Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Words With: Laura Shumaker

AW: What was your first reaction to your child's diagnosis?
LS: I was sure that the psychologist got it wrong. While I knew something was not quite right, I was determined to fix it.

AW: What was your defining moment of acceptance?
LS: Matthew was ten years old, I was wiped out from trying to manage his disruptive behavior, and it hit me that his condition was life long. It was a dark time, but once I grasped the concept, I knew I had to accept it and move forward.

AW: What inspired you to start your blog?  Your book?
LS: I was inspired to write my book because of family and friends misconception that Matthew was a burden to me. How can a child that you love so much be a burden? I wanted to explain,  and hoped that my story would help others learn to love and accept Matthew, quirks and all, and teach them to be more tolerant in the differences of others. I was inspired to write my blog to continue the conversation!

AW: What has been your most rewarding aspect of being special needs writer/advocate?
LS: I feel like I have helped a lot of people. I think that when parents read about my challenges raising Matthew they realize that they are not alone. I try to show how I solve problems so that they feel empowered to tackle their own challenges.

AW: What advice would you offer parents of recently diagnosed children?
1) Download the 100 day kit from Autism Speaks. What a great tool.
2) Allow yourself time to grieve and do not blame your spouse!
3) Build a community of other parents like yourself.
4) Remember that your child has a place in the world
5) Learn as much as you can-knowledge is power
6) Keep your sense of humor!
7) Pray for patience

AW: Feelings on diagnosis in 6 words or less.
LS: Hard, but character building!!
Laura Shumaker has also contributed to the Through the Looking Glass (TTLG) series: 
Autism and Parenting-5 Tips to Reduce Stress
Laura Shumaker is the author of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism and is a City Bright for the San Francisco Chronicle. She has contributed to several anthologies, including Voices of Autism, A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs,Writin’ on Empty, and the forthcoming Gravity Pulls You In. She is a regular contributor to NPR Perspectives and a columnist for 5 Minutes for Special Needs. Laura’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa TimesLiterary Mama, the East Bay MonthlyThe Autism Advocate and on CNN.COM.
Laura speaks regularly to schools, book and disability groups.
She lives in Lafayette, California with her husband Peter and her three sons.

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.