Don’t “Say Cheese!”

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“Smile!” I called and two children smile.

“C’mon, Declan…show me your happy face!”

I request, I coax.  I take one thousand pictures.  The two already smiling faces turn to smiling stone and I must wake them up.

If you have kids, you know what I am talking about.  You want to grab a picture of your beautiful baby or toddler.  But trying to capture their adorable smile for the camera can be a challenge.

It continues to be a challenge for the photographer with a child with autism.

Through the years, I have come up with a few tactics to try to capture a moment, smile or event.

Don’t “Say Cheese!”

In the past,  “Say CHEESE!” led to Declan imitating me,  “Say Cheese!  Say Cheese!  Say Cheese!” and then clicking the imaginary camera in his hand.


Now he just looks at me and says, “I don’t like cheese.”

Flexible Kids – Literally


4 Halloween’s ago Declan could not stand still long enough to pose for a picture.  Or listen.  So I didn’t tell him it was picture time.

I told the big kids to just wait until he walked into the center of the step behind them and for them to lean out.

“Okay guys, 1, 2, 3 – LEAN!”

Got my photo


We all remember when I got Declan on the ground and held his legs.  The other kids scrambled in the photo, and Declan looked up to try to roll over.


Fun Character Play!

Then there was his first day of preschool.  I could NOT get his attention for the camera, until I got creative.

I let out a big, “MEOW!” like the cat Gary, from his favorite character at the time, Spongebob.

That just made him laugh.



This past week at special needs night at Urban Air, I tried to get the kids picture.  And Declan was not happy about something.

He tried to cover his feelings with a happy face, I guess.


When we were getting ready to leave I asked the kids to try one more time.

Declan still wasn’t into pictures.  So I asked the kids to lean in and smile.

And I asked Declan to pretend he was the Staypuft Marshmallow Man.




And after I have used up all the memory on my phone or camera, I finally get one picture.

Totally worth it!

Hey, that’s me!

But I must say – for all my attempts, the best way to get Declan to smile for the camera?

Declan LOVES to selfie!  When he sees himself on the screen, it is the one time he will immediately stop what he is doing….


and SMILE!


24 thoughts on “Don’t “Say Cheese!”

  1. Selfie seems to be Ben’s favorite too. Half the time when I try to get a pic of him he’s got, what I call, his “village idiot” face on. Nose all scrunched up so his top teeth are showing, mouth hanging open, eyes squinted….Not exactly a Kodak Moment 😊 I love that Urban Air pic!

  2. My son, who is 11 and is not autistic, but at times pretty challenging is his own right, has a habit of refusing to participate in group photos. My wife and I decided years ago to just roll with it. Those photos just aren’t that important to us. But all of his cousins, uncles, and aunts act like he just murdered a puppy. I feel like we as a society put too much emphasis on photographed memories. How do you feel about that?

    1. I think the forced “everyone act happy & like you’re having fun” pics are unnecessary. They’re false much of the time. I like to be more of a paparazzi photographer & try to get reminders of genuine good, fun days. My two cents….

    2. I think you’re right! A long time ago I watched a mom tell her daughter she didn’t need to sit in a photo of all the family cousins. I was surprised at first – but realized not putting pressure on her daughter was the right thing to do. There are many times I do not get a photo because none of my tricks work – and those photos just weren’t meant to be. But if the moment is right, I will try and see what happens! Sometimes I luck out 😉

  3. I know we don’t see all the struggle but you just seem like such a champion over all of this with such an inspiring attitude, love, and never-give-upedness. Yes. I made that word up. I’m sure there is a synonym that my mom brain has lost. Lol.

  4. I applaud your sense of humor. I can only imagine how some of these moments may have been challenging for you but your optimism gets the job done, and done well, it seems.
    Lovely photos and even lovelier family 😊

  5. Love the Stay Puff Marshmellow man pose idea! Got a good belly chuckle out of me.

    As a cheese hater myself, I hate when some one tells me to say Cheese! Cheese doesn’t agree with people who are lactose intolerant. Which is why I do not like most people’s idea of pizza. A hot vegie pizza is my idea of a good meal. Doubt you son would enjoy it, though.

    You invent some of the greatest ideas for your children. Glad your high functioning autistic daughter joined in the fun!

  6. 😀😀what a lovely read. Pictures with children can be very trying. My older son when he was between 2-4 he will pose for me and give me wonderful smiles but by the time he was 6yrs, his smiles became scary😀😀. So we decided no smiling but don’t frown. We are still working on his smiles. But my 2 yr toddler doesn’t care a hoot. And just like your Declan, he loves selfies a lot. Keep up the spirit Robyn, you’re doing great.💝💝

  7. My son has had funny smile when any picture is taken. Your title made me laugh. When i took him to get his Sr. pictures taken, I told them not to say “cheese.” They didn’t. But, being conditioned through the years, he smiled the usual silly way. We bought ALL the pictures. It’s adorable.

  8. My eldest son, who is twenty, has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I am relieved that he and I both know now what has been causing his depression,anger, mood swings, an inability to understand the more complicated things that people like teachers and prospective employers, have tried to explain to him time and time again. When he was six he was assessed because of learning difficulties, doctor’s and therapists said he had mild mental retardation which was causing him to have dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. He finished Grade 12 in 2015 with a University Pass. He dropped out of university last year because he couldn’t follow what was going on in the lectures sometimes and because he found that just attending and trying to socialise and make friends was too stressful. He won’t go to job interviews because he cannnot summon his voice to answer or ask questions. He is very depressed.

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