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AOA Awards: Lisa Ackerman, Person of the Year

Lisa-ackermanFrom the Editors: Today we kick off the Age of Autism Awards 2010 on a real high note by honoring Lisa Ackerman and TACA. As we've traveled around the country this year, we've seen first-hand the energy, experience and expertise that the local chapters bring to their mission of offering real help, right now. Entering its second decade, TACA is gaining strength and momentum. Their free handbook for parents is itself a contribution of the first magnitude; everyone who reads it wishes they had it when their child was diagnosed. Here is a nomination that says it all:

TACA was formed ten years ago when several local families whose children were affected by Autism met in the Ackerman family living room. Today it has grown to support more than 15,000 families across the U.S., faithfully sticking to their philosophy of providing real help, right now to existing members and the more than 400 families that join their organization each month. There are no membership fees to join TACA and they are able to provide 95% of their services at no cost to families.
 
My husband and I have a ten year old son, William, who is severely affected by Autism. Three years ago, we were at a loss. Our son was not thriving, he was not responding to the therapies or treatments his school was providing. The worst of all was that we had a son who could not talk or communicate, was crying and distressed much of the time, but we didn’t know why. We were spending countless hours in meetings with our school district, trying to get referrals to doctors and specialists who could help our son. As with anything, these referrals took time. We had just discovered that William, like many other autistic children, was allergic to gluten and casein and we were faced with the daunting task of overhauling his diet. I decided to attend a TACA sponsored event at a local organic market where TACA’s founder herself, Lisa Ackerman, spent more than an hour helping other moms navigate through the store finding healthy and tasty alternative food choices for their children. If you ever attend a TACA sponsored event, you will find that this is very typical of Lisa along with her staff and volunteers. They will stay as long as necessary until the very last question is answered, and always have a hug or kind words of encouragement to help parents through the most difficult of times. Since then TACA has helped us find support and referrals to doctors and therapists who have made a profound difference in our son’s quality of life.  On any given day we, or any other family for that matter, can contact TACA and get an answer or referral to someone who might be able to help, either immediately that day, or within a day or two.  This year in particular has been especially helpful. I have been able to attend TACA's Law Day, which empowered me to better advocate for my child at school, I continue to learn about biomedical treatments at their meetings and lectures, and have met the most amazing TACA moms who are my rock and network of support whenever I need it. When I look back at our IEP three years ago where the goals presented encompassed very little academics, and they told me my son would never write nor did he need ABA, I am amazed that a group of professionals could be so wrong about my child. Through TACA's guidance and support, I was able to find the help we needed to get my son the services he requires. We have a very different child today. While William is still quite challenged by his diagnosis of autism, we have an amazing little boy who can write, is learning to read, receptively understands most of what we say, navigates his communication program on his iPad, is beginning to approximate words, and most importantly, is healthy and happy.  We still have a long way to go, but I know without a doubt, we would not be where we are today without the help of Lisa Ackerman and TACA. I respectfully ask that you consider Lisa and TACA to receive this year's AOA Award.
 
Most Sincerely,

Michelle Del Rosario

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Absolutely perfect choice! Congrats! Thanks for being truly inspirational. Your tireless dedication motivates us all.

Very well deserved. Congratulations to Ms. Ackerman.

Lisa Rocks, she changed our family forever @ a DAN conference in 2003. Now she's changing the country. No words could ever say thank you enough.

Brandi

PS I neglected to mention that I met the wonderful Becky Estepp that day too..another fast moving brilliant light!

I believe it was April of 2007 when I attended a TACA conference in Orange County. It was then that I started to do research for my documentary on vaccines (which I will complete – trust me). I sat in shock as dozens and dozens of parents of vaccine injured children approached the microphone to ask (another angel) Dr. Kartinzel very pointed scientific medical questions about the health status of their children. The medical knowledge these parents had, took my breath away. What they knew and what they were doing to get their children healthy is something I will NEVER FORGET. Among the crowd of devastated (and I mean devastated parents) was this fast moving brilliant positive light, Lisa Ackerman. She opened up about her son, her husband and her daughter to this group of 300 plus strangers. She offered hope, love and positivity that I will never forget, plus, she started TACA and brought everyone together to learn and heal at the conference. The whole day was because of her vision, her efforts…. Her dad is right on! Lisa, you are very special!!! I will never forget meeting you, and watching you in absolute awe! Fondly, Claudine Liss

Good for you Lisa, I can't think of a more deserving person. You have saved, and helped countless families with TACA and the services you provide. I have watched your organization help my family for years. You are always there for anyone who needs your help. Well done, and a personal “Thank You” from the Rose Family.

Love Lisa and TACA!

Yes indeed what would all of us do without Lisa and those like her who have given so much of their time and energy to assist us!!!

Re: "We had just discovered that William, like many other autistic children, was allergic to gluten and casein and we were faced with the daunting task of overhauling his diet. I decided to attend a TACA sponsored event at a local organic market where TACA’s founder herself, Lisa Ackerman, spent more than an hour helping other moms navigate through the store finding healthy and tasty alternative food choices for their children."

