“I would love to work for them,” Lisa Cain, graphic designer and mother of two, said of OAR. “I could design for them and help other people. My goal was always to help other people.”
Cain is the mother of Chloe, 18, and Joshua, 14, who has autism. Since day one, Cain has jumped through every hoop to be what her family needs her to be. When Cain and her husband, Geoff, became concerned with Josh’s development, she quit her job and started freelancing so she could be home with her son.
“My son was about three years old at the time, and he wasn’t talking at all,” Cain said. “We wanted to bring him to a special Pre-K program in our school district, but it was only half a day, so it really required me to be available.”
At first, Josh received an ADHD diagnosis, but Cain was not convinced it was what he truly had.
“I always had an inkling that it was a lot more than that going on then,” Cain said.
“I could design for [OAR] and help other people.
My goal was always to help other people.”
As any mother would, she refused to accept a less-than-accurate conclusion when it came to her child’s health and well-being. When Josh was finally diagnosed with autism, Cain immediately began her lifelong journey down the path of autism research, organizations, and resources.
“Just like all parents with a new diagnosis, you dive in headfirst trying to find out all the information, as much as you possibly can,” Cain said. “At the time, [the doctors] gave you your diagnosis and then said, ‘good luck, goodbye.’ I found OAR and just loved what they were doing and the resources that they offered at the time.”
When she found OAR, Cain couldn’t wait to leave her mark on the organization. She has designed graphics for the RUN brochures, resources like the college and sibling guides, logos and branding, and, her favorite project, OAR’s Kit for Kids.
Cain’s relationship with OAR began in 2008 after she left her full-time corporate job and started up Lisa Cain Design.
“I’ve been working with OAR for 10 years,” Cain said. “I can’t believe it’s been 10 years! It’s always been wonderful working with OAR.”
“We’re kind of all over the place, but we’re flexible.
That’s what works for us.”
You can bet that Cain has even used some of OAR’s other resources to help her own children. When one sibling has autism and the other does not, it can be hard for the neurotypical child to understand why their sibling is getting so much more attention than them. This lack of understanding can cause tension if it goes unchecked.
“[I used] Life as an Autism Sibling: A Guide for Teens with my daughter,” Cain said. “[Josh] had to get a lot of attention; he needed a lot of attention. And I think a lot of times there was some resentment there. In fact, I remember laying out the sibling guide and talking to her about some of the really good resources in there.”
Josh and Chloe’s relationship continued to improve, thanks to Cain’s proactive nature. Her attentive and devoted parenting, supplemented by OAR’s sibling support resources, left no room for malice between the two.
“They’re really close,” Cain said. “If we’re out shopping or something, Joshua’s always thinking about his big sister. He wants to bring her some candy or something.”
Cain has been homeschooling Josh since he was in fifth grade. “He’s very much high-functioning,” Cain said. “He really excels in mathematics… the only thing was I guess the processing time for word problems. And everybody hates word problems, right? He took an extra-long time to work out his word problems, and they decided they’re going to throw him in a special education math class. Not just the math class, but across the board, all special education classes… I didn’t agree with it.”
Contrary to the school’s opinion, Josh excels in his homeschool math classes, and has even expressed interest in pursuing Mathematics as his major in college. He also plays the piano and is competing in Special Olympics tennis this year.
When it comes to Josh and Chloe, Cain would go to the ends of the earth to bring their dreams and aspirations to life – even when Josh decided he wants to enroll in a program with the EAA Young Eagles that teaches young adults how to fly airplanes.
“It’s so wonderful to hear that something that I touched is helping people, especially kids.”
“Whatever Joshua’s interested in, I’m bringing it to the table for him,” Cain said. “Both my kids… whatever they’re interested in, I’m gung-ho bringing it to the table so they can experience it.”
According to Cain, “life is an adventure, and we’re embracing it!”
On top of going above and beyond her motherly duties, Cain creates healthcare and medical graphic design for other associations and foundations. She has won numerous awards for her graphic designs, including one for Kit for Kids, and has been featured in the Graphic Design USA magazine.
“I’ve won a few awards in the last seven years,” Cain said. “I’ve also been recognized as a socially responsible designer because of my work with autism.”
At the end of the day, Cain strives to be the best advocate and parent she can be. Her greatest priority is to help people get through what her family has gone through. With a heart and talent like Cain’s, there are no limits to how you can change the world.
When asked what she gets out of creating artwork for organizations like OAR, Cain says she experiences great fulfillment.
“It’s wonderful knowing that I’m helping people,” Cain said. “It’s so wonderful to hear that something that I touched is helping people, especially kids. I’m a really empathetic person, so it just touches me deeply. And that’s what I want to do; I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Join Cain and advocate for your loved ones, or those who can’t advocate for themselves.
Learn more about OAR’s resources and how you can use them to affect change in your community.