Photography Created for Those with Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

The "Faces of Autism" book has been out since April and it's been so well received. One of the comments I hear is "Will you do another book? And how can my child be a part of it?"  My answer to the first question is, "I don't know! This book is so new I'm still trying to see straight!" But the second question got me pondering. 

My purpose in life is to reveal beauty. And I happen to be lucky enough to really "get" children, especially those with special needs. So I love love love being able to reveal their beauty through my camera lens. 

To be photographed goes beyond the images created. It's an experience of being seen, heard, and validated. Oftentimes that is something a person with autism doesn't often experience. I want to change that! I want every child with autism to feel that way. To feel like a superstar of their own photo shoot! 

Thus the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience is born. This is a way to have the same experience the children in the book had. A portrait session where the child is the star. And it includes some awesome tangible products to treasure and share including a 12x12 framed print that has your child's photo, the "one word" to describe your child and my heartfelt narrative of who your child is and why I admire them. 

This is what one mom wrote after receiving her portrait package:  

"You are an amazingly gifted photographer. Besides your superior technical skills, your people skills truly set you apart. Your kind, gentle energy helped us relax and enjoy ourselves, and you caught some candid, special moments. We are also so grateful for your respectful and genuine connection with Amanda."

So my answer to that original question is I'm not working on another book at this time, but you can have that same experience for your child right now!  Learn more about the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience and book your session. 

- Tera

Be Unique. Be Amazing. Be You.

by: Tera Girardin on

LIMITED EDITION T-shirt supporting the Faces of Autism book. This fundraiser not only spreads a positive message about being yourself, but the proceeds help publish this amazing book featuring children with autism. Order yours today!



To follow along with the making of the book find us on Facebook!

Finding Dory, Finding Inclusion

by: Tera Girardin on

I just got home from watching the much anticipated movie sequel, “Finding Dory." Even though I took my kids to it, I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited about it.  “Finding Nemo” is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. It had to be. It was on repeat in my minivan back when my kids were still shorter than I am and I have probably listened to / watched it over a hundred times. Pretty sure I can repeat almost the entire movie. So when I found out “Dory” was coming out, we had to go.

And it didn’t disappoint! Endearing, funny, beautifully animated — it delivered on all points. But what delightfully surprised and frankly, impressed the hell out of me, was the incredibly positive messages it subtly teaches. As I felt for Dory and her story, I suddenly realized this whole movie is a huge lesson on inclusion! 

(I might give some of the movie away here so… spoiler alert). 

Dory repeatedly deals with and tells others how she suffers from short-term memory loss. At times it annoys others around her, at times she feels bad for it, at times it provides funny moments and all the time it’s just who she is. As a mom to a child with autism, I can relate. 

In the scenes when she is young, you see her parents lovingly teach her the things she needs to know to be safe but they all struggle with her “disability” (I put that in quotes because thankfully they never refer to it as such). Again, this definitely struck close to home. How do you teach a child safety rules when she can't remember?! Dory’s parents are excellent role models for special needs parents. They patiently and lovingly and repeatedly guide Dory. And ultimately they do give her the tools she needs later in life. And yet they worry about her future. Disney / Pixar even describes them this way “They celebrate and protect her, striving to arm her with the skills she’ll need to navigate the world with a faulty memory.” 

Celebrate her! I love love love this message. (Kudos Pixar!)

Then it dawned on me the movie is filled with characters that have short comings that don’t let them get in the way of living their life! Hank the octopus is missing a tentacle, Destiny is very nearsighted, Bailey had a head injury that affected his echolocation, Nemo has his little fin. Even Becky, the very disheveled (and might I add, non-verbal) loon is a valued member of the quest. They are presented in such a matter of fact way and it’s so wonderfully inclusive. Even in the original “Nemo” movie, his new school friends make Nemo feel better when his dad explains his little fin. They all chime in with “This tentacle is shorter than all the other tentacles, “ I’m H20 intolerant,” “I’m obnoxious.”  (See I can quote the movie!)  Everyone has their imperfections.

Through the course of the movie, Dory moves from constantly apologizing for her condition and seeing it as a hinderance to recognizing it is her strength. She’s a problem solver and endlessly optimistic. She begins to value herself. "What would Dory do?"

