Most people take smiling for granted. When your picture is being taken the photographer says, "Say cheese!". Most of automatically repeat this silly word, eyes open, mouth upturned and belly sucked in. However, for an Aspie, smiling for a photograph is not natural.
Tomorrow my son has his first school photo. I can only imagine the facial expression that will be permanently captured on film. He will most likely look like a Caucasian kid pretending to be Asian, but not on purpose of course.
At the age of 3, I was proudly snapping photo after photo of my darling boy. However, he wasn't smiling so I said, "Say cheese!". In a serious tone he responded, "What?! Do you have cheese for me to eat?". After an explanation that it meant smile for the photo, he wanted to know why should he smile for a photo when he wasn't really smiling in the first place? My only explanation to try to stop the onslaught of questions that I knew were to follow was to reply that I thought he looked handsome when smiling. However, this led to him wondering if he wasn't handsome when not smiling. "No, no!," I quickly retorted, "You look handsome always. But I really enjoy looking at pictures that show those beautiful teeth of yours." "Okay", he accepted with no further questioning. Whew! The rest of the photos from that point on was my beautiful Aspie with an over-exaggerated smile and completely squinted eyes. LOL
Tonight I thought it might be worth a try to practice smiling with him. I asked him to smile for me. The big mouth with full display of teeth and gums combined with eyes squinted so tight they appeared to be trying to dodge the equatorial sun appeared once again. I couldn't help but giggle.
"Try like this," I said, showing him a smile only wide enough to show some teeth with eyes still open. Next thing I know his lips are turned inward and his eyes are so wide you'd think he just spotted Bigfoot. I giggled again. "No, no. Try keeping your eyes the same size as normal and open your lips just enough to show a few teeth." He proceeded to mimic my expression but ended up with the look of a drunk hallucinating homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of trash down the street. I laughed so hard I almost fell off the edge of his bed.
"How about," I said in between tickling his armpits, "you just be you in the photo? Smile how you normally smile, okay?" He agreed this was best.
Guess what? I am looking forward to seeing his special smile radiating off that year book page. I know it's going to be the brightest smile of all.