Photography Project Provides New Opportunities for Individuals with ASD

Autistic individuals are now exploring a new way to experience the world and express themselves: through photography. A group of Autistic adults have become members of the In-Focus Project, which teaches men and women with ASD how to run their own online photography store. Each person learns how to take pictures, make edits, upload their photos to their own online page, and package and ship them to buyers.

In-Focus was established in 2008 by Ian Paregol, Executive Director of Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC), and Craig Pardini, Director for Building Facilities at CSAAC. Paregol and Pardini teamed up to teach a weekly photography class at the center, because many Autistic individuals find that they can best express themselves visually. By giving the men and women a foundation for skills in photography, Paregol and Pardini were able to challenge their adult students to explore new things, as well as create a passion for them to pursue for years to come.

Ian Paregol and one of his student photographers.
(photo credit: WTOP/Alicia Lozano)

Not only has photography helped with their creativity and expression, but it has truly boosted their communication skills, as each individual interacts with many others during their shoots, as well as when someone makes a purchase of their work. According to Pardini, “This [program] gives them an opportunity to share what they are seeing [with others] and show what’s in their mind”.

Recently, the photographers went to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The photographers took advantage of the beautiful scenery, abundant with cherry blossoms, taking creative photos of the world around them. Some of the individuals chose to interact with others, taking photos of their friends taking pictures, or asking to take pictures of tourists.

“This certainly gives them self-esteem,” Paregol stated. He continued, “But it also gives them a chance to connect with their community.” Many of the photographers have become much more expressive since joining the project, as they feel less pensive about approaching strangers, and happy to showcase their work to others.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing the Global Autism Workforce Initiative, and the strategies to develop and promote one’s skills and strengths, on June 30th in NYC. Speakers include Randy Lewis, former Executive Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics at Walgreens. During his career, Mr. Lewis established an integrated workforce, including those with Autism disorders. Several speakers, including Mr. Lewis, will be discussing the importance of establishing new opportunities that cater to the various strengths of individuals with ASD. To hear Mr. Lewis speak, please select tickets here.

As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing more opportunities that have been developed for those with Autism disorders. We will also be sharing new medical research and scientific advances, as well as highlighting several self-advocates and stories of hope. We hope that you will share these stories, and use the month of April to spread awareness about Autism! Please make a difference and donate today!

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