A person (or sea creature in this case)’s perceived disability might just be their greatest asset. If Dory didn’t have the short term memory loss, she wouldn’t have lost her way, wouldn’t have found her loving friends and wouldn’t have the fearless nature that allows her to think outside the box and creatively problem solve the issue at hand.  She compensates for her memory loss by following her gut instincts which often times simply means following her joy. Which ultimately leads her home. Believe in yourself no matter what. Doing things differently is valuable. And a perceived disability might just be a different ability. What amazing messages in this movie! 

Two fins up for Finding Dory for it’s positive message on inclusivity!

Tera Girardin is a mom to three boys - her youngest is diagnosed with autism. She has been a child and family photographer for 11 years and is now a budding author with her "Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope" book coming April 2017. Through compelling photography and inspiring stories, the book hopes to change the way we view autism and move away from awareness and towards admiration. You can follow the book's progress and be inspired at

This is Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

My hope with my Faces of Autism project is to show the world, through my camera lens, how beautiful and amazing children with autism are. And on this World Autism Day 2016 I want to do just that. 

I spent the last year meeting with families and doing photo sessions for this project. Really special photo sessions. It was a deeply personal and inspiring experience for me. To capture their spirits with my camera brings me such joy!

Not every session went smooth. Not every session was easy. Not every session garnered eye contact and smiles. But every session inspired me. These children are amazing!

There is a lot of hard when it comes to autism. Autism families hear a lot about the hard stuff. When first diagnosed it's all hard, daunting, isolating, difficult, confusing and ! Frankly I have to deal with enough hard that I'd rather not spend time talking about the hard all the time. Which is why I want to focus on the joy, the beauty, the victories, the child beyond the autism with this project. Because when it comes down to it, they are children first. 

What I've learned is autism is...

sweet | funny | loving | amazing | determined | loyal | vibrant| gift | resilient | energetic | smiley | remarkable happy | persistent | humorous | organized | blunt | silly insightful | delightful | quiet | loud | outgoing | shy | tenacious | exuberant | brilliant | hard working | sensitive thoughtful | fearless | moody | generous | kind |precise logical | intelligent | wise | artistic | beautiful | competitive | joker | compassionate | wonderful | motivated enthusiastic | honest | dedicated | bright | courageous | independent | courteous | patient | driven | serious | playful | eager | expressive | proud | sincere | responsible | trustworthy | friendly | imaginative | helpful | original | athletic | fun | brave | philosophical | decisive | gentle | quick | practical | emotional | creative | intuitive | charming | resourceful | warmhearted | adventurous | nice | diligent | forceful | inventive | rational | tough | willing | friendly | just | considerate | amusing | clever | innovative | spiritual | inspiring | curious | industrious | joyful | nurturing| perceptive | talented | caring | fair | analytical | goofy | polite | strong | affectionate | busy | selective | innocent | hopeful | lively | sweet | observant | mischievous | giddy | cheerful | bold | lovable

This is autism.

To follow along with the book production process, be sure to LIKE our Facebook page. Book coming Spring 2017!

Getting Real! Faces of Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

Faces of Autism Update

Things just got really real for the Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope book! It's getting closer to being birthed. 

And like all births, there is an incubation period. It's not a quick process but things are progressing along. First of all, I've met and will be signing a contract with a local publishing company, Wise Ink. They help purpose-driven authors launch their books -- this is a hybrid method between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It's going to be a good option for me as I'll get assistance with the planning, marketing, design, editing, and launching of my book. But that also means some serious dollars. It'll be well worth it as I want to do it right but it's been a bit daunting if I'm honest.

Which brings me to Highlight It Up Blue for Autism Awareness -- some of you are aware of this autism awareness event I've held at my photography studio the last 5 years. For a small donation, people get blue hair extensions and a Facebook photo to show their support for the autism community. It's a great event and we've been fortunate enough to contribute funds to local organizations that help our autism community. 

This year, the other two organizers surprised me by insisting the money raised go towards the funding of my Faces of Autism book. I was delightfully surprised and honored. And extremely grateful because it will give me the seed money to hire Wise Ink and begin the process. Yay!

I want to be transparent with this whole process with you so you can share in the excitement. I want to share the VERY rough timeline for the project is looking something like this. Don't hold me to this! But the plan is to launch the book in one year. Whoo-hoo!!

April -- complete work on all images and hire Wise Ink
Spring - Fall -- content, copy, flow, beginning design work, editing
Late Fall / Holiday -- pre-order and crowd-funding campaign launched

February -- book is finalized and off to print
April 2, 2017 -- World Autism Day and Book Launch Party!

