After Learning Her Son Had Autism, 1 Mom Is Helping to Give Other Parents Memory-Making Photos
After Barrett Loving's son Riley was diagnosed with nonverbal autism at 18 months old, she knew she had a long road ahead of her. But 13 years later, Barrett has a full-blown photo company called Barrett Loving Photography that caters to kids with special needs — especially those who have autism.
"My passion for photographing families with special needs kids came after having my son," she told POPSUGAR. "I understand firsthand how hard it can be to get one good family picture. I'd like to believe I provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment where everyone can be themselves so I can capture their true personalities."
And although every autism diagnosis looks completely different, Barrett admits her now six-foot tall 13-year-old faces a unique set of challenges:
"I accept this is my life, and Riley will probably always live with me, but I will never stop advocating for him."
He's smack dab in the middle of puberty. He operates at about a 2-year-old's level of self-care and uses some language but it's not always functional . . . He's loud and likes to jump up and down, flap his arms, and sometimes behaves erratically. Did I mention he's six feet tall? Autism can be very isolating for parents. We worry about how our children will behave in public and how people will respond to them. When he gets overwhelmed, he sometimes shows signs of self-injury behaviors, and that terrifies most people, especially with his size. We've learned how to ignore the stares, comments, and unwanted advice, but it's still hard to venture out past the safety of our home most days.
Although Barrett loves capturing those magical family moments through photos, she admits she also reaps some benefits from her work.
"I selfishly enjoy working with other special needs families because I develop long-lasting personal relationships with them. I get to watch their families grow. It helps normalize my families' struggles," she said, adding that, "What I've found after years of working with special needs families is that they aren't really that different from my 'typical' kiddos. I just need to work a little harder to gain the families' trust and again provide a safe space where everyone's genuine personalities can be captured in an image."
Barrett also wants to clear about one thing: just because she accepts her son's diagnosis doesn't mean she's going to stop raising awareness.
"I live by the motto: 'acceptance does not mean giving up.' I accept this is my life, and Riley will probably always live with me, but I will never stop advocating for him. I will never give up our fight to give him a voice and to help spread awareness."