Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Looking Into the Eyes of Someone with Autism

This guest blog post is by Ann Kagarise. Ann is a writer, photographer and assistant director at a school for children with autism.

What words come to mind when you hear the word autism? What does autism look like?  I am a photographer. I look at autism through the lens of a camera.

Doctors can tell you what they see when they diagnose a child with autism. Parents can tell you what it is like living with a child with autism. Teachers can tell you their experiences in the classroom.

But when I look through the eye of the camera into the soul of autism, I see a depth that I do not see anywhere else in photography.

As a photographer, I can go to a wedding and take pictures of love. I can see two people embracing and promising a life together. When I go to a sports event, I can see determination and strength. I see winners and the face of defeat.

A camera can capture emotion in ways the naked eye misses. A camera can see things that no one else can see.

Ever notice how a person with autism is the first one to mention someone’s haircut or see when one item in a room has been removed or changed. They see emotion on a person before it happens. They notice a tear before it falls or feel the depth of someone’s pain.

People with autism see the world through pictures. They think in pictures.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

A new wrinkle in a person’s skin. A crayon out of place in the box. A tear welling up in the corner of an eye.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

True, they might not be able to express in words the very things that they often see, feel, or experience, but it’s there and they see it vividly with intensity.

Ever look into the eyes of a child or adult with autism? Zoom in. Remove everything else in the room. Crop the photo until the eyes of a person with autism is all you can see.

Look closely. You will see depth. You will see an understanding that doesn’t need words. You will see joy and love with the sparkle of innocence. They might not be able to look you in the eye. Connection seems impossible, but it’s there.

I am a photographer that has had the joy of capturing autism behind the lens but I don’t need that camera to see the world the way they do.

I have autism.

I see the world in snapshots. I see the beauty of life all day long in pictures.

Snap. Snap. Snap. Pictures really are equal to a thousand words, in our world.

I was not always able to express how I felt verbally. I was not always able to show what I saw or experienced, but once I picked up that lens I was able to show depth, feeling, and connection. I was able to express what words could not. Photography became my passion.

I found if I had a camera in my hand, I could do social events. I could look at people. I could SAY something. I was a part of the group. I could stay present without shutting down. The noise and the chaos of the room seemed to settle as I allowed your world to become mine through a viewfinder and allowed mine to become yours as I showed you what I captured.

Snap. Snap. Snap. Autism - The world in pictures.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.