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Photo of the Day
Anything is Possible if you Dare to Dream

May 30, 2008

The camera doesn't lie. . .

I have been an wannabe photographer, since I got my first Brownie camera when I was only eight years old. Okay, I'm not that old, but I got my first B/W camera back when printed photographs were square with white around all four edges.

In high school I used my grandfather's old SLR and took pictures for the school newspaper. We had our own developing lab and everything.

Finally, when I started college, my father bought me my own Canon SLR. I must have taken 30 rolls of film on my summer trip to France between my freshman and sophomore years. It cost more than $200 to get them all developed when I returned and they all ended up in a file cabinet somewhere.

I used that camera for years, traveled back and forth to Europe with it two more times and still had it when I moved into my current home 10 years ago. Of course, I was using a much smaller and lighter Pentax by then. So the camera ended up in the basement until I sold it in a yard sale to an old camera buff last fall for $10. It didn't work by then.

Over the past five years or so, I have been working with digital cameras, upgrading every year or so from my original 1.7 MP Kodak to my most recent acquisition, my hefty 10.2 MP Canon Rebel XTi. Since I finally convinced my husband to let me invest in the Digital SLR (18 months, no interest), I have spent an additional $300 - $400 on lenses, filters, a mega-tripod, camera backpack and miscellaneous accessories. Thankfully my husband hasn't grumbled too much over the additional expense.

I've been wanting the SLR for two years now and I finally had a good excuse, in addition to my 15th Anniversary. In just three weeks, I am taking my 12-year-old autistic daughter to the Grand Canyon on a school sponsored tour through the Grand Classroom program. I intend to photograph the trip and create a videography for her science teacher and our family.

In preparation for that trip, I have been learning how to use several new photo and video editing programs, including Ulead Video Studio 11 plus, Photo Elf, Picasa and Adobe Photoshop.

I've been taking pictures of my daughter's soccer team, since April when I purchased the camera, and I created a DVD for her team, which included some 350 action shots taken during two tournaments and a couple of regular season games.

When I viewed the finished DVD, I was absolutely astonished by what I saw. My daughter is a completely different person on the soccer field. She is confident, aggressive, agile and simply larger than life.

The same girl, who constantly struggles with her social skills and speech in unfamiliar surroundings, even when her friends are there with her, is now socializing with her team, attacking the ball with a vengeance and high-fiving her teammates whenever they get a great shot or great save. This is a major step forward in a lifetime full of two baby steps forward and three big steps back.

As they say, the camera doesn't lie and I am now the one, who is speechless.

See ya soon at the Grand Canyon. I will be posting pictures and trip notes on a daily basis.

May 25, 2008

One picture is worth a 1,000 words. . .

Over the past three years, since our daughter (left) was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, we have struggled to come to terms with the lifelong limitations that she will face growing up and living in a society, that, until recently, thought autistic children merely sat in corners and banged their heads on the wall.

In truth, I'm usually the one banging my head on the wall out of frustration with teachers, other parents, coaches and peers, who lack even a basic understanding of what my child goes through on a day-to-day basis.

When our daughter was only two years old, we enrolled her in gymnastics to help with her coordination and when she was five she started playing soccer. I have to admit that we knew very little about autism back then and we had no idea that our child was on the spectrum. We only knew, from experience, that she had serious speech problems, poor coordination and thrived on routines.

Gymnastics and later soccer became part of her weekly routine. Three years later, one of the local coaches called and asked us to bring her to tryouts for the Academy team. At only eight years old, we thought she was a little young to be involved in a team that traveled around the metro area and played in tournaments, but we gave it a try.

Over the past four years, our daughter has stayed on the Academy team through a succession of coaches and changing teammates, which caused a great deal of confusion and a definite lack of stability.

The result, our daughter's performance in any given practice or game depended entirely on her mood that day. If she had a good day, she had a good game. She was ON. If she had a bad day, she could barely focus.

And the worst thing for us was her lack of camaraderie with her teammates. I have lots of team pictures where the entire team was gathered around one side of the bench and our daughter was sitting alone on the other end.

We used to think that our daughter was painfully shy. Now we know that she lacks the ability to socialize on her own and we try very hard to help her ease into social situations.

Our daughter's close friends know that they have to drag her into the group, but getting her to actually participate in their conversations can be tough. That's why we have invested big bucks and time in therapy and social skills training to help her recognize facial expressions, understand when someone is joking with her and learn to joke back.

This weekend it all payed off in spades. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and seeing our daughter joking, laughing and horsing around with her teammates between games at our weekend tournament was priceless.

Over the past few weeks, our daughter and her team have banded together during some really tough games and we have seen a marked improvement in her performance. She's been giving 100 percent lately, due to encouragement from her teammates and many of their parents.

They been asking what we feed her and we reply that she has jalapenos for breakfast and hot sauce for lunch and she just grins from ear-to-ear. That's really something for a child, who rarely smiled, even before she got her braces.

Still, all of this doesn't explain the jump she made to light speed this weekend and I can only chalk it up to one difference: our "new" coach.

One of our parents graciously volunteered to coach our girls during practice for the past two weeks after our regular season ended and this weekend during a holiday tournament that was not originally on our team plan.

With his encouragement and inspiration, the whole team gave 150 percent and our daughter gave her all. They lost their final game, but they never gave up, and they kept fighting to the very end. It was an absolute privilege to see the girls in such fine spirits and know in my heart that they are truly a great team.

Thanks so much Coach "Mike" for putting a smile on my daughter's face that is still there hours after her last game.

Of course she is now happily ensconced in the Wii room playing My new Wii Fit, but she's still wearing her uniform.