• Welcome to my Sun Prairie photographer blog. You will find images from my recent photography sessions including maternity photography, baby photography, and family photography. I also do sessions with newborns, toddlers, children of all ages, seniors, and special needs photography including families living with autism. Each photo session is just as unique as the people standing before me and it's always a pleasure capturing just who they are.

    My photography business is based in Sun Prairie, WI, although I also serve the surrounding Madison areas including Stoughton, Oregon, Verona, Middleton, Monona, Fitchburg, DeForest, Mount Horeb, Waunakee and Cottage Grove. Feel free to peek at my site here or contact me at carrie@carrieanciaux.com or (608)834-9303 for information about booking a session. To see my style on the Flash Gallery, check out my website.

  • Right now!

    April is Autism Awareness Month! Stop by the blog all of April to read the stories and view the images of this year's 13 Stories of Autism participants. Also stop by the Stories of Autism national site at www.storiesofautism.com to view the nation-wide gallery of subjects.

  • Carrie in the News!

    Carrie's Stories of Autism photography has been featured on NBC 15 Madison's news. Check out their website for more information!

grace, stories of autism | carrie anciaux photography

Her head faces away while her index finger pounds they letters on the keyboard.   “I’m not good at this.”  her Mom, Vicki, translates for me.  She sits in her swing feeling connected to safety and sways back and forth slowly. Her face is sweet and beautiful but she has a fire in her eyes too.

Just like many others I photograph, she was wearing a new shirt for the occasion and had had a recent hair cut.  Just like so many others when I first arrive and unveil my heavy-duty camera, she felt a bit anxious.    And just like many others who step in front of my camera, Grace relaxed and let her true self be known.  Thank you, Grace, for being just like so many of us.

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Grace’s Story

“I want people to understand autism is an important aspect of my life.”

My name is Grace. I have a brother, sister, mom and dad. I will be 21 on June 4th, 2015.   I have lived in three places in my life. First with my family in Deforest until I was 15. Then I lived at ODTC for 2 years and I liked it there. It’s where I found myself after I had lost my way.

Now I live in Middleton with a roommate.  I go to Middleton High School. This year I am taking Geometry and Sociology. I’m happiest when I’m at school and staying busy and focused.   I talk by typing and using my iPad. I feel nervous when people don’t know I can’t talk because they probably think I am just stupid.  I know I am not stupid but it makes me nervous that I can’t talk to them and tell them that.

I am on a journey and I am getting better at living it just the way I am.   I want to be a person who helps others but I need to find myself first.   It is hard to be me and I struggle every day to not push people away.

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Things in People Which I Like:

-They talk to me

-They say that I am smart

-They ask me to type with them

– They are quiet

-They give me help when I need it.

-They don’t worry about catching autism

What I’d like you to know:

Listen carefully to people like me because we are not good at being who we were meant to be.

Grace

graceblog05We’re only 10 days into Autism Awareness month and our mission of raising funds for the annual Stories of Autism picnic is underway!  I’m so pleased to say friends and families are stepping up – Thank you for your donations so far both to me personally and to the fundraising site!  This picnic will invite all 47 participants including Grace and her family together for an afternoon of friendship, sensory-based activities and smiles.  Balloon animals, a bouncy house, painted faces, pony rides and T-shirts saying “I told my story.” are all covered by your gifts.  Each $5 gift increment enters the giver into a raffle to win a Carrie Anciaux Photography photo session & $100 credit OR a Judy Endow original print.   Drawing will be made on May 1st.  Thank you for your support!

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autism awareness day 2015 | stories of autism, carrie anciaux photography

Unreal. Can’t hardly believe it.

Today is April 2nd and the fourth “World Autism Awareness Day” where I’ll have the privilege of sharing images and stories on my blog from my experience as a volunteer photographer for the national Stories of Autism project.  Charlie Cotugno’s non-profit project focuses mainly on increasing awareness, acceptance and inclusion of individuals on the autism spectrum but it has done so much more.

A little background… In 2011, I was a speech language pathologist who had taken a hiatus from this career path to focus all of my efforts on building my photography business.  This is when I stumbled upon Charlie’s website.  I immediately felt a calling to get involved.  I wrote Charlie to inquire and hours later my “volunteer photographer” status was confirmed. I was about to unwrap the gift.

