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Intellectually Disabled and on the Sex Offender Registry

Lenore Skenazy on

When Adam Nesteikis was 25 years old, his friend told him to pull down his pants in front of a young girl. Adam did exactly that. This was in back in 2012.

Adam didn't realize he did anything wrong, because he is intellectually disabled. He didn't understand what it meant when, after a trial (whatever that is), he was placed on the sex offender registry. He just knew that for some reason, he lost the job he'd loved, wiping tables. And he could no longer participate in the Special Olympics. And he couldn't scuba dive -- his very favorite activity -- because the club practiced in a high school pool, and now he was not allowed in.

Just recently, back in court again, he didn't understand why his mom was smiling brighter than the sun: He'd just received a full pardon from the Illinois governor, J.B. Pritzker. And his record will be expunged.

"My husband and I were elated," Carol Nesteikis, Adam's mom, told me in a phone call. But to her son, it was just another day.

Which is one reason it was so crazy to put him on the registry at all.

Adam and his parents live outside Chicago. He grew up happy and social, with serious developmental limitations. He stopped wetting his bed at 16. He always had to be reminded to brush his teeth and, later, to shave. And he was friends with a neighbor just a little younger than him, who, it turned out, had been molesting him.


It was that young man who told Adam to expose himself.

In 2013 he (and that neighbor) was placed on the registry and Adam's life changed.

Because registrants are not allowed in any forest preserve or public park, he stopped walking the dog on the trail and started walking around the apartment, following the Roomba.

And because registrants cannot be around anyone under age 18, Adam stopped going out to dinner or the movies with other special needs young adults, and stayed home, talking to Alexa.


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