While wandering the show floor at WPPI, I came across the Special Kids Photography of America booth, which had images of special needs children displayed.

Having a special needs stepson myself, I stopped in to chat with them about what they do not once, but twice and left their booth both times with tears in my eyes.

What is Special Kids Photography of America?

SKPA’s purpose is to educate professional photographers and train them to be comfortable with photographing special needs children.

They have books and tools available on their website and also have workshops that offer accreditation. The training goes far beyond general portrait photography and helps photographers understand the characteristics of commonly-encountered disorders.

Special Kids photography of america

SKPA teaches photographers how to communicate with both children and parents, what the preferred terminology is, how to handle medical conditions, posing children with physical disabilities, using props, sounds and attention-getters to get great images.

Once a photographer is accredited they can be listed on the SKPA website which is a resource for families looking for photographers who are specialized in working with special needs children.

Who makes up Special Kids Photography of America?

Karen Dorame is the mastermind behind this company. She’s also an artist in her own right and has written a few photography books.

It all started when her daughter took her severely disabled son to get a professional portrait taken, the photographer refused to take photos of him. I can’t even imagine how that felt nor can I imagine a photographer doing that. So, from that horrible experience, Special Kids Photography of America was born in 1998 and they have been a nonprofit organization since 2000.

“I never wanted another parent of a special needs child to go through that and to be made to feel less than,” Karen said.

Special Kids Photography of America

Why teach photographers how to photograph special needs kids?

If you’ve ever been around a child with any sort of special needs, whether it’s Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or any other physical or mental disorder, you’ll know that they all react differently — they all have unique ways of communicating and interacting with people.

This is a unique market for photography. Karen said they have heard over and over how parents give up on hiring a photographer because they won’t work with their children. They become discouraged by photographers who do not understand how to work with special needs children and they either give up or are disappointed with the results.

“We help photographers learn how to work with the children and parents no matter the situation,” she said. “You don’t always know how long you have to capture these moments and create memories for families with special needs children.”

I could go on and on about what a wonderful business this is, and what huge hearts Karen and her team have. For more detailed information on what they do, how they do it and the education they provide, please check out their website. Who knows — maybe you’ll be moved and inspired to become accredited.

As someone who has a special needs stepson, this all just hit home for me! While he is 27 now and beyond the ‘children’ stage, I could relate to what struggles photographers may have when photographing special needs children.