An Autism Diary

A day in the life of David Hartley

A Project Close To My Heart

As usual lately, our days have been getting longer and more busy the further along we get in our plans and preparations for our newest and upcoming fundraisers.

The project I am most excited about at the moment though is our Autism awareness calendar featuring local Autism families. 🙂  Each month on the calendar will feature a different family/loved one with Autism along with a quote from them about what they wished was known about their loved one or about Autism in general.  Different Autism facts will also be shared on the bottom half of the calendar where the dates and all that are located. 🙂

Joshua - Nichole Hanna PhotographyMy hope with this project is two fold.  I want to bring the local families out and start the beginning of a support network and connections with other families that both understand and care.  I am looking forward to hosting events and gatherings where our children and loved ones will be safe, understood, and accepted and where the rest of us can form friendships and share laughter, encouragement, and support with each other. 🙂

The other part is that I am wanting to give the local Autism community a chance to put a face to Autism and share the human side of it with not only our community, but as far as DogForDavid can help it reach.  I long for society in general to see more than just a label or diagnosis.  I want people to see more than the meltdowns and the odd behaviors our loved ones can be known for.  I want them to see a child, an adult, a teenager…. I want those around us to see a human being.  One that may have struggles and differences that go against the flow of what society is used to, but is still first and foremost a fellow human living life and who is just as deserving of respect, compassion, and support as the rest of us.

I am excited to announce that we have a professional photographer, Nichole Hanna Photography, that has joined our project too and who is donating both her time and her talent to this project.  The boys and I got to meet her yesterday for the first time as we both met up with a local reporter for a news story on our project and I must say that Nichole is as kind and wonderful as she is talented. 🙂  She viewed my two sons as simply children who were full of life and passion.  Autism wasn’t an issue of definition for her as she easily saw the children behind the diagnosis and the quirks (David has some “interesting” quirks to look past at times 😉 haha ).  It is this very experience that I am trying so hard to make a more common one for not only my family, but for others living with Autism as well.

David grasshopper - Nichole Hanna PhotographyIt’s past time for those with Autism and their loved ones to be accepted and seen simply for who they are.  That’s why I work so hard to spread awareness, help educate those whom I am given the chance to, and to spread a heart of compassion and understanding among those this journey allows me to meet.  Encouraging others to think twice about what may be behind that meltdown at the mall or the awkward lack of eye contact from a class mate or fellow office worker.  To think about the person behind the flapping hands or loud hums.  The passion and knowledge behind the seemingly endless rants about specific subjects and the wonderful personalities and heart hidden behind the social quirks and misunderstandings.  I want the human behind the Autism to shine and I want the word Autism itself to quit being so taboo and misunderstood.  And I am trying my best to do my part in helping to see that become a reality.

This calendar project is one way I am hoping to bring more families together and to spread more awareness.  We still need more families to join us in our efforts though and for each family that participates, Nichole has made a generous offer.  Free digital copies of the professional photos she takes to the families that are featured in them.  Now how cool is that? 🙂   The pictures you see with this post are two beautiful examples of her work from our photo shoot with her yesterday and you can see even more by going to the blog post she wrote about the project as well. 🙂  And because Nichole is donating all her time and talent, full proceeds raised from the selling of these calendars will be able to go straight to helping us reach our goal of getting David his service dog!  That’s a double win in my book. 🙂



  1. Wow! powerful photography!

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