"Love is patient, love is kind..."
Every now and then you get the opportunity to spend time with a family who demonstrates the embodiment of love, patience, kindness, and strength. The Woodrings are such a family.
As a mother myself, I know the immense power of a parent's love. When my daughter was born, my heart swelled to ten times its former size. But above all else, more than anything, I wanted my child to be happy. That is every parent's wish for their child.
Zachary is a happy child. He was a happy baby, and when he was born, all things seemed completely normal for the first few months. As his first birthday approached, Zach's parents started noticing that he wasn't responding to his name or communicating with them.
They had their pediatrician evaluate Zachary for Autism, and were told that he was not autistic, just slightly developmentally delayed. But they knew when things continued to happen, and that Zachary still wasn't developing in his language ability, that it was much more than a slight delay.
After meeting with a pediatric neurologist, the diagnosis they were dreading came: low-functioning, or severe Autism. They weren't given much encouragement, or even words of comfort or sympathy. In 2003, Autism resources in this area were very limited, and the last thing a parent wants to be presented with is a less than hopeful outcome for their child.
"Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
But here's the thing, guys, and this is why this family is so much more than a diagnosis or a "family affected by Autism" -
Zachary has a beautiful life. He lives in the country, on 5 acres - with woods to ramble in, and lots of leaves(he loves leaves!) to play in. He has parents who - my goodness - love him so much that it emanates from them in such a way that it can't help but affect you. And he loves his parents back - the bond between them is a mighty thing to witness. He loves movie quotes, Oreos, and is one of the happiest kids I've ever met.
Zachary has also made leaps and bounds far above what that pediatric neurologist ever predicted for him.
Before our shoot, Heather and Michael and I decided that we were going to let Zachary drive. I was just going to be there, and we weren't going to put any pressure on him. We took lots of breaks, and took our time. Zachary loved the sound that my camera made when the shutter closed, and he started mimicking the sound during our shoot. I told him I needed him to make that sound so that my camera would work, and he helped me. He got the most adorable look on his face when he was doing it - mischievous and silly.
I was incredibly blessed during my time with Zachary and his parents. They are very involved in the Autism community here in Southwest Missouri, and these kids need us to advocate for them and be their voice. The school systems and social services sector are still lacking in resources to help meet the needs of these families.
Want to learn how you can help raise awareness? Visit autismspeaks.org for more information about Autism.
Want to get involved in a great fundraiser which directly impacts families in the Southwest Missouri area? Check out Shoot Out for Autism
"Love never fails."
Thank you Michael, Heather, and Zachary for being the proof that Corinthians 1:13 is alive and well.