkers would be ready for them when they got dropped off. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Once guests were ready to enter the gym, the red carpet was rolled out for them.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolThey were announced by name, along with the guest’s preference of receiving loud cheering and clapping, soft clapping, or silent hand waving. It was a very thoughtful gesture in order to make sure that the guests felt welcomed and not overwhelmed. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolA photobooth was set up in the gym, along with a buffet of snacks. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolTim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolTim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolOld friends were greeted warmly, and many new friends were made. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

And folks communicated with each other in a variety of ways.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolAlthough not pictured here, accomodations were made for those parents and caregivers who wanted to stay, and a special sensory room was set up for those guests who needed some quiet time. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolMidway through the night, each guest was crowned. Some guests never left the dance floor. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolTim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolTim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolKaraoke was set up in another room and many pored over the song lists. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High SchoolTim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

It was certainly an evening to remember. While the event was intended as a celebratory event for the special needs community, I’d argue that it may have been the student and adult volunteers who benefitted the most.

It is one thing to understand the need for kindness and compassion. It is quite another to put that love into action. Tim Tebow Night to Shine Prom Shoreland Lutheran High School

Miss L’s Senior Session [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer

Racine senior high school photography Milwaukee Kenosha

L’s senior portrait session took place on a beautiful afternoon in the fall. Fall days can be very cold and windy in Wisconsin – but everything aligned just right for her!

Burlington Senior high school photography Racine KenoshaRacine senior high school photography Milwaukee Kenosha

She plays oboe in an orchestra, and I was excited to incorporate something that is so important to her into her senior session.

Racine senior high school photography Milwaukee Kenosha silhouette

Waterford senior high school photography Racine Kenosha

I love this last image that shows off her class ring as well as the oboe. It makes me wonder how many practice hours she has logged.

Music is the universal language of mankind. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

high school photography Racine Kenosha oboe instrument

 

Baby H [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Newborn Session at Home]

Burlington baby photography lifestyle documentary Racine

Sweet Baby H is certainly treasured in his household! He was around ten days old when these images were taken.

Racine baby photography lifestyle documentary Waterford

Burlington baby photography lifestyle documentary Racine

I love back and white images of babies – they are always timeless.

Racine baby photography lifestyle Union Grove documentary Burlington

Union Grove baby photography lifestyle documentary Racine

Occasionally Baby H would need some quiet time with his mother. That’s when his big brother T and I got to play!

Burlington child photography lifestyle documentary Racine

He adores his baby brother.

Kenosha baby photography lifestyle Union Grove documentary Racine

One of these little boys is not really sleeping. I’m sure you can guess which one!

Racine baby photography lifestyle documentary Burlington

Union Grove baby photography lifestyle documentary Racine

The family dog got a chance to be in some pictures, too (he is incredibly well-trained.) The cradle below was made by Baby H’s great, great grandfather. It is a beautiful heirloom to hold such a treasure!

Burlington baby photography lifestyle documentary Kenosha

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” 

-A.A. Milne

Burlington baby photography Union Grove lifestyle documentary Kenosha

 

A & V at the Pettit National Ice Center [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Documentary Photographer]

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

This documentary photography session was a continuation of a children’s lifestyle session posted earlier on the blog. A and V spend a great deal of their time ice skating at the Pettit National Ice Center. I loved the idea of documenting a place that is so special and center to their lives right now.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

So many times parents are eager to capture the big game or the sports meet – but sometimes, the most compelling images are the ones that show the journey.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

It is nearly impossible to calculate the number of time a parent has helped a child dress or tied their shoes, but these are fleeting moments. All too soon, they’ll be doing it on their own.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

We photographed this session during a Saturday afternoon free skate. It was so neat to see the different levels of the children present and know that there were some big dreams skating on that ice.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

I love the image above – it is typical of all mothers – helping one child while keeping a watchful eye on another.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

My goal in any session is to capture who that child is in this moment of time. Regardless of how long A and V continue to skate, it is incredibly special to have their early love of the ice documented.

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

“Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them. ”

– Josie Bisset

lifestyle children documentary photography Union Grove Wisconsin

 

 

Ms. T [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Burlington Senior Photography]

Gigi's Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer High School

T’s senior photography session was rescheduled several times due to the weather. She was excited to use the  little 10 foot by 10 foot square of sunflowers that were in bloom, but by the time the session actually happened, there was only one decent stalk left.

