Karen wrote the following article for Autism Daily Newscast about her experiences growing up and the journey that led her to where she is today.
I had worked hard at this and was not going to let it go to waste, or so I thought. When I got a job the same things I had struggled with growing up seemed to follow me there too. Why hadn’t I grown out of this inability to communicate with others, to share a joke with them, engage in chitter chatter, and join them in going out together after work?
Why was I socially awkward still at the age of 21, to the point where I found myself for the gazmillionth time being bullied, that’s everywhere I’ve been since I started school! Failing big style at relationships too, I found myself divorced twice.
I was sick of people questioning my behaviour and the “Why don’t you talk?” question! In most situations I didn’t know how to talk, I did not feel comfortable talking, and I didn’t know how to be in a conversation. Anxieties would be at the max, agonising over where to look, where to put my hands, my legs? How to hold myself? What to do with my mouth – often biting my lip with nerves. What to say? What not to say? When to start talking? When to stop? Why is the Sun shining through those blinds killing my head? What are they on about? What do they mean? Why is she not concerned that her fringe is uneven? Why isn’t anyone else stressing about these things?
I knew my daughter had Asperger’s from very early on, having learnt about the condition from a friend and I just knew. She was diagnosed in 2007 at the age of 7. Only I understood her so far, I could relate to her more than anyone I knew, we were identical in our behaviour and reasons for it. This highlighted that I too was on the Spectrum. I knew I would need to get diagnosed, and then be able to explain to people why I was socially awkward, and then hopefully they would not bully me into a state of depression and self-loathing.
At 30 after pestering a second doctor he referred me to a place in Sheffield where I gained my diagnosis. A weight lifted instantly, I wasn’t an oddball I was merely on the Autistic Spectrum. I began to like myself and enjoy being part of the Autistic community, sharing my experiences with like-minded people who had been through similar.
I wanted to work but not for someone else, I could fit around school hours and holidays if I worked for myself. Graphic Design had moved so fast with technology and I couldn’t keep up having had time off to have 3 children. The only thing left that I was good at was photography (I had studied some photography as part of my Graphics training) and drawing. Friends on Facebook encouraged me to go forward with my photography after seeing the photos I was always posting. Taking photos is my obsession so it made sense to go with that.
In June 2013 I started So Shoot Me, I couldn’t afford a webpage so I designed the logo and made a Facebook page, and all my jobs have stemmed from that. Word got round that I was The Autistic Friendly Photographer and that brought more work in. Traveling across the country to take family portraits, mainly of Autistic Families is amazing! I have patience, understanding and approach Autism with positivity this enables me to get the best out of people, I hope I can let them feel at ease and their personalities shine through in the images.
Anna Kennedy had seen my work on Facebook as we were friends through all the Autism Awareness groups; I received a message inviting me to take the photographs for ‘Wear It for Autism 2013’. She was impressed with my work and asked me to be Anna Kennedy Online Events Photographer. I was honoured and really enjoy every job I do for them and the people I have met through doing this are great! I gained confidence and asked Karen Ryan if I could be their photographer too for the Stepping Stones Autism Ball, she said yes. On Saturday I am traveling from Yorkshire to Wales to do a photo shoot for a book cover for Alex Lowery, it is a book about his journey with Autism and as with every job I am super super giddy!
About Karen McGuire
Karen McGuire 35 graduated from Sheffield College, ‘A Centre of Excellence in Design Education’, in 1999 as a fully qualified Graphic Designer. Today she runs her own photography business So Shoot Me Photography and has worked with Autism campaigner, Anna Kennedy OBE for her charity Anna Kennedy Online as their Events Photographer and Autism Advocate. Karen was diagnosed with autism at the age of 30.
Karen McGuire (known to those on Facebook as Yorkshire Pudding) can be found on her Facebook page here