25 things about me: a brief history of motherhood, autism style

1) My husband and I planned on having our first child after two years of marriage.Matthew beat us by 2 months.

Hopeful parentsHopeful parents

2) I took Matthew on a job interview when he was eight weeks old because I couldn’t bear to leave him with a babysitter.

3) The first person that told me that Matthew, then three, was developmentally delayed was a speech therapist. She was also the first person who didn’t mention how adorable he was.

Dreamy Matthew, age one

Dreamy Matthew, age one

4) My husband and I coached Matthew before his next evaluation with a child psychologist. We read him Richard Scary’s Best Word Book Ever.

5) When the child psychologist confirmed that Matthew was developmentally delayed, I thought that meant he could catch up. I really did.

6) Matthew lined up toys and laughed too hard at sprinklers in the garden. None of the books mentioned this behavior in the milestone department. What was going on?

7) I was angry with Matthew for being stuck on the sprinklers, and the drains, and the lights, and I felt guilty that I was angry.

8 –    When Matthew’s baby brother Andy charmed family and friends with his personality and smarts, my love for Matthew deepened.

Matthew (right) with brother Andy

Matthew (right) with brother Andy

9) Andy is now 24. My most cherished childhood memories with him are the walks we took while Matthew was with speech therapist/psychologists/occupational therapists etc.

10) Matthew’s youngest brother, John, was one week old when we tried our first miracle cure, auditory training. He is now 20 and helps Matthew film “rock-u-mentaries”. More about that another time. He is even more patient with Matthew than I am.

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Baby John

11) Matthew is WAY more capable than I ever dreamed he would be. WAY. He’s hardest working person I know.

12) It used to ruin my day when people stared at Matthew, but it doesn’t anymore.  I get that my son’s behavior can be stare worthy, and that people are curious.

13) It ruins my day when Matthew tells me he is lonely….

14) …but that happens less frequently because Matthew has friends. Isn’t that great?

15)  The year I accepted that Matthew’s autism was lifelong was also the year I had a mini-breakdown. O.K., It was more than a mini-breakdown.

16) The best things I ever did was find a good therapist.

17) My sense of humor has saved me, and it gets better every year.

18) There is nothing more genuine than one of Matthew’s smiles.

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19) There are more kind people in the world than there are jerks.

20) I cried at every IEP except for the last one.

21) I never blamed vaccines.

22) I’ve met some of the best people because of Matthew.

23)  My husband I have stayed together-I hear that is unusual.

Married 28 years (so far!)

Married 28 years (so far!)

24) I am luckier that most.

25) The lump in my throat will never go away.

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About the author

Laura Shumaker is a nationally recognized writer, autism and disabilities advocate. Her essays have appeared in many places, including the New York Times, CNN, NPR, and in a popular autism and disabilities blog for The San Francisco Chronicle. She’s the mother of three terrific sons, and her oldest son, Matthew, is the subject of her book A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism.

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