It’s Live and Learn with Autism

By Nicole Hegewald

Laura Shumaker is a mother and a writer. She began writing a blog for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her first article was on Tuesday, October, 27, 2009.  Laura introduced herself and her situation. She talks, mainly, about her 19-year-old son, Matthew, who is severely autistic. She proudly announces that she is an autism “expert” after living with her son.

Laura updates her blog frequently

Laura updates her blog frequently

“Like many parents raising children with autism, I’ve become an expert. So come back to read my stories but also ask me questions. If I can’t answer them I’ll find someone who can,” Laura writes in her opening blog.

Laura had the difficult task of deciding and realizing that her son was unfit to live in an unsupervised community and decided to move him to Camphill Special School in Pennsylvania, where he is thriving. She tells stories of Matthew in awkward occurrences that make the reader chuckle and in dangerous mishaps that make the reader gasp. It was a few of these more dangerous accidents that made Laura realize that she could not provide Matthew with the protection he needed.

“My husband and I came to the conclusion that Matthew was no longer safe in the community where he had grown up, and his impulsive actions were putting others in peril,” Laura explains.

Laura also writes about the rest of the family and the difficult times they have dealing with Matthew’s behavior. She tells stories of how her family finds it hard to be patient with Matthew and how they move past the irritations they cause each other, with her as middle-man.

On November 1, 2009, Laura tells the story of how there are good people in the world, and all it takes is a little compassion (and about two dollars) to make someone’s world that much brighter. When she went to visit her son in Pennsylvania he wanted to show her this bakery with tons of cookies. He was proud of the few dollars he had saved up to buy “…7 oatmeal cookies with those good raisins in them.”

Laura writes, “…Jenny flattened out and counted the crumpled dollar bills. He was actually two dollars short, but she winked at me, handed Matthew his bag of cookies – and a nickel in change. ‘Thank you,’ I mouthed, putting my hand to my heart, and Jenny flashed the most glorious smile. ‘Well, I’ve got to get going now,’ said Matthew, ‘I’m very busy.’ As we walked back to the car, Matthew grinned as if he had just hit a grand slam. And Jenny? She hit it out of the park.”

Laura is a real person with real problems and real stories that other people may be able to relate to. Her stories are heart wrenching and full of mistakes everyone can learn from as well as her personal advice on what to do in a similar situation.  Her most recent post was on 12/03/09 Laura urges readers to get involved and express themselves reaching out to all people and not just people who know Autism.

This entry was posted in Autism Awareness, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Media Coverage, Autism Research, Autism Resources, Autism Symptoms, Autism Treatment and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Kathy Entwistle
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed this article. I teach a young man with Autism- high end. What a treat. He comes out with the funniest comments.
    I have had two others in my career. Both have taught me unconditional love and an extra measure of patience. I am blessed.

  2. janine rivera
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Laura i was reading ur story and i am living a simualar situation my son is 6 years old does not speak maybe a few words not much he takes off all the time we got him a tracking braclet that is hooked up to the police department i just want you to know ur a great mom to write about ur life with ur child

    janine Rivera

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