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Madison photographer shares local stories of autism

By Mary Jo Ola, mola@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 10 2014 04:56:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 10 2014 10:07:01 PM CDT

Everyone wants pictures of their kids, but when your child doesn't like cameras that can be a problem.

MADISON, Wis. -

Everyone wants pictures of their kids, but when your child doesn't like cameras that can be a problem.

Justin Schroeder and Maria Graf said their 3-year-old son, David, did not like cameras early in life. He would become upset around them and taking pictures was far from his parents' mind.

"When you're just trying to make it through the day getting pictures taken is not necessarily something that seemed like a priority," Graf said.

Their priority was treating his autism.

"That was a really emotional year. As hard as hearing what the diagnosis was it was even more challenging than I think I would've imagined," said Graf as she looked back on that time. However, she said the diagnosis was also somewhat of a relief because it brought a team of people in to help.

In a recent announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one in 68 kids are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

These days David's weeks are busy with up to 40 hours of treatment that include speech therapy and early childhood education.

"We say the busiest person I know is my 3-year-old," Graf said.

While David's parents worked to make sure he had everything he needed they met Laura Frazier, a former Applied Behavior Analysis therapist turned photographer. As an ABA therapist Frazier worked with kids and families impacted by autism through Wisconsin Early Autism Project.

Frazier set up a photo shoot with the family and that is when David learned to like cameras.

Through the month of April, which is Autism Awareness Month, Frazier will share the pictures and stories of local families touched by autism on her blog.

"I just really loved working with the kids and the families that I met," Frazier said.

Her goal is to help others understand autism and see the kids she photographs for who they are, but mostly she wants to give families hope.

"You want them to really be able to see the intelligence and the funny and the silly. You just want people to accept your child for who they are regardless," Frazier said.

The pictures Frazier took mean the world to David's parents.

"Her photos tell a story that your child cannot. Through her photos, I'm looking at them now that he speaks a lot through his eyes and his expressions and his smile; and although his words can't say that his expressions do and that's priceless," Graf said.

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