Why autism moms act the way they do

I ran into a friend at the dog park this morning and she asked me if I was “OK”.

“When I saw you last week, you looked like you were on the verge of tears.”

What was going on that day? Oh yeah…


Autism mom (me) holding it together--for nowAutism mom (me)holding it together but about to snap

Why to we act the way we do?

Here are just some behaviors you may see in moms like me and what they could mean:

1) We cry spontaneously for what appear to be weird reasons. Our specialty is crying in public and at IEP meetings, and let me tell you, it is not pretty.

Cashier at 7/11: “May I help you?”

Autism Mom: sniff, sniff, sob…”I’m not sure.Thank you for asking. I’m just feeling emotional right now.”

Why do we behave this way?

a)We aren’t sleeping

b)Our already busy and emotionally intense days are punctuated with phone calls that catch us off guard and hurt our feelings.

c)Our child does something amazing or really funny, we tell a friend and it is clear they don’t get why it’s such a big deal. We hold it together until the nice cashier at 7/11 say’s “May I help you?”

2) We join a book club. We think it’s a good idea to do something intellectually and socially stimulating,and then we never show up.


a) Evenings are hard. Our kids need us. We are drained.

b) We did not read the book and worry that we’ll say stupid things just to sound smart.

c) We are nervous about hosting book club at our house.

3) We are socially awkward. We didn’t used to be, but now we blurt out bold statements like “Hysterectomy? I had mine vaginally. What about you?” (or worse “has your wife had one yet? “)

Why do we behave this way?

a) We are immersed in the world of quirky kids. We’re out of practice.

b) We’re tired

c) We feel so lucky to be invited places that we are manic.

4) We become hostile when family, friends (and especially husbands) ask us “What did you do today?”

Why do we behave this way?

a) We don’t like the tone of the question (and there is no right tone)

b) We know in our hearts that we did the best we could today-how do you express that?

c)Let’s face it — no one likes that question!

5) As we age, lose interest in gossip because:


a) We know how it feels to be whispered about

b) We learn that everyone has a story

c) We know how it feels to be whispered about.


God bless us, and God bless our kids!


Have you read Laura’s book? It’s great. Read the first three chapters HERE and order it HERE.




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.


  1. Christa says

    I can totally relate to all of them (maybe not the hysterectomy one specifically, but I’ve come close). I kind of forgot that I wasn’t always so socially awkward and used to have friends once upon a time.

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