Looking back to this time, I was unaware of how things would unfold and develop. Like this project, like the impact it would have, like how it would come to bring joy. Lots and lots of joy.   I photographed 11 individuals in 2012.  I photographed 20 individuals in 2013.  I photographed 14 individuals in 2014.  And this year, I photographed 2 individuals.  All of these individuals have a medical Autism diagnosis.  All of them living lives affected by autism – some significantly affected, others not as much- but all of them with stories of courage intertwined with pain and gratitude and family. And every single one of them digging deep to share how autism affects their lives so others might understand a bit more.  Unwrapping the gift.

Each April, Autism Awareness month, Charlie updates the national Stories of Autism website to include the current year’s gallery (it’s LIVE now!).  You’ll find not only the individuals I have photographed this year there but also people from all of the world’s images and stories.   Please stop by and check this project out and read the unique and special stories.  The images are Beautiful. Powerful. Special.  Just like the individuals whose essence are captured.

Throughout April, my blog also highlights the participants (so bookmark this page, friends).   Images from their session as well as their personally written story are shared so that others might enjoy a glimpse into what it truly means to have autism.  The goal is always understanding and awareness and learning tolerance for how God made us.  How we are all different. Unique.   This year, you’ll meet Grace and Will, our newest ‘family’ members so please check back frequently right here.

amelia06In 2013, I photographed a little sweetheart named Amelia (above).  Amelia’s family shared her story but then found themselves feeling deeply connected to other families (who participated in the project) as they read stories on the blog.   There were similarities in the facts and emotions presented in the stories that made an impact on their hearts.  Clara, Amelia’s mother,  shared that she’d love to meet, in person, the other families to offer support and friendship.  It was this notion that gave birth to the idea of creating an event where ALL of the participants [and families] that I’d worked with over the years come together and meet.  And that’s just what we did.

This year will be the third annual Stories of Autism Picnic hosted for those families photographed by Carrie Anciaux Photography.  Last year we raised money to create an ever so memorable event including pony rides, a bouncy house, face-painting, balloon animals, and a butterfly release which symbolized the spreading of autism awareness into the world.   Via media attention, the goal of spreading autism awareness was attained but most importantly a sincere feeling of non-judged connectedness, community and understanding for those on the spectrum was nurtured… a rare feeling from what I’ve been told.

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We are already planning for this year’s event which will be held on August 8th.  Forty-seven families will be invited and each will bring a dish to share.  Friendships will be renewed and new faces will be welcomed with acceptance and love.  If we’re lucky, the weather will cooperate and so will the ponies.  The fun will last for 2 hours but the memories will last much longer.  All of this is because of the generosity of others.  I’m asking that you consider supporting our picnic event through a monetary donation.  Any gift is appreciated and will be recognized.   You may easily contribute through our My Event fundraising page here or directly to myself or a family you know who has participated in my project.  One last tiny incentive to those who donate in the month of April, Autism Awareness Month: One complimentary FAMILY SESSION + $100 PHOTO CREDIT will be randomly selected on May 1st.  Winner must be within 30 miles of Madison, WI.   Thank you in advance for your support!

Peace,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

calling class of 2015 | carrie anciaux photography, senior portrait photographer

Helllloooo Class of 2015!  From what I’ve heard the hallways are a buzzing … excitement about prom, of course but then also, “Who’s doing your senior pictures?  Well if you’re still in decision mode, take a look-see at the future seniors below.  These young people have been especially hand-picked to represent my business as Class of 2015 Senior Models.  They know first-hand what it’s like to work with me from pre-session questions like “What do I wear?”,  to the in-person ordering on the big screen, to the delivery of a beautifully packaged box of stunning portraits.  They will tell you all about the ‘experience’ of the photo session and how easy, relaxed and super fun it was.   Best of all, use their name when booking your senior portrait session (by July 1st)  and receive a $50 credit towards your order- not too shabby! Hope to see you this summer!

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henry, stories of autism | carrie anciaux photography

Last but certainly not least.  Henry’s story of autism wraps up April, Autism Awareness Month, by exploding the cute-o-meter!   Henry can charm your socks off and also happens to be the little brother of Owen, whom you’ve met earlier on the blog.   Enjoy his story and images and thank you for supporting the families by visiting the blog this past month!

