February 2009


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As a webmaster of a site for large families, when there is some type of news about a big brood, I often get called for an interview. This time, the news is the octuplets. Well, more importantly, the fact that the woman had 8 babies and *gasp* had six others at home.

Anyhow, the paper wanted to do a photoshoot of our family for inclusion in the article. Now, I should tell you, I get very hesitant to do these things. Not because I am camera shy (though I have to admit to being self-conscious about my weight in pictures), but rather because I worry about Raif. He does not do well with strangers. He does even worse with strangers in his house. In fact, that is the main reason I have never pursued any reality shows. I have actually had producers approach me and ask if I would be interested in doing them and I always decline. I could not do that to Raif, not to mention my other kids who are on the spectrum. Granted, they do fine for short periods, but being followed around for weeks would just destroy them.

Anyhow, I did make it clear to the paper that if a photographer came, it would have to be a limited shoot. In the living room area only. Any other parts of the house, particularly the upstairs bedrooms which are Raif’s domain, could not be used. Thankfully they were accomodating, even though the photographer get a bit daring near the end and asked if she could get a “bunkbed shot”.

The thing that amazed me is that Raif did fantastic. First of all, he was really good about keeping his clothes on. Yeah, I know that sounds odd, but if you have an autistic kid you’ll understand.* Second, he was very open and receptive to the woman, whom he had never met. That’s huge. Now, Raif is a total ham. He loves to get his picture taken and will hog the camera mercilessly. However, he was very cooperative with the woman, following directions, and being polite. When the majority of the pictures were taken and the woman was taking candid shots, Raif instinctively knew it was okay to get a little nutty. He started doing goofy poses and pushing his way into other shots. It was interesting to see him assess the situation and know when it was appropriate to relax.

I have to admit, I don’t know if the photographer really believed me when I said that Raif would only do well for so long and that he would freak if she went into another part of the house. I mean, he was being so polite. But, true to form, after about 45 minutes of her being there, Raif walked up to the photographer, shook her hand, said “bye” and gestured for the door. The autistic equivalent of “okay, now get out.”

Either way, I was proud of my boy. This year Raif has made such major advancements. It just floors me. I am still realistic that he will probably never be even remotely what would be considered normal, and probably never live on his own. But to see him becoming so much more personable, and understanding social concepts warms my heart.

To read more about the feature and the shoot, and for a link to the NYT article, check out my post on the Mega-Moms blog HERE.

* I wanted to note that at the end of the session, it was Paige that ended up trying to strip. And she’s normally really good with strangers. So, my apprehensions about these things are justified.