The (Not So) Wonder Years, Part 2

Esther Estrada, 18, is the author’s sister, and one of many autistic young people on the verge of adulthood.

By Julian Estrada

Mrs. Loberg is tied down by her around-the-clock caregiving duties and mired in isolation with Matty.

Neglecting autistic adults is to neglect the primary caregivers, more like wonder women than shadow moms. These mothers, or fathers in some cases, are tied to their caregiving more so than any other primary caregiver. This is because the nature and condition of an autistic adult necessitates overcompensation on the mom’s part over the life course of their daughters and sons.

The implication, intentional or not,  is that it is Mrs. Loberg and my mom’s natural role to stay at home, take care of their autistic children, not get paid, and not have life goals.

Mrs. Loberg holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Eastern Washington University and would like to return to school to get her Masters in Social Work  — but she can’t.

“I don’t have the same energy I did as when I was 20,” Mrs. Loberg added.

There should be a fourth wave of feminism that stands up for these women.

Other women get to go to college, start careers, and participate in society because of the previous three waves of feminism, but Matty, my mom, and others have been left in the shadows.  Mrs. Loberg has been caregiving for so many years that she can only wonder.

There comes a time when a neurotypical person becomes independent and moves out of the house, gets a job, goes to college, has a meaningful social life, etc. But  the primary caregivers of autistic adults, often times women,  end up wandering as shadows of society much like their autistic adult children.  

I am pretty sure that Mrs. Loberg’s chance at life, liberty, and pursuit of reinvigorating her later years are unequivocally affected by the public neglect of autistic adults.

Special education programs and services abound for autistic individuals during their formative years. Federal regulations require that special needs children be provided schooling just like everyone else during the K-12 years.

However, these services become fragmented or vanish altogether when autistic individuals become adults. The efforts to serve the autistic population that are present during K-12 years are left wanting when autistic kids go from cute poster children to not-so-wonderful, awkward, and loitering adults.