Getting Comfy on Camera: Neurodivergent Kids & Photography

by | Jan 11, 2024 | Family Photography, Kiddos, Motherhood, Sessions

My Clan Includes Neurodivergent Kids!

A lot of the time on here I don’t talk about my own family, I talk about yours, because yours is the one I document! If you follow me on social, you probably already know I have two chaotic, amazing, funny, badass boys. Getting to be their Mom is part of what’s turned me into a kiddo whisperer here in the studio.

But one thing you might NOT know about my kiddos, is my eldest is neurodivergent. He came by his ADHD honestly (guilty, as charged) and also deals with anxiety. Right now? He only wears blue, and he absolutely rocks it!! In my family we’ve normalized therapy so much that his brother is low key jealous, and making that happen has been a labor of love. But I’m not telling you this to vent, or even to explain that I can relate to raising a neurodivergent clan. I’m telling you, because it means I know EXACTLY how to set up a photo session that can accommodate your neurodivergent kid(s).

Just because your child has ADHD, is on the autism spectrum, or has any other disability (visible or invisible) doesn’t mean that documenting your family milestones has to be stressful. It can STILL be simple, and we can STILL make it all happen for you here in the studio (or in your home!)

1. Variable attention spans require flexibility

My eldest is smart, and athletic, and incredibly kind. He also has an attention span that doesn’t exactly last the full length of a traditional photo session, and that’s okay!!

During all of my photography sessions, but ESPECIALLY those that include neurodivergent kids, we keep things fast paced and fun. We’re there to capture laughter, and smiles, and genuine moments, and in order to do that, we’re going to be moving around. But going into your session, you can rest assured that if I notice your kiddo needs things to move fast, I will accommodate their pace!

The same is true if the opposite is needed. I know I said I like to keep things fast paced and fun, and that’s true. But I also read the room, and how everyone is doing. It’s important to me that your session is about YOU, and even the most outgoing neurodivergent (or even neurotypical!) kiddos can need time to adjust to being in front of the camera. I will take that into account as we work through your session together! Flexibility is key.

brothers in matching navy polo shirts during Minneapolis Fall Mini Sessions

2. Session timing is important

Session timing is important for every session, no matter what, because the timing can impact everything from the lighting situation to the way we use the studio or the location we’re working in. But it can be extra important when there are neurodivergent kids involved!

Depending on the type of vibe you’re going for your session, it might be important to take note of when your kiddo is high energy, and when they’re a little more settled. If there’s a pattern, let’s take that into account when we schedule your session! It’s also important to think about how they relate to meal-time. If we end up scheduling RIGHT before you’d usually eat dinner (because if we’re outdoors, sometimes that lines up with golden hour… sorry) then there might be some adjustments to make to the at-home schedule before your session so that everyone is fed and we don’t have any “hangry” kiddos in front of the camera.

There are tons of other reasons to think about the timing of your session when it comes to keeping your neurodivergent kiddo comfy, and we can discuss any or all of them ahead of your session!

A mom hugging her two daughters during a Minneapolis Fall Mini Session

3. Communicating with your photographer about your child’s needs helps them do their job

Speaking of talking to your photographer ahead of your session… if you have a neurodivergent kiddo, and you’re concerned about scheduling a session, we should talk.

If you have a neurodivergent kiddo and you’ve ALREADY scheduled a session, we should STILL talk! Obviously the elephant in the room here is privacy concerns, and I absolutely want to be sensitive to that. You don’t have to share anything with your photographer (me or otherwise!) that you don’t want to tell them. You don’t have to share medically sensitive information, or diagnoses, or anything like that. But it can be really helpful to have a convo about their needs, or the needs you anticipate them having.

Being fully in the loop about the needs of the kids involved in a family session, whether medical or otherwise, really just makes sure your photographer can do their job to the best of their ability. We can prepare ways to keep kids entertained (like the craft I provided while people waited for their Christmas minis in 2023!) or ensure that we have extra distractions or attention management methods for the session. But just like with anything else, if we don’t know that there’s specific needs going into the session, it’s harder to prepare completely ahead of time.

So talk to your photographer!

A mom hugging her two daughters during a Minneapolis Fall Mini Session

4. Testing out with a mini is a great way to gauge their comfort level

Finally, if you’re worried about your neurodivergent kiddo’s comfort level with strangers (or your neurotypical child too!), or in front of the camera in general, then it might be a good idea to test the waters a little bit. At various points in the year I offer mini sessions, that are designed to be SUPER quick, EXTRA easy, and 110% simple for everyone involved. Within 24 hours of the session you get to preview the images, too! So although these are usually intended to be a kind of “snack sized” session that you book in between full sessions to update your family photos, they can serve other purposes too.

In this situation… they’re a GREAT way to make sure you can gauge your kiddo’s comfort level before booking a full session! You can also get comfy with me yourself, and see the kid-whispering in action. And for little ones with anxiety (like my eldest) it can be a great way for them to get exposure to the flow of a session, if they like to know how things work and that eases the anxiety.

Even though mini sessions are hella quick, they still flow like a session does, and having an idea of what to expect out of a full session can help a TON with their comfort level.

A mom hugging her two daughters during a Minneapolis Fall Mini Session

When in doubt, reach out!!

Like I’ve said, I know what it’s like to live in a neurodivergent household.

Or I guess, I DO live in one, and I know what it CAN be like, since everyone’s experience and needs are unique. But the point is, I get it as much as I possibly can. And I want to make sure that you don’t have to feel like your kiddo’s needs are a limitation on the type of photography you can have done!! If you have any questions about how a session might be adjusted to accommodate your kiddo (OR YOURSELF) then we should chat. I’d love to see how we can make this the easiest, most magical experience possible for you AND your family!!

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