Lisa Pugliese-LaCroix's Love Serving Autism Tennis Program Continues to Change Lives

Jaret Kappelman | April 06, 2023

Tennis is one of the biggest sports in the state of Florida with over 1.5 million people participating. USTA Florida has been promoting that “Tennis is for all” regardless of your skill, age, or background. And thanks to one of our partners, Love Serving Autism (LSA), people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are able to share this passion with the rest of the world.


Based in South Florida, LSA was founded back in 2017, by Lisa Pugliese-LaCroix and is a non-profit organization that provides specialized therapeutic tennis programs. Lisa is a speech-language pathologist and loves working with people of all ages to conquer their life goals.

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She played tennis her whole life and even won a National Championship at the University of Florida. Unfortunately, her pro career was cut short due to a back injury, but that never killed her love for the game. 


In 2017, she came up with what would soon become one of the top programs for autistic players. “I saw some opportunities for some clinical therapeutic development for speech and language, social and life skills,” she said. “I had a new vision, it’s on a tennis court but we’re using the sport of tennis as therapy.”


This vision turned into Love Serving Autism, an organization with a mission to expand life skills, especially functional communication, through multidisciplinary specialized therapeutic tennis instruction to increase community inclusion and independence of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Challenges. 


Despite not having any guidance, Lisa knew this was something that she wanted to do. “I literally started a nonprofit myself and I had no form of training,” she recalled. “I switched careers, from tennis my whole life to giving back and helping others, which actually made me feel so happy.”


For her work with Love Serving Autism, Lisa was awarded the Eve Kraft Community Service Award in 2022. This award highlights significant contributions by individuals involved in tennis development through community associations, parks and recreation departments, schools or community centers.


The program also was recognized by the Florida Recreation & Park Association with the Innovative Programming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion award in 2022.


“Seeing a child with autism progress from red to orange to green dot balls and play tournaments and do what they’re doing provides such a sense of satisfaction in my own life,” Lisa said. “I put down my racket, but I’m back for a different reason.”

Love Serving Autism can be seen in action at the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup, on Saturday April 15. The program will be hosting a showcase, demonstrating how tennis can help individuals with autism by increasing their motor, language, social, problem-solving skills, and more. Everyone is welcomed to come out and observe the display of tennis.


If you are interested in volunteering with Love Serving Autism or know someone with autism spectrum disorder that could benefit from this program, visit loveservingautism.org.



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