A Perfect Picture for Mackenzie

Beth Dalby


Mackenzie Peterson loves school. “She has so many friends there,” says her mother, Stephanie. “They keep her very busy, and the school does its best to include her in everything.” As the mother of a developmentally disabled child, she appreciates every effort made to treat her daughter like other members of her class. Stephanie has learned that true inclusion means not trying to treat everyone the same, but accepting Mackenzie for who she is.

School Picture Day is exciting for the Peterson family, as it is for most of us. But, it also brings challenges. “Mackenzie functions at about the level of a nine-month-old,” explains Stephanie. “Getting a good photograph is never easy.”

On Picture Day at Mackenzie’s school, Prairie View Elementary in Holmen, Wisconsin, Stephanie was pleased to see that Amanda Stolt, the Lifetouch photographer whose efforts the previous year had left a lasting impression, was again taking pictures. When she and her colleague, Jessica Lynch, began working with Mackenzie, Stephanie says they were so kind. One of the most memorable moments for Stephanie was when Jessica simply said, “You show us what works for you and Mackenzie, and we’ll work with that.”

Among more than 30 images taken, there was one of Mackenzie grinning, kind of biting her lip with her teeth. Stephanie says, “I wanted that one. That’s her thing right now. I want to remember that she did that when she was eight years old.”

“We really cared about what the mom wanted,” says Amanda. “This was about wanting to capture who this child is.” Jessica added, “We were really excited to get the best possible portrait of Mackenzie.”

Prairie View’s principal, Dr. Patrice Tronstad, was pleased to learn about Mackenzie’s successful Picture Day, but not surprised. “That’s why we work with Lifetouch,” she says. “Their people go that extra mile. For them, it’s never an assembly line.”

Stephanie and her husband, Patrick, have a wall in their home devoted to their children’s school portraits. For the first time ever, a school picture of Mackenzie has been added to the family portrait wall. “And,” Stephanie says, “we’re giving her picture for holiday gifts.”

Stephanie Peterson was so grateful to Lifetouch photographers Amanda Stolt and Jessica Lynch that she wrote Lifetouch to thank them. “I wanted to say, ‘I appreciate that you took the time to do what works for Mackenzie, rather than trying to make Mackenzie do what works for you.’”

I want to take a minute to let you know how pleased I am with the wonderful photographers that took pictures at my daughter’s school.

My daughter Mackenzie is in the second grade, is developmentally disabled, nonverbal and uses a wheelchair. We were the last ones to arrive to be photographed, and it was time that pictures were supposed to be completed. I thought the photographers might be tired from taking pictures all day and anxious to get on the road, as I heard they had a two-hour drive home. But that was not the case at all. They stayed on, taking countless pictures of my daughter, trying to get just one really good image.

Mackenzie wears glasses, and isn’t very good at holding her head still, so it was very difficult to get a photo of her without glare from her glasses. The photographers were very sensitive to that, and let me try her in some different poses to get just the right angle. Mackenzie also doesn’t smile very easily, and they let me get down on the floor in front of her with her favorite toys to try to get a smile. They joined in as well.

I’ve had Amanda on Picture Day in the past, and she has always been so great and so patient in helping me try to get a good school photo of Mackenzie. Jessica was obviously newer, but she was the one taking Mackenzie’s picture this time, and she was so kind, sensitive and patient, too. I just want you to be aware of how happy I am with these two ladies, and how much it means to this mom to have had that extra time to try to get a nice, “normal” school photo of my daughter. Please pass my feedback on to them so they know what a great job they are doing.


Stephanie Peterson