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!

December Reflections Day 16: I Said Hello to...

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 16:  I Said Hello to...

A lot of new friends! And specifically I really enjoyed saying hello to my new friends with autism this year. Working with families to photograph children with autism and tell their stories, has been a soul-filling project for me this year. And although I'm behind with where I'd hoped to be by this time, I'm looking forward to getting to work on it again this winter.  (Follow along on the Faces of Autism Facebook page). 

To learn a little about each child, to be allowed into their lives for a brief moment, to document who they are and show others what makes them special, is a true honor for me. I love meeting new friends. Especially sweet souls like these friends...

Hello young friends! I look forward to meeting more more of you this year. 

- Tera

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!