Through the eyes of a child

This post is a little different from our usual 2 Guys Photo fare.  In recognition of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this story of Kyle and his Mom, Penny.

Baby lamb, by Kyle

Baby lamb, by Kyle

Kyle is a pretty typical ten year old boy.  He loves pizza, watching cartoons, riding his bike, playing with his dog and video games.  He’s also a budding photographer who’s favorite subjects include animals at the zoo, churches, Victorian houses, his school, and his dog Khloe.

Back in 2009, Kyle’s Mom Penny, who has carried a camera with her for most of her adult life, gave Kyle his first camera, a Kodak EasyShare, and showed him how to use it.

You see, Kyle is a child with Autism and he has ADHD.  And while he is just like many other children, his speech development is not typical of a child his age.  Mom thought that giving Kyle a camera would be beneficial because Kyle, like many children with Autism, is very visual – Kyle needs to see as well as touch and hear and feel, in order to comprehend something.

Self portrait, by KyleSelf portrait, by Kyle

When he was younger, Mom would use pictures of a toothbrush and toothpaste to prepare him for what he would be doing next.   She would take pictures of the beach where they would vacation every summer, to show Kyle where they were planning to go.  Pictures became a key means of communication, so giving her son a camera seemed like a natural thing to do.  But Mom also hoped that through the camera, she would be able to see the world through her son’s eyes and she thought it would help Kyle express himself in ways that he had not been able to in the past.

Ducks, by Kyle

Ducks, by Kyle

Well, Kyle has taken to photography like a duck to water, and in fact, he now owns several cameras.  Penny estimates that he has taken thousands of photos in just 2 years.  He takes photos of his doctors, teachers, fellow students, the school bus driver, and many more.  People know when they see Kyle, that his camera is usually close at hand.

These days, Kyle can fill a memory card in a few hours and will download his photos to the family’s PC.  He’ll review them, sort them into different folders, and he thoroughly enjoys looking at them and sharing them with others.  He takes his Mom on “photo adventures”, where together they explore and make photographs.

Neighborhood scarecrows, by KyleNeighborhood scarecrows, by Kyle 

Penny tells me that photography has been a great interest for him; it’s a hobby that he loves and is improving at.  He’s always wanting to go on a new adventure with his camera.  And it has helped Mom understand his world, to see what’s important to him, and what motivates him.

Church, house and animals by KyleChurch, house and animals by Kyle

Kyle’s school teachers told me how photography has helped Kyle:

A major benefit of Kyle’s use of the camera is that we (his teachers) are able to understand what Kyle is trying to tell us – he will take a picture of the things he couldn’t find the words for, and show it to us.  Together, we will look at the pictures and he will learn the words he couldn’t retrieve on his own.  In a way, the photos act as “translators”.  It’s a great communication aid and I think other children could benefit as well.

When I spoke with a local fifth grade special educator about Kyle and Penny, she said:

I think that it is amazing for a child to be able to communicate and give others the privilege to see the world the way that Kyle does.  His mother is an angel for providing him with the opportunity to see the world and communicate through the lens of a camera.  As a special educator, I am inspired by both Kyle and Penny and can only hope to help my students explore and interact with the world around them in the way Penny has for Kyle.

Based on their experience, Penny is hoping to start a program to allow people to donate their used, working digital cameras to schools for children with disabilities, to help them in similar ways.   I hope that Penny realizes her dream and that she and Kyle enjoy many more photo adventures together.

I want to thank Penny and Kyle for sharing their story, his teachers and educators for their input, and all the Mom’s out there who do so much for their children.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted by Ed


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Images, Inspiration and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Through the eyes of a child

  1. kyles photography is inspiring; and his mother’s determination and support of him proves the power of love and vision to overcome almost any obstacle. i’ve been googling therapeutic photography recently and found so many examples of how digital photography has give a voice to people who didn’t have a way to be heard. i loved this story!

  2. Hillary says:

    Wonderful story.. I posted it on my Facebook page to share. How sensitive and thoughtful of Penny to recognize that in her son. A wonderful tribute to her as a mom and to Kyle! Fascinating to read this! Happy Sunday!

  3. arthill says:

    This is a great story. Thanks for bringing it to us.

  4. What a great post! Very heartwarming. A great choice for today!

  5. Jason Wilson says:

    I know Kyle quite well and have been a family friend for years. The kid is amazing. I always thought he’d be a drummer like his dad, but now I hope to one day buy his giant coffee table book. Thanks for writing this.

  6. Melissa Simon says:

    I have the pleasure of knowing both Kyle and Penny. Both are amazing human beings, and the bond that they share as mother and son is incomparable. Penny is just like an angel to Kyle and vice versa. Thank you for sharing this Ed I really loved this whole piece it brought a tear to my eyes!! Happy Mother’s Day Penny!!

  7. Lori Neubarth says:

    Penny is an absolute ANGEL. Kyle is so very lucky to have Penny as his mother. Autism is very complex and it is truely heartwarming how both Penny and her husband have developed Kyle into such an amazing child. This is a very admirable story, we can all learn from this. Thanks for posting Ed, very well done.

  8. Irene Ascolillo says:

    Beautiful… There is nothing like a Mother’s LOVE… I love you Penny and Kyle..

  9. Nicole says:

    Very well written Ed. Thank you for posting. I think you really captured how much Penny/Kyle love and respect each other. Both are amazing people and I’m in awe of them both everyday.

  10. Rodney says:

    Bravo Ed! Bravo Penny! AND Bravo Kyle!! As a nurse who has worked summer camps for Easter Seals and have worked with a few kids with autism, I am always amazed at their capacity, especially when a mother or father or teacher taps into it! Clearly Kyle has tons to share with the world and I am happy to know he is getting that chance. Does Kyle have a website where he post his photos, so folks like me can follow them?

    thanks, Rodney Daly

  11. Colleen says:

    I have had the pleasure of working with Penny for the past 6 yrs now. The day I met Kyle i feel in love with him. I have seen him grow and become such a machure young man. I have also watched the challenges they have faced and overcome. I Praise Penny every single day and tell her that if it wasnt for her love, strength and dedication they wouldnt be where they are today. Penny is a Saint in many people’s Eyes.. I love you Kyle and Penny… Great Job Ed..

  12. Adrienne says:

    What an uplifting and inspiring story….thank you for sharing! I knew Penny as a thoughtful and terrific co-worker so it comes as no surprise that she’s also an outstanding mother. Bravo to Kyle and his mom for demonstrating to the world that those of us with ADHD (yes, I have it, too!) have creative and talented minds, even if they do work differently than those of others.

  13. Alecia says:

    Ed, So beautifully written, it truly brought tears to my eyes. I love your work and this my friend, WOW. I am truly in AWE… Penny and Kyle I love you Both. Ed, I have joined your Blogging and keep up the wonderful work you do, it is amazing.

  14. Gabrielle says:

    As a student of psychology, this is an amazing learning technique to here about. I might be biased since I am related to Kyle, but I know how beneficial this camera is to not only Kyle, but also all of us in understanding him. It would be amazing to see more research done on photo therapy with Autistic children.

  15. Arlene says:

    A fantastic story about the love of a family for each other and the world they have opened for their son. I do believe that we will be buying Kyle’s photos one day. Thanks Ed for sharing the story and thanks Penny for being such a kind and loving person not only to your family but to those of us who work with you.

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