Meet Lisa H.
What inspired me to really step up my donations was the Autism Cares grant program. Anything I can do to reduce the burden on other families in similar situations, I will do.
When the eldest of her two children, John Patrick, was diagnosed with autism in the mid-1990s, Lisa Higgins Hussman’s motherly instincts immediately kicked in. She knew she wanted to provide the best possible services for her son but finding those services would prove to be the difficult part.
At the time, JP, as he’s more commonly known, was just 18 months old, and autism services were lacking in many areas of the country. Lisa knew JP would need applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy and access to developmental training and life skill supports in order to reach his full potential, so she immediately began researching autism-centric preschools that could offer her son the specialized care he needed.
“At the time we were living in Michigan, but we wound up finding an amazing school for JP down in Florida,” she explains. “He needed those vital services like speech and occupational therapies, as well as the developmental skills like toilet training and other skills children need at that age. It was a big deal to make the move, but we knew that’s where he needed to be.”
A few years later, after JP showed much progress at his school in Florida, the family moved to Maryland where he was enrolled in a full-inclusion public school. With individualized assistance from a “one-to-one” aide, he was able to focus on academics while gaining the valuable socialization skills and life experiences to best prepare him for the future. Thanks to his family’s dedication to ensuring he received early intervention and transition services, today, JP is 26 and gaining more independence by the day.
“He still needs around-the-clock care, but JP is living on his own and we’re so proud of him. He has learned many life skills like sign language and his iPad for most of his communication, but is increasing his language skills every day,” Lisa said. “He does music therapy and many other therapies and activities that keep him engaged, like going on long hikes and doing yoga.”
Thanks to a lifetime of firsthand experiences with JP and deep-rooted passion for helping other families touched by autism obtain proper services throughout the life span, Lisa has been a steadfast supporter of Autism Speaks since 2007 – contributing annually to this cause that is so near to her heart.
Through the Lisa Higgins Hussman Foundation, Lisa has made generous gifts to the Autism Treatment Network site at Kennedy Krieger and made substantial annual gifts to Autism Speaks Cares, part of direct assistance efforts led by the Autism Response Team (ART), which have made a meaningful impact on the lives of countless autistic people and their families. In 2013, she established the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship Program to help empower students with autism to attend college, postsecondary programs, vocational, technical or trade schools. Thankfully, she and her family were able to provide JP with everything he needed in life, but Lisa had made it part of her life’s work to ensure other children are just as fortunate.
“What inspired me to really step up my donations was the Autism Cares grant program. Anything I can do to reduce the burden on other families in similar situations, I will do. It’s just really rewarding to be able to help out. I know what it’s like to have a child on the spectrum and financially it can sometimes be a struggle. I’m fortunate to be in a position to help, so I am going to do that.”
With supporters like Lisa Higgins Hussman in our corner, Autism Speaks can continue to promote solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the need of people with autism and their families.