You all have been such a big part of this project and I feel it's been less my project more that I'm a conduit to making this book happen. There are ways you can help and I will be needing help to make this all happen. Share the page, share the journey, share these amazing children!

Thank you for being a part of this journey!
Love - Tera
Tera Photography

Faces of Autism - Landon

by: Tera Girardin on

I'm thrilled to showcase these images from my first official Faces of Autism session. I'm excited to introduce you to the wonderful children that I have the privilege to photograph. And to give you a chance to see past the autism and inside their beautiful souls.

This delightful young man is a fan of birthdays! He lights up when there is a cake and singing. So that's what we staged even though it isn't his birthday until later this year. Who cares! 

I'm gonna be honest, because autism is hard. In fact, these cake shots almost didn't happen. You see Landon is non-verbal and gets overwhelmed by certain things... in this case, his brother and friends who were making a lot of noisy boy noise at the time. Who can blame him?! Noisy boys sets off my noise nerve too! But Landon is nonverbal so his reaction was quick and severe -- a sweep of his hands across the table that almost sent the whole cake flying! Whoa. Mom reacted quickly and understood right away the source of his frustration -- not the cake but the noise. And after the situation was calmer, we proceeded with the singing - minus a couple of cupcakes that fell victim to the outburst. 

Such is the nature of autism sometimes. I tell you this because I want you to have the insight as to what daily life is like. His mom bounced back like nothing happened because frankly, nothing did in her world. Autism mamas are resilient like that. 

I want you to hear from the parents too. So my book will feature words of insight and wisdom and inspiration from them as well.

Mom says...

“For a child that is non-verbal, it's so amazing to listen to him when he hums one of the many many songs that he hums in perfect pitch. His favorite song is Happy Birthday so during family get togethers during holidays, we always try to sing a Happy Birthday song that relates to the day.”  

I also plan to provide my own insight via journal notes I make after each session. 

Tera’s notes...

“Besides the indoor birthday photos, we also stepped outside. I was able to get a few photos of him on his tree swing. Which he obviously loves. Pure joy on his face when he was on that swing! Made me want to hop on. Who doesn’t love being on a swing?!”  

I hope this helps you see inside this sweet little soul. I am so passionate about this project. It gets me going and lights me up! 

Faces of Autism Announcement

by: Tera Girardin on

I'm really excited to announce the launch of a new project -- Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope. If you've followed me at all, you might recall my autism calendar. This is an evolution of that project. I'm really excited to expand it to make it become something of a cross between Humans of New York and Chicken Soup for the Soul but with a focus on children with autism. My hopes are to start with a strong online presence and then create a book from the stories told. Read on to learn more about this heart-warming endeavor.   5x7 Flier 

Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope is a unique project created by Tera Girardin of Tera Photography. Using compelling portraits of children on the spectrum, the project seeks to demystify autism, create acceptance and ultimately celebrate the magic inside each child. The photos will also feature inspirational stories about each subject using interviews with the parents and the children themselves. The focus will be on the magic of each child. To reveal the beauty inside each child! The accompanying stories will be ones of inspiration and hope. Please go and like the Facebook Page. If interested in having your child photographed and your story told, please review the FAQ and then fill out the application form. I'll need your help to make this project a success! Thank you! 

Family Time Storyboard

by: Tera Girardin on

Sometimes the nature of a session and the way I tend to document fleeting little moments lend itself well to a storyboard. This session is a great example. Life with 3 kiddos can be hectic and fun and loving -- all are reflected in the images from this session. So what better way to capture that essence then put them all together and see the family personality shine through. Many times clients are looking for that ONE great family shot but this can be a way to add on to that family wall portrait by showcasing all the fun images together. That way you get them all! Enjoy this little preview [R] family! I'll post your gallery soon! SWEET 16 plain bw WEB

Power of Snowflakes - My Story with Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

