From time to time I get to indulge my photojournalistic ambitions and take on a photo essay for a more in-depth story. In this case I was shooting for a Boise Weekly story that Carissa Wolf worked on: “Graduating Into the Unknown” where she explores the path that those with autism are often faced with after graduating from school. With a very specific look at one family (Estevan Barrera and his parents) Carissa shares what this may look like for families and communities.
All my clients and subjects affect me. Mostly in a good way.
Meeting Estevan, Jo-Ann and JT had an exceptional impact on me. Not only did I walk away from Estevan’s home with a better grasp on autism in general, but I was absolutely blown away by the people in his network of support. Wow.
If all parents were as supportive of and invested in their children as Jo-Ann and JT, the world would TRULY be a better place.
If all teachers were as connected and dedicated to their students as Mr. Eric, the world would TRULY be a better place.
If all of us could take on life with so much patience and a healthy dose of humor, the world would TRULY be a better place.
Hopefully these photos show how much Estevan is treasured and loved.
Estevan in his classroom with Mr. Eric.
Checking the mail is one of Estevan’s favorite chores.
Once inside Estevan showed me around his room.
Jo-Ann and JT had Estevan start on his evening routine and let me document the motions they go through each night. Often, it begins with closing all the blinds.
Some nights Estevan gets to choose a movie.
Free Willy is a favorite!
Next it is time for vitamins and medication.
Estevan heads up to his bedroom — where he has his own bathroom, TV and an air of independence — to get his bed ready for the night and change into his pajamas. Once he’s ready he comes back down to hang out for a bit. Then JT helps him with his nightime regimen of brushing teeth, washing his face, using an acne cream, applying chapstick, etc.
Next it is time to hop in bed and get tucked in.
JT and J0-Ann are looking over the latest journal entries that Mr. Eric has written in a journal that helps keep the communication going with his students’ parents. Estevan is responsible for bringing it back and forth between school and home and is included in reading and discussing the entries. The entries discuss the pro’s and con’s of the day at school and his recorded behaviors usually dictate what sort of chores (for bad behavior) or privileges (for great behavior) Estevan may get for the night.
Just a quick side note:
This shoot was a challenge for me because Estevan is fast and always on the go. Another thing that proved to be tricky was his habit of turning lights off and on as he enters and leaves a room. So you can image that there was a lot of me chasing him around and flipping lightswitches back on (much to his disapproval) with his parents chuckling in the background.
When I first arrived, Estevan kept asking (or telling) me to stop take pictures. By the end, he was clapping and giving me “good job” praises for the photos I was taking. Which just goes to show how much heart this kid has. What a pleasure it was to meet him!