For Kennesaw Mom, Being Separated From Sons With Autism Is Tough During Pandemic

Judith Steuber’s son, Jeremy, left, who has autism, is unable to understand the coronavirus pandemic and why he can’t leave his group home and go home on the weekends with his family.

Courtesy of Judith Steuber

Judith Steuber of Kennesaw has two sons with autism who live in separate local group homes. They’re in their 30s.

Christopher, the older one, has significant autism. He can read some words and has an aversion to numbers of any kind, Judith said.

“If you ask him how old he is, he’ll say 5, although he is 35, and he’s been saying he’s 5 ever since he’s was 5,” she said.

But Christopher is able to understand what germs are and seems to adjust to the changes the coronavirus pandemic has brought to his routine.

Jeremy, her younger son, has more severe autism, is almost nonverbal and has a hard time with the new norm of living in a pandemic.

Before COVID-19 forced people to “shelter in place,” Judith was able to take her sons home on the weekends.

“But since the pandemic, of course, we’ve not been able to pick them up,” she said.

Jeremy is unable to comprehend what is going on.

“He doesn’t understand germs. He doesn’t understand why he can’t come up and hug us, and he doesn’t understand why he can’t come home.”

Judith is only able to visit Jeremy at a distance once a week because he gets upset.

“He wants to come home, and he’ll even try and run and get in the car, but we lock the car so he can’t get in. We do the best we can,” she said.

And not visiting Jeremy isn’t an option. She says he asks for her all the time, and she doesn’t want him to feel abandoned.

“It just breaks your heart to think that he would think we’ve left him somewhere.”

Judith is worried there will be another spike in COVID-19 cases that will prolong shelter-in-place orders for vulnerable people like Jeremy. Currently, that order in Georgia runs through June 12.

Judith calls people who refuse to wear masks in public places like grocery stores selfish because an uptick in COVID-19 cases would keep her family apart for much longer.

“I want to bring them home,” she said.