When Marissa was born, her mother, Carol, was overjoyed. She recalls, “I gazed at my beautiful baby and couldn’t stop kissing her tiny fingers and toes!”

Because Carol’s a special education teacher, she felt well prepared to care for baby Marissa, who was born with Down Syndrome.

“I knew Marissa would face specific challenges,” Carol explains. “So, I organized occupational and physical therapists to help her learn and grow as best she could.”

But when Marissa was about three, Carol noticed she didn’t seem to want to play with other children. Certain sounds – like sirens – became so upsetting, it was almost impossible to calm Marissa down.

By the time her daughter turned six, Carol was constantly afraid that something would set her off into a violent tantrum. After years of managing the chaos and desperately seeking a solution, she brought Marissa to a pediatric behavior specialist.

Her diagnosis was autism. Then, a few years later, Marissa was also diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

“I actually felt a little relieved that I could finally explain Marissa’s behaviors,” Carol admits. “But I was also afraid of what the future would hold.”

Marissa’s special needs eventually exhausted her school system’s resources. Carol investigated private schools, but none of them offered complete supports for her daughter’s complex disabilities. She had no idea where to turn for help…

…until Hope came into their lives.

At Hope, Marissa receives the finest education, therapy and medical care from experts who are specifically trained to help children with her types of challenges.

“Hope has completely changed my daughter’s life,” Carol explains. “Marissa can control her mood better now so she’s finally experiencing real successes in the classroom. She’s joined Hope’s cheerleading squad. And she’s learning important life skills in Hope’s vocational program, too.”

The Hope Institute offers hopeful futures to children and families facing the extraordinary challenges of autism and other developmental disabilities, but we could never make this critical difference in so many lives without the help of generous and caring people like you.

Marissa, and all of our girls and boys, thank you for bringing Hope into their young lives. Thank you for opening your heart to Hope’s wonderful children.

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