Gigi's Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer High School

But we made the most of that single stalk!

Union Grove High School Senior Photographer Wisconsin artistic

The top right image below is the one that we refer to as the “shampoo commercial hair” – her waves were incredible!

Union Grove High School Senior Photographer Wisconsin artistic

I adore her expression in this image below.

Gigi's Joy Photography: Kenosha Senior Photographer High School

Gigi's Joy Photography: Waterford Senior Photographer High School

One of the hazards of photographing in nature, is the nature itself. The bugs were miserable this evening, but T took it all in stride, along with her mother on mosquito patrol.

Gigi's Joy Photography: Milwaukee Senior Photographer High SchoolI love how simple these portraits are – but they capture the different aspects of her personality.

Union Grove High School Senior Photographer Wisconsin artisticUnion Grove High School Senior Photographer Wisconsin artistic

T’s only request for her senior session was to have some golden light. Thankfully, the sun delivered.

“The most irresistible beauty is the radiant glow from a kind and gentle heart.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Union Grove High School Senior Photographer Wisconsin artistic

Seeking: Stories of Autism 2017 [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Special Needs Photographer]

 

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Stories of Autism is an organization that matches individuals on the autism spectrum with professional photographers to create portraits that give us a better understanding and insight into life with autism. From their website: Stories of Autism is dedicated to heightening autism awareness through the exhibition of its portraits and stories of children and adults on the autism spectrum. The project strives to achieve this through independent exhibitions of its work and by partnering with other organizations whose goals align with this mission.

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I’ve written extensively on the blog in the past on my reasons for volunteering for the Stories of Autism organization.  Check out the following links for some of those posts:

2015 Overview

2015 Introduction 

2016 Wrap-Up

2014 Overview

2014 Gratefulness

But the reason that I continue to volunteer is pretty simple: there are still more stories to tell.

“If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.”

-Stephen M. Shore

When we glimpse into another person’s life and attempt to understand their background, their struggles, and their hopes – we are more likely to be empathetic to the next person we encounter. 2017-01-15_0002

 

This year I’ll be photographing a limited number of participants on the Autism Spectrum in Southeastern Wisconsin.  Participants will be asked to fill out a registration form and model release, giving permission to use the child’s image, first name, and story. The photography sessions will take place in their home in January and February, and the gallery will be released in April for Autism awareness month. The photo session is complimentary, and the family will receive two 8×10 prints and the two digital files of those images that they can reprint for their families and friends.

The Stories of Autism organization has asked that the photographers look for stories that show the diversity of subjects that autism affects. I hope to photograph some folks from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds that are missing representation in the gallery, and to showcase more adults as well.

Please share this post with others, and e-mail me for more information: gretchen@gigisjoy.com

 

 

A & V at Home {Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Family Photographer}

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There is a certain beauty that shines through in a child at play that cannot be recreated during a traditional portrait session. It is in their own personal space, surrounded by their favorite toys that the child can feel truly comfortable.

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In home photography sessions are my very favorite. They capture the ordinary details that sometimes get missed when you are in the midst of the day-to-day.

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In this session I photographed A and V in their rooms with their favorite toys, and then each of them practicing their instruments.

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A’s room was heavenly. I love that the image below not only captures the decor that is obviously a labor of love, but it also includes her newborn photo, her twin doll, and the stack of books that show her current interests.

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Racine Family Photographer documentary Kenosha children's photography lifestyle

“A beloved doll’s voice speaks directly to the soul in a way that cannot be explained with words.” -Gayle Wray

Racine Family Photographer documentary Kenosha children's photography lifestyle

We ended this part of the session with a quick, informal family portrait before we headed to the Pettit National Ice Center for some skating! (blog post will be updated with link soon!)Racine Family Photographer documentary Kenosha children's photography lifestyle

 

 

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Homecoming – April [Gigi’s Joy Photography]

Last April, I attended the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Homecoming in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The following is taken from the Stars and Stripes website: “The Greatest Generation is slowly fading away, and Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has pledged to celebrate each and every remaining WWII and Korean War hero before it is too late. We honor all veterans by flying WWII, Korean War and terminally ill veterans from other conflicts to Washington, DC to visit their memorials. Help us to find these veterans and reward them with a day planned just for them. This is our mission and our duty.”

