Morning Fill Up with Lorri Shealy Unumb, Esq.

Vice President of State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks
Held February 27, 2019 at 7am at The Garage

Lorri Shealy Unumb is a lawyer, professor, mother of three boys, and an internationally renowned autism advocate. Her work has changed the country’s understanding of autism, and expanded treatment options for families impacted by this disorder.

Now, she will sit down with Matt Ehlman, PhD of The Numad Group on Wednesday, February 27 at 7am at The Garage in downtown Rapid City. The two will discuss the power of volunteerism, the complexities of getting the care you need, and how her firstborn son’s diagnosis with autism inspired her to advocate for her son—and all children with autism—nationally.

Following her firstborn son’s diagnosis with autism, Lorri began working in autism advocacy as a volunteer, writing groundbreaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law”) that passed in 2007 and served as the catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. In recognition of Ryan’s Law, Lorri was awarded the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” Award (along with her husband Dan).

She then was recruited by the New York-based nonprofit Autism Speaks, where today she advocates full-time on behalf of individuals with autism as the vice president of state government affairs. In her role, she has testified more than 100 times on health insurance issues in legislatures throughout the United States and beyond.

Lorri began her legal career clerking for a United States District Judge in Charleston, South Carolina, and then moved to Washington, D.C. to practice law with the United States Department of Justice. She enjoyed a fulfilling career as an appellate litigator, arguing cases all over the United States. After two academic stints at law schools in Washington, D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina, she began teaching advocacy at the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center. She also hosted an award-winning weekly television show called “The Law with Professor Lorri.”

In 2010, she founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a nonprofit, year-round treatment center for children with autism, and she still serves as chairman of the board of directors. Lorri and Dan also wrote the first-ever comprehensive textbook on legal issues related to autism, called “Autism and the Law.”  Additionally, Lorri is in her 13th year of organizing and conducting the annual “Autism Law Summit,” a national gathering of parents and professionals who advocate for legal and policy changes to better the lives of individuals with autism.

Recently, she was appointed by the governor of South Carolina to serve as a Commissioner for the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, which administers several of the state’s Medicaid waivers. She is also in her third year as an Appointed Consumer Representative for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Her work has been profiled on CNN, on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and in Town&Country magazine, from whom she received one of three 2009 “Women Who Make a Difference” Awards. She is also profiled in the American Academy of Pediatrics 2013 book “Autism Spectrum Disorders:  What Every Parent Needs to Know.”

Lorri is a magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of South Carolina.

News Coverage

“SD Families Lose Coverage To Treat Autism”, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, February 27, 2019