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Nonprofit of the Month: Autism Life & Living

As a single mom to two sons with autism, Lisa Masters was concerned for her children as they approached adulthood and she learned of the gap in support services available to them. In 2021, Masters took matters into her own hands by founding Autism Life & Living, which aims to empower young adults with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

What is the mission of Autism Life & Living? Through a comprehensive, holistic approach to providing at-risk individuals with services that reduce risk of isolation, abuse, homelessness, and factors related to unhealthy habits, we fulfill our mission to empower young adults with autism by providing programs that promote inclusion, independence, socialization and well-being.

What prompted the start of the nonprofit? As a single mom of two young men with autism who were approaching adult age, I was concerned of what would become of them when I was no longer able or here to care for them. My concern quickly turned to sheer terror when I researched options only to discover a severe gap in support services and a critical shortage of housing options. My research also revealed some rather disturbing statistics that show the severe gap in support services is in all actuality a prevailing crisis. 

It was at this point I realized I had to do something. This realization turned into the birth of Autism Life & Living (ALL). As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I founded Autism Life & Living in October 2021. It was formed to fill the severe gaps in support services and housing options for young adults with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). I don’t want any parent or caregiver to feel the hopelessness I felt. I want to offer hope that there will be a viable option that is both safe and affordable for their loved ones.

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Lisa Masters and her sons

What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? To see firsthand the positive impact our programs have on individual’s lives and their family’s lives.

What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? The biggest challenges we face are external obstacles, such as: societal mindsets, uninformed policy and lack of funding options that support capacity building. It is important to understand that it was only in 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination and is in violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and these individuals have the right to live and receive state-funded services in the community rather than institutions. The Olmstead Act, as it is called, is the most important civil rights decision for people with disabilities in our country’s history.

How can readers help? We ask individuals that are facing challenges regarding the future welfare of their children or if their philanthropic goals align with our mission, visit our website. Please make a contribution and/or sponsor our fundraising events. Funds we generate will be used to expand current program reach to serve more individuals with autism and IDD, and establish additional programs that foster healthy living habits, teach life skills related to activities of daily living and develop a safe, affordable independent living community. 

In our short life, Autism Life & Living has already helped 74 youth and young adults with autism and IDD reduce risk of isolation, establish friendships, improve social/emotional well-being, experience community inclusion and increase participation in enriching cultural events. We do so by providing support to an underserved population regardless of socio-economic level. 

Does Autism Life & Living have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? We are planning our Second Annual Golf Fore Inclusion tournament to be held in fall of this year. Details will be posted on our website. Stay tuned!

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