Jeffrey Espinosa sits in his living room as he reaches for the lens. He is very curious and likes to touch anything around him.
Jeffrey Espinosa performs one of his many obsessive behaviors in which he repeatedly rubs his face up and down.
Jeffrey (R), who cannot eat on his own, touches his father Micle's hand as he feeds Jeffrey some crackers.
Jeffrey sits in his living room and abruptly takes his shirt off due to the summer heat.
Jeffrey Espinosa (R) gets a temper trantrum during a doctor's appointment as his mother July Espinosa tries to hug him.
July calls Access-A-Ride service for Jeffrey while waiting for a late driver.
An Access-A-Ride driver prepares Jeffrey in his wheelchair for the ride home in the Bronx.
July looks ahead through the front window during the Access-A-Ride trip.
July Espinosa prepares Jeffrey's medications, some of which regulate his often uncontrollable behavior.
Jeffrey sits in his bed while playing with his favorite toys. He is required to sleep in a specialized bed crib for his own safety.
A movie plays on Jeffrey's television as he sits and watches from his bed. This is Jeffrey's point of view from his bed.
Jeffrey laughs while watching a movie on his television.
July and Jeffrey hug each other while waiting for a doctor's appointment.
Jeffrey sits in his wheelchair while traveling home in an Access-a-Ride bus.
Jayden looks down while standing in his room which has star stickers on the ceiling.
Jayden picks up a stick and tries to rake the leaves with it.
Jayden presses buttons on an ATM machine in McDonald's. Carlos likes to touch buttons, especially those with numbers.
Jayden plays with his favorite toys at a McDonald's.
Jayen looks at his animal toys while sitting on the subway.
Jayden stands on the subway platform as he prepares to go to the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Jayden tries to find the dinosaur show on a map at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Jayden stands in front of a dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Jayden stands with his mother while watching an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Jayden looks ahead as he sits in his bedroom in the Bronx.
"Tucked Away" began in 2016 in the Bronx, New York and it portrays two young autistic boys living in the Bronx. The first is my 20-year-old brother Jeffrey Espinosa. He is autistic, non-verbal, and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He requires virtually total support for basic needs, such as eating, bathing, and traveling. The second is Jayden, a 5-year old boy with autism who lives with his working-class single mother in the Bronx. Jayden is a higher-functioning autistic boy who can speak and interact with others much easier than Jeffrey. However, Jayden’s mother often struggles to balance her work and home life as she cares for her son mostly on her own. As the project moves forward, I plan to document one or two more autistic people, preferably females.
These images document some of what it’s like to live as an autistic person, a reality that is often unknown to many people. This work is part of an ongoing project in which I aim to showcase the day-to-day trials and tribulations of being an autistic person in a low-income family. This is the inspiration for my photo essay title: "Tucked Away." Very little coverage is shown in the news and film industry about low-income autistic people and the compounded financial hardships that amplify the difficult conditions of their disabilities. They are, in essence, "tucked away" from society. I would like to let the world know that this community exists, is still struggling, and needs more help. I aim to expose the fact that not enough services and resources are allocated by the government to support these families. This situation often forces some in the family to quit their job in order to care for their autistic relatives, most of whom are also unemployed due to their physical limitations. This ultimately perpetuates the cycle of poverty among families with disabled relatives.
I witness and experience this every day in my own family. Now it is my duty to use my camera and bring light to this issue in order to push for more immediate support of low-income autistic people. I hope that these images can inspire people to provide these necessary changes and benefits to those affected families.
My vision is that this project can be a potential springboard to inspire autistic people to pick up a camera themselves and document their own stories and perspectives. This is similar to the study done by the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, where they partnered with PhotoVoice and allowed study participants to use photography to identify and share their experiences. I hope to inspire autistic people to come out behind the curtain that has been placed in front of them by others who are ashamed of them being different than the norm. Autistic people should know that they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are. Sometimes it takes a beautiful visual representation of them to see that truth for themselves.