After the flurry of activity at the beginning of this month with all the autism awareness activities I was involved in (Highlight It Up Blue), I haven't said much more. But as the month draws to an end, I guess I want to tell my side of the autism story. There are just as many viewpoints and opinions and ideas and therapies around autism as there are individuals with autism. Because no one person is the same. NO one person is the same - autism or not. So this is my take. And the viewpoint I try to take. Personally, I tend to focus on the positive things in life regardless of the subject. Glass half full kind of gal. And that's the way I approach my kids too (I have three boys) - I always am focusing on capabilities. A you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to type of parent. Particularly when it comes to my youngest. He is 9 now but was officially diagnosed at age 4 with the autism spectrum disorder, PDD-NOS. The "NOS" part stands for Not Otherwise Specified. Which has always baffled me - "huh?"  Great diagnosis. We don't know what he has so we'll call it NOS. Fine by me. I'm not really into labels anyway. I am his mom - I see the good, bad and ugly and I love him and believe in him no matter what. Maybe the NOS diagnosis fits because how can you possibly describe him? But we are approaching the dreaded (cue dramatic music…) IEP meeting soon. Evals are happening now. I get so frustrated by the necessity of the IEP. I know he has issues and needs a plan to help him. I'm on board with that. In fact, I'm such a big collaborator with his school that I think they don't know what to do with me. I don't feel this IEP meeting will be a battle at all, which I know is a blessing because many have to fight so hard just to get basic accommodations. And I've had my share of not pleasant school experiences and non collaborative environments so I'm grateful to be where we are right now. It's just the whole nature of the thing is to list out all (ALL!) of his problems, deficiencies, delays, issues, quirks, etc. And figure out a plan to deal with those things. It's painful to see in black and white. I mean how would you feel if your annual review for your job included and focused SOLEY on your weaknesses? Only on the negative. Only on the ways you don't measure up to your peers. On how behind you are. With a team of about 8 or so experts who point out all the things wrong with you. Not just with your task performance but with your mental and emotional health and maybe they even hint that you need therapy or even prescription drugs. Would you feel very good about that meeting? Probably pretty beat up after a meeting like that right? Now think about how your mom would feel if she sat in on that meeting. (Really, take a minute and think about your mom in the meeting with you at any performance review!) Yeah. That's how I feel. Because I have first hand knowledge of how CAPABLE he is. And all the amazing things he's good at. Great at. Better than most at. To sit through those evaluations and read the reports and listen to the opinions of very lovely kind-hearted people who are really good at what they do but say awful things about my son drives me batty. All I want to do is tear it all up and say "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF HIS STORY?" Sigh...I don't. But the momma bear in me wants to. It's necessary because he needs an individualized education plan (IEP). BUT I am from this point forward and forevermore thinking of the IEP like this - my son is so freaking awesome that they can't teach him in traditional cookie-cutter methods. He needs individualized education because he's so amazing and going to do such special things in his life that there isn't a mold that fits him. And thank goodness for the "disability" that allows him to "qualify" for this education. What a blessing it is that he gets the special treatment. He is capable. Of so many things. Just like my other two boys. They can do and be whatever they set their minds to. I know that for sure. I don't care about the acronyms and reports and evaluations. And it's that belief in him that will make him move mountains. Take a look at this photo below. The left is when he was three. That was a very hard phase of our lives. He wasn't talking or communicating very well. Life was a daily mine field of tantrum bombs never knowing when they'd go off (sometimes several in a day). He was struggling. I was struggling. Fast forward 6 years to the right and it's the same boy who I'm told all the time is so polite and funny. And just starting reading chapter books and can tell you in detail about the stories he reads. That's going from very few words to telling STORIES! And jokes. :) He's learning to handle and regulate his emotions. Tantrums are rare. There's still off days with tears and frustrations but nuclear meltdowns rarely happen. That is a TON of advancement in a very short time frame. And I bet you can't tell that from the photo right? Other than the age, you can't tell. There is no LOOK to autism. So my favorite quote  sums up how I feel about him and all my kids. And ALL kids! "A mother's belief in her child contains the power of snowflakes. Falling softly and slowly and in time becoming a glacier."  He's my glacier in the making. To my fellow autism moms and dads…keep on keeping on! Believe in your child. And don't forget to pause and look back at all the progress. To everyone else who wants to know how to best support a child with autism…. Believe in that child and see the capabilities.  Tera Photography_176 Please add your positive story about autism. I'd love to hear from you! - Tera  

Happy Easter! | Burnsville Family Photographer

by: Tera Girardin on

I love siblings and these three were so cute and fun and HAPPY! And don't they look like a fresh breath of spring on this dreary day? Looking good for Easter weekend. Enjoy your sneak peek [O] Family! I'll have the rest for you soon. And to everyone else have a wonderful weekend! IMG_6502 5x7 WEB