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Beautiful Everyday

Photographing Children With Autism

We rarely photograph families with children with special needs like autism, and we wondered if it was because parents were simply too intimidated by the whole process. We decided to work with the nice folks from Early Autism Project Malaysia to equip ourselves as well as make a video to provide some tips on how to manage a family photo shoot session with a child with autism.

We started off with an interview with Jochebed Isaacs from EAP Malaysia who gave us some insights into the specialised therapy offered at their centre for children with autism. We were later introduced to Juan and Nancy, who welcomed us into their home for a photo shoot session with their sons Danny and Tommy.  The experience proved to be quite tough but we soldiered on and even received hugs from Danny at the end!

Here are some of the pointers we picked up through this experience:

1. It is important to communicate with the child
Prepare in advance before the session. Communicate clearly what is to happen and what is expected of him. The use of visuals like schedules, social stories and role-plays help to familiarise the child to the event and venue, the people involved (especially if they are unfamiliar to the child), the flow of events and the special equipment used (like the camera!). It should also spell out the rules and expectations.
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Happy 4th Birthday, little Krysta

20160813-ALEX_GRACE_10TH_ANNIVERSARY-151Dear Krysta,

It’s been an amazing 4 years together, as your mum. One day, when you read this, know that I love you fiercely with all my heart. We’ve shared laughter together, tears, and silly moments practicing karate chops on imaginary bad people during our storytelling sessions. Just yesterday, I struggled through the day being your mum… it started out as a great day, going out with your Ee Ee (aunty Lina) to the mall…but when we came home, you were really tired and I had a really hard 3 hours with you and your brother, trying to put 2 over-tired toddlers down for their afternoon nap. After 1 hour, I realised a nap is nowhere in sight, so I decided we’ll just have an early dinner and put you to bed.

I guess it’s a combination of me being overly tired too, and temper tantrum outbursts that led me to my own outburst. I am sorry for the times I scolded and disciplined you out of my own anger. Part of me wants an obedient, compliant child, but I know that you have a mind of your own and sometimes, our personalities clash, resulting in crying moments (for both of us). You touched my heart when you saw my tears and took a tissue to wipe the tears away, and suggested that I drank water so I felt better.

I pray that you will grow up to be an amazing woman of God, who is kind, thoughtful and loves people fiercely too. You have a heart of excellence and your meticulous nature reminds me of your dad, who always wants to do things well. I see my own imperfections as I raise you up, and I know that this is God’s way of moulding me to be a better mother too. Love you so much.

Mum

Krysta-1 Krysta-2 Krysta-3Krysta-4

Family portraits: Brian, Marina and 3 boys

Brian and Marina warned us…both their 3 and 5 year old toddlers will not sit still for the camera. We’ve been told that their son James is shy and would definitely try to hide during the shoot! With this challenge in mind, Chi Yin and I headed over to Brian and Marina’s home for their family portrait. And hide he did! But that didn’t stop us from chasing them into the playroom for photos.

We even had to stop the shoot temporarily to play with them, so that the two toddlers James and Matthew would warm up to us. Chi Yin had the difficult task of luring them out of their really fun-looking playroom. We worked hard for every single image!

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Documenting Ethan’s Water Birth

I must admit that the thought of seeing a woman going through labour and finally delivering her baby scares me. A little. Even though I have 2 kids of my own… but I went through c-section and I never really experienced childbirth the way it was meant to be…. natural and painful. So I was a mix of emotions when Crystal hired me to document the birth of her baby Ethan last month. I was a tad bit worried that I might pass out when I saw blood.

The whole experience was new to me. About a year ago, I was also supposed to photograph another birth, but that didn’t quite happen the way we expected (pun not intended!). When Crystal’s delivery date drew near (18th May) and she started having contractions, I was a bit of a nervous wreck! I would check my phone frequently for updates, and was all charged to head out to the hospital when needed. On Thursday night, she checked into Pantai Hospital but by Friday evening, she was still far from delivering her baby!

That Friday night, I went to watch a movie, and even lugged my camera gear into the cinema, just in case! Crystal really suffered through hours of labour, and it was only on Sat night (11pm) that I was called into the hospital. I must say, she is one tough cookie. With no painkillers, she laboured and delivered beautiful baby Ethan at 3am on the 22nd of May. I could see how supportive her husband Wei Leong was through the entire process. Even though it was pretty back-breaking to help support Crystal in the tub, he did it over many hours with occasional stretches. I think Crystal was in the tub for a good 7 hours!

When Ethan came out, there was a sigh of relief and lots of happy smiles around.

Overall, I am just so amazed at this miracle called birth. How wonderful it is to witness a human being coming into the world. It is just so beautiful.

20160522-BIRTH_ETHAN_CHEW-060 20160522-BIRTH_ETHAN_CHEW-061 20160522-BIRTH_ETHAN_CHEW-071Extra interesting notes:
1. Lighting was extremely difficult in the dim room, since they wanted to create a more relaxing and conducive environment. Flash photography wasn’t allowed and occasionally a spotlight would be turned on at times – so thank God for high ISO and experience shooting in low light!

2. The little floating duck is a thermometer! How cool is that. It was the first thing I spotted when I arrived.

3. The nurse and doula was in the room all the time, monitoring the contractions, keeping Crystal warm by pouring water on her. Dr Paul came in towards the end to receive the baby. I truly respect those in this profession, their personal lives are dictated by the lives of others!

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