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Henry’s Story

Henry came to us four years ago. Again another surprise; all of my babies were born early. He spent some time in the hospital, luckily with nothing too major. Henry came home to quickly become the third child. Spending a lot of time on mom’s hip, Henry got all the love and attention the baby of the house gets. With two older siblings, one of which with ASD, you do what you can to make the house go. At about eighteen months of age my husband and I were noticing that Henry was delayed. He wasn’t very verbal. No mama, dada, no, yes, dog, cow, nothing, and boy did we try. It’s been said that the third one takes the longest because everyone does the work for them. However, this was different.  With his brother’s recent diagnosis of ASD and learning more about the early signs of autism, we became more concerned and contacted our pediatrician. Birth to 3 Services came out to work with Henry.We tried anything and everything to get him to communicate with us in any way. Several screenings were done, hearing tests, and finally, after our third appointment at the Waisman center Henry was placed on the Autism spectrum. He was three years old.

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Again we get to embrace a different parenting style with our little boy. We were relieved that there wasn’t anything more to concern us. “I got this”, I said to myself. Quickly we contacted the needed services for Henry to get him started with intensive therapy. Henry is a loveable boy who loves odd objects. We have a box of different things he has attached himself to. They vary from a Lego doll head, to a label from a chair, even a Keurig coffee filter. He’ll attach to different items and boy if it’s lost, you will find it. Some days, that’s all he needs to regulate himself. 

He loves to choose his own clothing. Some days it’s his stripes, some days it’s his black. Most often these outfits don’t make sense, but it works. He’s dressed. And he always loves to wear his basketball pajamas. Henry can point out the ABC’s to you without a flaw, count, knows all his colors; he’s pretty on top of it. He may not be able to communicate very well, but he is very smart. Henry has dimples, a smile, and gives you a hug that will make your worst day melt away in a heartbeat. Henry also loves art, and is very content with painting ceramic pieces. Many in which he gives as gifts to his therapists or teachers. Maybe I have another artist on my hands? Maybe a brain surgeon?

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Looking back at my life and current parenting strategy, I’ve learned many things. Now, when I see that screaming child in the store, I’ll look the mom in the face and say, “Been there, done that”. When I hear that child in church blurting out verbal sounds randomly, I say a prayer instead of turning around with a scowl. “I sure hope and pray that child gets the help he needs,” I think to myself. When I see a child carrying around a nasty blanket I say to myself, “Yup, sensory. Probably a real challenge to wash that thing”. And most importantly, I’ve let go of the outfits. If they’re dressed, they’re dressed. Some days you need your stripes, some days you need your black.

Renee, mother of Henry

You guys did it!  My heart is so full of gratitude and joy because as friends, family and supporters  you’ve filled the red of our goal meter on our fundraising page!  This picture below is from last year’s event but you can expect an even larger group of families this year. And yes, there will be ponies!  A big hug and thanks to each of you who donated to our Carrie Anciaux Photography | Stories of Autism Picnic fundraiser.  (Any additional monies will be donated to a charity of our choice that we vote upon at the August 2nd picnic.)

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collin, stories of autism | carrie anciaux photography

I met Tammy, Collin’s mom, about three years ago at the Waisman Center.  I was presenting my photography of special needs kiddos and sharing the Stories of Autism project with other exhibitors.   She was in attendance to learn from experts in the field of autism who were giving seminars on technology and IEP resources.   I remember very clearly her approaching me and stating she wanted to work on a project with me to share her son’s story – using images that I would take of her son.   Tammy’s goal then, and ever since, is to help others.   She is someone that has a truly has a passion deep inside for making a difference.  She gives generously, without question, and works tirelessly to reach whatever goal she has in her sight.  I read the story below and know without a doubt that Tammy is the reason behind why this child is now smiling.  It takes a village, yes, but it also takes a very devoted and driven Mama Bear. And that’s what she is for Collin.

Collin’s Story

Life had begun so typically for my son Collin. Growing like a weed, meeting developmental milestones, walking, laughing, smiling and speaking his first words. From the beginning we knew he was very smart. Learning the alphabet, identifying letters and pictures just over age one and reading his first Dr. Seuss book when he was 20 months old. At age 3 he was drawing detailed maps and was fascinated with road signs. We nicknamed him “GPS” because he could navigate each trip with detailed directions even as far as a few hours away.

However, not everything was perfect. Family functions, social outings always presented unexpected challenges. He was larger than most children his own age and looking back it can best be described as a bull in a china shop. He never quite fit in. Working full time, childcare was a necessity and a never-ending challenge. We never found an exact fit for him and there were always challenges. We were relieved at age four he could start school and begin his educational journey.  Seven years later, I look back and can actually laugh at the naive hopeful parents we were.

