I walked onto my son and daughter's elementary school campus. It was almost the end of the school day, and they would be making their way out to the playground very soon. As I walked over to my usual waiting spot, I saw Alex. He was hanging out nearby under the shade of a tree, waiting for his twin brother, Will, and big brother Harrison to be dismissed from their classes. I looked at him and said, "Hi Alex." It was something I did just about everyday whenever I would see him waiting with his mom to pick up his brothers. I didn't think too much of it that afternoon, until I noticed him look up from what he was doing, look me in the eye and say, "Hi Lori." I immediately felt tears fill my eyes. You see, Alex had never called me by name and greeted me on his own in this way. He often was gently reminded to look up at someone when they were speaking to him, and to say hello back when someone greeted him. That was months ago and since then, Alex (age five), has engaged in conversations with me, has shown me special objects or projects, and has laughed at silly things I've said.
When Alex was two and half, he was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. The spectrum can range from highly functioning to severe, and Alex is considered high functioning. In more ways than not, he is a typical almost six-year old who loves to play Angry Birds, climb trees and act silly. Alex just needs a little extra support, and through working with various support therapists and participating in playgroups that help with socialization skills, Alex has made tremendous progress over the years.
One of the reasons why Alex is doing so well today is because of the support his family has received from the Autism Speaks organization. According to their website, "Autism Speaks’ mission is to improve the lives of all those on the autism spectrum." When Alex was first diagnosed, his parents (naturally) had many questions. This organization was one of the resources they relied on to assist them in determining how they would best be able to support Alex.
I am proud to say I have had the privilege of photographing Alex and his family since 2009. During our most recent photo session, I could tell how much more relaxed and comfortable he was throughout the session. He smiled naturally, jumped off walls, climbed trees and looked for tadpoles in the pond with his brothers.
Alex and his family will be walking to support Team Alex R Us in San Jose on May 18. If you are in the area and want to join the team, it would be great to have you walk with us. I'll be there proudly wearing my Team Alex R Us shirt from last years walk!
Please click here to visit the donation page for Team Alex R Us and consider making a tax-deductible donation to help support this great cause.
Rubio family - thank you for allowing me to photograph your family over the years, for giving me a chance when I was just starting out, and for being so gosh darn photogenic and fun!