Unlike the progression of most traditional-aged, college or university students, my non-traditional, academic trajectory as a parent-caregiver to an intellectually disabled (ID) adult has been fraught with barriers, disruption, and discouragement. Motivation to complete my doctorate rests on a commitment to disability issues, caregiver activism, and intellectual capacity-building of my self. Guided by the “evocative” autoethnographic methodology of Bochner and Ellis (2016), this “insider’s” narrative retrospective autoethnography will attempt to shed light on and evoke an understanding of a doctoral student caregiver’s context and experience in the academy. It encompasses embodiment, a geographically constrained sense of place, marginalization, and neoliberal abandonment—elements that have contributed to my sense of burden, inferiority, and non-competitiveness in the academy. An analysis of my autobiographical experience would suggest that increased institutional awareness of a caregiving student’s complex obligations, recognition of their non-traditional contributions to society, and offerings of flexible modes of participation could improve equity and inclusion for caregivers who are challenged in extraordinary ways.


autoethnography, ID adult “child, ” non-traditional doctoral student, parent caregiver, resilience

Author Bio(s)

Lorraine Hutton is a fulltime Health geography doctoral student at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She returned to higher education after many years of absence. She is also a parent of and caregiver to an intellectually disabled (ID) adult son who lives with her fulltime. Lorraine’s research seeks to understand and analyze how and why caregiver- parents to ID adults use social media (as it relates to human geography). Please direct correspondence to lmhutton31@gmail.com.


Financial support provided by Dr. Mark Rosenberg, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Aging, Health and Development, and professor of Health Geography at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

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