The school years began a never-ending stream of notes home, phone calls and reports of disruption. He was exceptionally bright, intelligent and mature for his age. However, he never seemed to mesh with peers his own age. He was happiest when interacting with older peers or adults.When Collin was half way through first grade I was frustrated and felt we were missing something. There were too many years of school ahead of him to settle for what was barely working. I requested that the school complete testing. We had a meeting to hear the results and sat shell shocked as the school explained that our son was talented and gifted but he was also autistic. Feeling completely overwhelmed we were led by a group of nine people through our first IEP. Life as we knew it would be changed forever.

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I remember feeling relieved that there was an explanation for what never quite made sense to us. I started reading books, and trying to educate myself and find techniques to help my son so he could be successful in all areas of his life. Life at home was fine and things were being managed at school. I relied on the school fully to advise me on what was best for Collin at school. They were the experts with degrees in special education, autism and teaching. Little did I know! Why I thought a team of experts could see inside my son and know what he needed at school to be successful and to fully trust they would always make the best decisions for him is still a memory that haunts me.

That same year, at age six, my son’s body was showing signs of puberty. Knowing this was not normal we consulted with a pediatric endocrinologist. Numerous tests were conducted and it was determined that  Collin had Precocious Puberty. With medication it could be slowed down and would be monitored until he was eleven. Life continued in a manageable way until Collin was in third grade and, although not by standards for the typical eight year old, he was having the best school year to date. He was in the classroom with limited support from aids and the special education teacher. He was receiving OT, speech, and he also participated in an advanced reading class for the talented and gifted. His reading and math skills were in the fourth and fifth grade level.

In January he was acting out in the classroom. Unable to sit still, was disruptive, refusing to do work. It was perceived as a behavior problem. He was choosing to be defiant and could control his actions if he wanted to. It was addressed with loss of privileges (being kicked out of the talented & gifted program) sent to the office, meetings with the principal, serving detention. There were days that he would sit in the office for hours. He became more aggressive and would tip over tables, chairs, hit others and at one point held a scissors point to the back of an aide. The police were called. Aggression at school would result in loss of privileges at home. He would only tell me school was torture and he could not be forced to do work. By mid-March he was miserable, angry, depressed, and was threatening self-harm and running away.

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My once happy, loving child was someone I did not recognize. I was not willing to let it continue and risk him hurting himself or someone else. I felt I knew him best and when he started to act out he was trying to tell us something. He was not choosing to be naughty, he was in distress. I felt sickened that my son had been trying to tell me something was wrong and I was not understanding or hearing his message. I heard his pleas begging me not to take him to school, I heard him tell me he was feeling tortured and what did I do? I continued to make him go and supported his punishments. I am the one person in this life that he trusts and relies on and I had failed him. As a parent I cannot think of a more devastating feeling. That is a hurt that will stay with me for a lifetime

I did my best to work with the school to try and ease him back. Nothing worked. Even one on one instruction in a private room was unsuccessful. He had shut down and was not willing to come out of the safe place he created within himself. Even at home he was someone I no longer recognized. The school year ended without him and he spent the summer pretty isolated and resisted leaving the house even for fun things like swimming which he would do every day if allowed in past summers. He was truly not the same kid. The school year was approaching and there was now a new principal and a new special education teacher. I had several meeting over the summer to bring them up to date and try and create a realistic plan to continue on with his education. I talked until I was blue in the face. His IEP stated he was to be in a regular classroom and that is where he would be.

He had barely recovered over the summer and I felt it was aggressively optimistic that the way the last school year ended he could just go right back into the classroom. They were confident that they could provide my son the support he would need to be successful. I was encouraged to give them a chance and once school started I could always request a new IEP. I did not agree. However I wanted to start my relationship off on the right foot with all the new people at the school.

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I slowly started to prepare him weeks in advance with meet and greets and short visits to the school. For weeks we prepared for the first day of 4th grade. Collin had a great attitude and seemed excited to be going back to school. After ½ a day he refused to participate in his class. He took a book and sat in the corner alone. His many requests to go to the special education room were denied. By the end of the day he ran out the door. He was so distraught he was almost hit by a car. He got into the car and started bawling. When he arrived home he went into my bedroom hid under the blanket, screaming and rocking back and forth. After one full day he had what I can best describe as a breakdown. A complete relapse from the spring only this time it was magnified by ten.

