Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SHANNON - FACES OF AUTISM | Goodhart Photography, Northern Virginia Family Portrait Photographer

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This is Shannon.

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Shannon is an adorable little girl, with dark eyes and braids and a fleeting smile that lights up her face. She loves to swing, to jump on her trampoline, to climb her play equipment and go down her slide, to listen to Beyonce's, and be around her family.

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Shannon has autism, specifically Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, which has a specific known genetic cause. Her symptoms present as a child with low functioning autism. She is non-verbal, still in diapers, and engages in "inappropriate" behavior such as mouthing and eloping.

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Shannon is capable of learning, although she is on a much different developmental path than most people. Every milestone she has reached -- rolling over, walking, signing a few words -- has been hard won, through determined and repeated instruction by her family who never gives up on her and advocates so successfully for her, by the private therapists who work with her daily, and by the special school, Alternative Paths, she attends and will attend until she turns twenty-one.

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Shannon's parents try to give Shannon's siblings as normal a life as possible, complete with beach vacations. However, Shannon has no sense of danger, and can disappear in the second it takes to add sugar to your coffee. So they acquired a specially trained dog, Brutus, to help them keep track of her when they go out. Brutus is tethered to Shannon, enabling the family to enjoy outtings.

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While Shannon can't speak, she can presently sign about seven words. Improving her communication skills is one of the family's major objectives, and several hours every day are spent patiently reviewing the words she knows and teaching new ones.

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In spite of how differently from most of us Shannon perceives and understands the world around her, she is a happy, easy-going child. She loves her family and they love her, and they appreciate how Shannon has helped them be more patient and compassionate. Her family doesn't know what the future has in store for her, but they take it one day at a time.

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To see my other posts highlighting faces of autism, click here and here.


  1. These pictures make me feel like I know Shannon. Bless her and her family (and you!).

  2. Thanks Angela for doing this. The photos of Shannon are wonderful. She is a wonderful girl who is blessed with a fabulous family. And I know they are blessed to have her in their lives as well. I can see her personality come out in your images. Great job.

  3. Angela, I posted the link to this page a few minutes ago and the response is amazing! You did a wonderful job of capturing Shannon and describing her. Thank you!

  4. Amazing photo journey of a beautiful girl. You were able to capture her gentle wonderful spirit.

  5. Absolutely beautiful job! My daughter has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome as well. You did a wonderful job explaining about Shannon & others like my daughter. Thank you for shedding a light on a little known disability. It made me cry!