J Espinosa

Photographer
  
Autismo
Location: Bronx
Nationality: Dominican Republic
Biography: Jonathan "Jay" Espinosa is an Afro-Nuyo-Dominican photographer, writer, and community organizer who was born in the Bronx, New York and was raised there by parents who immigrated from the Dominican Republic. He grew up with a younger... read on
Public Story
Autismo
Credits: j. espinosa
Date of Work: 01/01/16 - Ongoing
Updated: 05/18/19
Location: Bronx, New York
"Autismo" is about how autism affects people who are from the Dominican Republic. The project is inspired by my brother Jeffrey, a young Dominican man diagnosed with autism, global developmental delay, epilepsy, and microcephaly. Jeffrey has been diagnosed as physically and mentally delayed since he was ten months old and needs total support to do basic living activities, such as eating, drinking, and bathing.

Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that impairs a person's ability to socialize and communicate with others. Autism is also one of the most common yet misunderstood disorders that can affect anyone and anywhere at any time. However, the way that autism (and disabilities in general) affects people's lives can vary greatly depending on their age, race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship status, socioeconomic status, sex, and gender. In other words, even though autism does not discriminate, some people with autism can be disproportionately mistreated, underrepresented, or discriminated against depending on how they look and where they come from.

Most Dominicans in particular are Black and Brown people living in poverty, both in the Dominican Republic and abroad. Living as a Dominican citizen and immigrant can already be economically difficult. Living as a Dominican with autism, or living with someone who has autism, can compound those difficulties. Services are scarce for people with autism and other disabilities living in the Dominican Republic, partly due to a lack of resources and political will, but also due to a culture of shame and stigma surrounding the diagnosis. There are more services available to people with autism in the United States, but immigrants have a difficult time accessing them due to language and cultural barriers. These issues can contribute to a cycle of poverty for families living with people with autism.

This projects aims to:
- Educate people about autism and the diverse backgrounds of those affected
- Challenge the myths, shame, stigma around autism (particularly in the Dominican community)
- Challenge mainstream narratives on autism that focus on high-functioning, White, middle/upper class men.
- Advocate for better laws, resources, and services for people with autism and developmental disabilities
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