I contacted the school and reported the mental state of my son. They said after one day I had not given it a chance. If I did not bring him back to school I would be charged with truancy. I did not take him back. My son’s days were filled with anxiety and aggression to a point that I could barely control. There were several near misses of personal injury to my husband and myself. I received heartbreaking advice to consider institutionalizing him. “Thanks, but over my dead body.”  is what I thought.

I searched high and low for answers from the medical profession. The answers were there I just had to find them. The medical diagnosis was autism spectrum disorder and precocious puberty. A very rare combination. The doctor referred to this as “The Perfect Storm.” He explained there have not been any specific studies on autism and the effects of early puberty. This was not new news for us, however; it provided the answers how the combination brought us to this place. We needed a plan to move forward and it was going to take allot of time.

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The next year was one of the most challenging years for my family. Collin missed an entire school year and was described as a school phobic. We couldn’t even say the word school in our house. I knew the regular school environment wasn’t going to work. I kept searching. I would never give up. He deserved a happy life. He deserved to live his days being a kid laughing and having fun. I cried a million tears and kept searching for a way to find my son’s smile. Then I found Common Threads Resource Center in McFarland. On their website it says they focus on unique behavior, communicative, emotional, sensory, and social challenges.

I took a tour and I describe it as a match made in heaven. I saw first-hand how they could see inside my son. They saw his gifts, talents and found a way to slowly bring him out again. They focused completely on my son’s learning style and adapted their teaching style.

In just a few short months I saw him laughing, smiling and making friends. After the first year in this environment he was a completely different kid! He would come home proud, had an increased self-esteem and was at or above grade level. In a few short months he will hit his two-year anniversary at Common Threads. When the bottom fell out of our world Collin was a little boy. Now, almost 12 he is growing up to be a wonderful, caring, genuine young man. He has a few close friends he enjoys spending time with. He has a passion for video games and computer. For years his passion was Nintendo games, specifically Mario games. Over the last year he has become an avid Mine Craft player and all around expert of the game.

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Leaving the house other than school or routine appointments is still a huge challenge for him as well as peer groups or social situations. With structure, monitoring he has been able to build a group of online friends that share his passion of the game.

Through this experience he has encountered many social situations from the safety of our home. Behind the computer screen and through voice chat he is continually learning many hard lessons of friendships. The good, the bad, and the hurt that comes through the normal course of kids playing. I forever have to be on my toes to keep up with his advanced skills on the computer to keep it under control and safe. However, it is all worth it. This has helped increase his confidence and he is now participating in a few group sessions at school. It is slow but steady progress. I look back and am amazed at how far he has come. I think the biggest lesson I have learned through this process thus far is I truly know my son best. If it doesn’t feel right to me it is not going to work for him. I was always searching for the expert that could explain it to me and have it make sense. I was the expert all along. I am confident my son will continue to thrive and live a full life. I have learned first-hand parenting is not for wimps. I will forever go with my gut and continue the fight every day to make sure my son never loses his smile again.

-Tammy, Mother of Collin

And here is the mother-son team at last year’s picnic for the Stories of Autism families.  This year, we’re expecting over 150 people and are excited to connect families!  You may donate here if you’d like. Thank you for your support! soapicnic15 cop1y

 

Chandu Vemuri - April 29, 2014 - 12:20 pm

A lovely story….the love just shines through!

Amy Kilburg - April 29, 2014 - 2:47 pm

Tammy and Collin…you Two are Amazing <3

Caroline Moen Everett - April 29, 2014 - 5:06 pm

Tammy and Collin, Thank you so much for sharing your story! You both are amazing! Keep your smile on Colin!!

Carolyn Bannister - April 29, 2014 - 10:33 pm

An amazing and inspiring story, Tammy. You are Collin’s hero, and mine.

Kay Lund - April 30, 2014 - 12:15 am

Tammy I admire you for your trust in Collin, that he was not in the right place, and things could/would be different if given the chance! You are such an amazing Mom & Collin is so fortunate to have you as his Mom! I pray that as the years go by Collin continues to do well & I’m sure you will see to it that he does!……Thanks for sharing your story I enjoyed it very much!……I know Grandma Diane was & is very proud of all of you!

Guy Ramstack - April 30, 2014 - 12:53 pm

true love

Dawn Payne - May 6, 2014 - 11:28 pm

I love love love these stories. They make my heart sing!! Sometimes in those lonely days, all I have to do is think about these stories and know that we’re not on this journey alone. Our kiddos have brought us so much joy on this journey, and these stories are a wonderful reminder of our joyous journey yesterday and for the years to come. Thank you, Carrie.

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