Matthew Labyorteaux, who played Albert in “Little House on the Prairie,” was born with autism and a hole in his heart. He and his brother Patrick, who played Andy in the show, were adopted. Matthew turned 56 and shared that he married and became a stepfather.
In 1978, Patrick Labyorteaux was 13 and already acting on “Little House on the Prairie,” as Andy Garvey. Less than a month after his birth, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and his adopted brother, Matthew, was 11.
Matthew joined the series that year and played the role of a street urchin named Albert, who the Ingalls took in. Michael Landon revealed at the time that he chose the two boys because of their talents in acting and the way they looked.
The “Little House on the Prairie” season 7 cast, Matthew Labyorteaux, Michael Landon, Brenda/Wendi Turnbaugh, Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson, Karen Grassle, and Lindsay/Sidney Greenbush in an undated image | Source: Getty Images
However, Landon also noted that the two boys were unique, evident on-screen and off. The star explained how the pair had a “sensitivity” that probably related to their background.
Matthew wasn’t even supposed to act at all! He tagged along with Patrick to a United Way audition where a woman asked if he wanted to do a screen test, and his older brother panicked.
Patrick told the woman that Matthew would throw a tantrum just from being touched, but the younger boy surprised him by following her into a room. The younger Labyorteaux boy got the part and played Peter Falk’s son in “A Woman under the Influence.”
In 1986, he joined “Little House,” and Landon recalled a promise he’d made to friends whose son died in a car crash. He vowed that if he found a boy with their son Albert’s qualities, he’d cast him with the same name.
“Little House: A New Beginning” cast Matthew Labyorteaux, Michael Landon, and Melissa Gilbert on July 13, 1983 | Source: Getty Images
Matthew joined the series when the Ingalls relocated to Winoka. Besides having to be adopted as a child, the younger Labyorteaux son struggled with various personal issues.
Matthew’s Adoptive Parents, Brother, Autism, and a Hole in Heart
Patrick and his brother had the support of their adoptive parents, Frankie and Ron Labyorteaux when they joined “Little House.” Ron was an interior designer, while his wife was a former actress.
Frankie recalled how Patrick was diagnosed with schizophrenia at three weeks old because his “high-strung” energy caused him to be unable to keep food down. When his adoptive parents got him, he was malnourished and exhausted.
His mother said he’d experience cold sweats when people tried to touch him; however, with lots of love and a gentle but firm hand, Patrick’s symptoms disappeared in a few years. The couple’s success with him made them want to adopt another child, and that was Matthew.
Frankie recalled the adoption agency telling them Matthew was born with a hole in his heart but would heal naturally. However, the agency refused to acknowledge his autism, and he couldn’t walk until age three or talk until five, with his mother stating:
“He slept standing up in his crib, and when anyone would try to pick him up he would scream and try to get away.”
“Little House on the Prairie” cast Matthew Labyorteaux on October 15, 1980 | Source: Getty Images
For months, Frankie lay on the floor with a screaming child while she tried to hold him down and calm him by telling the boy she’d love him no matter what! Psychiatrists and other medical professionals didn’t believe there was a chance Matthew would become normal.
Matthew [Labyorteaux] said sharing the show and memories with others was fun.
At age seven, Patrick began taking acting therapy and became a professional who took part in Cheerios and McDonald’s commercials. Frankie suffered a stroke a few years before, and her husband had a deadly but undiagnosed illness.
Despite their health issues, the parents were cheered up by their sons’ successes. Although the two had different features – one had blue eyes, the other brown – people knew the duo was brothers.
One day, “Little House” star Melissa Gilbert told Patrick that he and Matthew shouldn’t fight, but the pair hardly did. Frankie believed they’d been through too much negativity to be petty, and despite a rough start, Matthew was now thriving.
Matthew’s Current Life as a Husband with Two Stepchildren
Since July 17, 2020, Matthew has been married to Leslie Labyorteaux, and they shared two children in 2022. During a 2021 interview, the actor recalled how “Little House” was a fan-favorite show with sweet and touching storylines that he watched with his stepchildren.
He revealed that his god-daughter and his friends’ children had phases where they watched the series too. Matthew, who turned 56 on December 8, 2022, said sharing the show and memories with others was fun.
When asked if he was on social media, the actor revealed he wasn’t so “big” on it and marveled at his children, nieces, and nephews on how fluent they were about the platforms. However, it was lost on him, and he never had a reason to try learning it.