Thursday, 4:30 PM
Showing the human face of autism
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Brooke's eyes are bluer than a summer sky as the 4-year-old looks out from behind locks of sandy blond hair and stares directly into the camera. Michelle, 12, unsuccessfully tries to use her hands to hide her toothy smile from the lens. And 10-year-old Austin leans a cheek full of red freckles on his hand, posing almost like a model for the photographer.
These three images are part of Faces and Voices of Autism, an exhibition of 18 photographs that made its debut today at Doric Hall in the State House. The installation is part of an effort to raise awareness about the array of autism spectrum disorders by the National Autism Center and the May Institute, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that works with people with autism.
"The goal of it is to really build an exhibit that helps people understand the human face of autism, not just the numbers," said Andrew Child, the photographer who snapped the pictures over the last 2 1/2 years, while working with the May Institute.
The exhibit, which will remain on display in Doric Hall through Friday, will also be shown at the Prudential Center May 12-18 and at Children's Hospital in June.
Advocates say that one in every 150 children in the country has a disorder that falls under the umbrella of autism. Each of the 18 photographs in the exhibit is accompanied by a short narrative that tries to make each person more than a statistic.
The bus driver who drove Brooke to school describes how the little girl made her "heart soar." Michelle's mother wrote how her daughter defied her diagnosis, which determined that it was unlikely she would ever speak. At age 8, Michelle's first word was "butterfly" and her vocabulary continues to grow.
Austin's parents, Jerry and Sarah Wright, spoke with pride today after seeing their sonís photograph hanging in the State House. The couple from South Boston said they hope that other people will realize how pervasive autism has become.
"Seeing these kids and reading their stories," Sarah Wright said in a telephone interview. "It goes right to your heart."