Lorri Shealy Unumb
Lorri Shealy Unumb is a lawyer, professor, and the mother of three children—Ryan, 13, who has autism; Christopher, 9; and Jonathan, 6. In 2005, she wrote ground-breaking 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.
Mrs. Unumb began her work in autism advocacy as a volunteer. In 2008, she was recruited by the New York-based nonprofit Autism Speaks, where she now advocates full time on behalf of individuals with autism. As head of state government affairs, she has testified more than 100 times on health insurance issues in legislatures around the country.
For her advocacy efforts, she has been recognized with the Jefferson Award for Public Service; the Autism Society of America 2008 Parents of the Year Award (along with her husband, Dan); the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Michael Hemingway Award; the California Association for Behavior Analysis 2012 Leadership in Law Award; the Miss South Carolina Pageant 2012 Woman of Achievement Award; the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts 2013 Jerry Shook Award; and the NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. Her work has been profiled on CNN, on NPR’s Morning Edition, and in Town & Country magazine, from which she received one of three 2009 Women Who Make a Difference Awards. She is profiled in the American Academy of Pediatrics 2013 book Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every Parent Needs to Know.
Before joining Autism Speaks, Ms. Unumb enjoyed a fulfilling career as an appellate litigator with the United States Department of Justice and then as a law professor at George Washington University Law School and an inaugural faculty member at the Charleston School of Law. A frequent keynote speaker, Ms. Unumb still teaches a health law course at George Washington University Law School called “Autism and the Law.” She and her husband, Dan, wrote the first-ever comprehensive textbook on legal issues related to autism, also called Autism and the Law. They recently founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a nonprofit center in Columbia serving the year-round therapeutic needs of children on the spectrum. She attended the University of South Carolina (USC), where she earned degrees magna cum laude in broadcasting and political science and was awarded a full scholarship to USC Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1993. She was named the Law School Graduate of the Year by the international legal honor society Phi Delta Phi.