School Picture Days Can Cause Anxiety for Special Needs Parents
Picture day at school always gives me anxiety for my daughter Cammy, 13, who has special needs. Rett syndrome has robbed her of the everyday abilities we take for granted, including walking, talking, using our hands purposefully, sitting up straight, and smiling on command. I can dress her up and fix her hair, but once she boards the bus for school, I have no idea what her school photo will look like.
Before I send Cammy off to school on picture day, I take a photo of her, which ensures both of us that she’ll have a beautiful photo to show from that day.
But after I take the photo, questions about how things will go at school swirl around in my head. Will she look at the camera? Will she be sitting in her wheelchair? Will her hair be messy? Will she smile? Will she have drool on her face?
For Cammy’s fourth-grade photo in 2018, she had an appointment in the morning, so I drove her to school late. I pushed her wheelchair to the gym, where her classmates were taking their photos. I decided to stay to see if I could help Cammy or any of the other students smile.
But school staff didn’t need my help. They had it under control like a well-oiled machine. It was a work of art to watch.
Not that I ever questioned how much special education teachers, aides, and therapists love their students and will do anything to help them succeed, but I had tears of joy watching them in action.
Cammy’s physical therapist (PT) removed her from her wheelchair and carefully placed her on the block, a perfect position for the photographer to snap pictures. Then Cammy’s PT squatted behind her out of the frame to support her in sitting upright. She did this to give Cammy the dignity of being in a photo without her wheelchair, so she could be like the other students.
While the PT held Cammy steady, an aide and a teacher stood behind the camera making silly faces to get Cammy to laugh. In between shots, the aide would run over to wipe Cammy’s mouth if needed.
Cammy absolutely loved the supermodel treatment. She smiled and giggled throughout the entire photo shoot. While watching all of this, I realized I didn’t care how the final photo was going to look because witnessing the whole process made my heart swell.
While I know I will always be anxious on picture day, I can be reassured that the school team and Cammy will give it their best shot. Even if she doesn’t smile in the future, the photo will reflect her mood and attitude in the moment. And let’s face it, life is not always sunshine and rainbows.
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