After each of these Honor Flights, friends, family, and community members are invited to attend the Homecoming at the airport. We attended as supporters of a dear family friend, but I do encourage everyone to attend one of these events, even if you do not know anyone personally on the flight.

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The organizers ask that you arrive several hours in advance, which means that you do have some time to pass. But this means that you have ample time to work on those posters!

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Some folks spent their time playing games,

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visiting,2016-11-11_0017

and checking their watch. 🙂

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I enjoyed walking around to people watch and admire the pictures and signs.

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As more and more people squeezed into the concourse, the excitement and anticipation grew.

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(The poster below was an especially impressive piece of artwork!)

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The Star and Stripes Honor Flight organization had volunteers walking around with placards and were available to answer questions.

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It became a long night for some of the little ones,

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but when the veterans made their grand entrance, everyone was suddenly energized and on their feet.

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You couldn’t help but smile as you watched the veterans go through – greeted by friends and strangers alike.

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The pride was shown by the grins, and the eyes glistening with tears.

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The quote on the shirt below is from the official Stars and Stripes Honor Flight store, it reads:

“We all can’t be heroes, some of us get to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.” -Will Rogers

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After the veterans all passed, current members of the military filed through. They had greeted the veterans has they first came off the flight. I wonder how many in the crowd were having flashbacks as they watched the young, uniformed faces walk by.

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The book “Honor Flight: A Visual Journey” includes a passage from the documentary Honor Flight by Charles Sykes, from a conversation with one of the veterans as they walk into the homecoming event. It reads as follows:

“I was walking next to one of the guys and he said, ‘This is like heaven.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he sad, ‘It’s like seeing all the people you loved and cared about. It’s like having your whole life before you and realizing that what you did mattered. That it was actually worth it. To see my grandkids and my kids…” That is a powerful moment.

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Here are some links for additional information:

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

Honor Flight: A Visual Journey (sold on Amazon)

Memorial Day Podcast (from Community State Bank)

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Our previous trip to a Stars and Stripes Homecoming

D & K’s Delightful Wedding {Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Family Photographer}

D & K were married at a beautiful outdoor wedding in Minnesota. (You can see their engagement portraits here in an earlier blog post.)

K’s mother and sister were on hand to help her get ready.

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait getting ready

The talented bride made all of bouquets for her wedding.

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait details

Leaf necklaces for each of the bridesmaids were made by custom jeweler, John Morgan Panchyshyn.

Union Grove photographer John Morgan Panchyshyn custom necklace leaf

D & K opted for a “first look” at the lake where they became engaged. It was the perfect setting for a quiet moment before all of the festivities.

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait lake

Part of the groom’s getting ready process included adjusting cameras. (He’s a filmmaker)

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait groom filmmaker

This series of K’s expressions as her parents lead her to her groom is my very favorite…

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

K’s father made this beautiful arbor especially for the wedding, which was moved to their garden afterward.Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portraitThe colorful wedding party:

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait wedding party

The ceremony was followed by a specially choreographed dance, feasting, music, and lawn games.

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait pavillion

Guests were treated to delicious Maple Nut cake made by Wildflour Artisan Bakery.

custom organic wedding cake natural

The folks below aren’t film extras from the Downton Abbey set, they were just well-dressed guests.

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

“Love is a friendship set to music.” -Joseph Campbell

Union Grove photographer outdoor wedding artistic portrait

Baby L – One Year Old {Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Baby Photographer}

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Baby L was the star of this lifestyle photo session at home.Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
He had turned one a month or two prior and was showing off all of his walking (and running!) skills.
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
In-home sessions are my very favorite to photograph, especially with little ones. They are so much more comfortable at home, and I love being able to incorporate their favorite toys and spaces.Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
Good images tell a story, and a good story doesn’t just consist of characters – the setting is a key factor as well.
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The photograph below was taken in Baby L’s nursery. He was running around the room showing off with his ball and his dad scooped him up for a quick snuggle. You don’t need to see Dad’s eyes because you can see all the love in his grin.
My favorite part about this image is that the dad, baby, and the ball mimic the wall decal of Pooh Bear, Piglet, and the balloon.
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
One of the best parts of in-home sessions is that when baby needs a snack, he gets a quick break from showing off his skills, and I get to keep photographing!
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
Union Grove family photographer Wisconsin lifestyle documentary newborn
 

“…there really are places in the heart that you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”

-Anne Lamott