I would have never suspected that my grandson had a gluten problem without this information on the internet that is provided by Lisa and many others. The milk allergy was obvious: hives, excema, asthma, etc. but we didn't realize the gluten problem until we removed it from his diet. OMG, the negative behaviors and stomach aches. As if we needed a big fat reminder, my neice accidentally left her bagels in the kitchen refrigerator instead of hiding them in the garage fridge, and of course he found them and was stuffing them in his mouth before we noticed. I gave him gluten enzymes immediately and he still had a terrible day over it. No more bagels in the house---this is WAR!!!

Hmmm. Re your "We were spending countless hours in meetings with our school district, trying to get referrals to doctors and specialists who could help our son.": unfortunately, the school district is the LAST place a parent needs to go for referrals. Many can find good MDs via emails on FEAT.org. Try the local university medical center pediatrics unit.
Be very careful of the "psychologist" you use. Some are paid by school districts (which often do not want to pay the costs of an effective asd treament [e.g., ABA]). Again check with parents on your local FEAT.org.

Congrats to Lisa, a very deserving recipient!!

Love your smile Lisa!
It's a sign of determination and confidence.
There is hope and help for parents.
It's the best message on earth!
Anne

Congratulations Lisa!

WOOHOO!! Yeah Jeff's Mom!!!! Love you and all you do. And Michelle - you wrote an awesome letter and you know I love ya too. xoxo

Congratulations Lisa. It has been an honor serving beside you all of these years. Keep it up girlfriend!!!

Excellent choice! Congratulations, Lisa!

LIsa, You are truly our "family jewel". Awards don't say enough about you but will do until God seats you next to him.

Your ol' pops
Ron

Lisa Ackerman,

Congratulations on winning the award! You deserve it. My mom and I just recently found out about TACA, and we both highly enjoy reading it. We both learned many new and interesting things. It is an excellent organization for biomedical treatments. Keep up the good work on behalf of the Autism Spectrum community.

- Katie

I have emails from Lisa Ackerman that are approximately eleven years old, when she first coached me on diet do's and don'ts for my now-recovered son who just turned 13. Awesome choice, perfect choice. Thanks Lisa, and TACA!

Congratulations Lisa!

Lisa is such a hero. I struggle to get through every day and think it is a real accomplishment to write a few posts a month. Lisa founded and organizes a huge grass roots ASD organization that serves tens of thousands of families. TACA provides invalubale and free resources. Their website is phenomenal, their govt. advocacy incredible and they provide to community is infectious. I love Lisa and I love TACA.

THANK YOU LISA!!!!

Great choice!!! Thank you Lisa from the bottom of my heart. My family owes you more gratitude than words can express. Thanks for making the information available at a time when I couldn't see the light. My boys are doing better and better everyday and it's TACA information that has led us there!

Congratulations Lisa!!! Thank you for providing hope and support as we navigate our way and learn to embrace our Autism journey. We are forever grateful to you and TACA for all you do.

Lisa Ackerman is a rock star! I have the greatest love and respect for her as a leader, a humanitarian, a friend and a mom. I'm so happy to see her honored here. The key to Lisa's success? She puts our kids first - 100% of the time! Congratulations, Jeff's Mom! :-)

When I first met Lisa at the Real Help Now conference in 2010, I expected her to be this larger-than-life caliber of woman who a mother like me with tattoos, piercings, and entirely too much black eyeliner for the comfort of mainstream society would NEVER be given the opportunity to speak with. Not only did she stand with me and talk at length about both of my affected children (13 Aspergers, 3 Autism), she encouraged me to sign up to become a parent mentor myself, because she said that she believed that I "was ready." That conversation set in motion a chain of events that not only led to me becoming a TACA parent mentor, but a force of change on Camp Pendleton, where my husband is currently stationed in the Marine Corps. Had it not been for TACA, I'd never have placed my children on biomed treatments (3 weeks into GFCF, my nonverbal 3 year old said his first word...and now, with yeast tx and several other foods eliminated, he says many words, and some two word combinations) and beyond THAT even, I would still be ALONE. Part of the beauty of what TACA creates is a sense of "normalcy" in our "abnormal" world (and I hate those words, but I use them for lack of better ones right now!). With TACA, I have always felt like I have a place to come home to...a place where I am not faulted for bad parenting skills, or lack of knowledge about this or that...and a place where other parents just "get it." Lisa may not have known just how many lives she'd end up impacting when she set up that first living room meeting ten years ago, but I am so very thankful that she did. Because of her trailblazing example, it has given future Mother Warriors the courage and conviction to branch out and facilitate change. It has also given those who are lost and at the point of giving up a reason to soldier on. For this and SO many other reasons, Lisa is a phenomenal choice for Person of the Year!

Thank you, Lisa Ackerman...and thank you TACA...volunteers, staff, families, and all!

I can't think of a better person to chose. Like Michelle, I do not have the recovered kid, but I am sure in hell not going back to the one I had 6.5 years ago. Everytime he recognoizes me and smiles at me, I know that came from Lisa Ackerman putting her neck on the line and taking a chance! Love you Lisa, and thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

Bravo, Lisa! She's one of the hardest-working people around, and has helped so many families. One simply cannot say enough good things about her.

As a sponsor of TACA and more importantly as a friend I could not think of anyone more deserviing of this recognition. From everyone at NuLife Foods...congratulations!!

I am not good at this stuff. I am grateful to AoA to recognzie a MOVEMENT of families for their kids. This award is for the TACA volunteers, staff, coordinators, mentors and families we serve who fight for their kids everyday.
Further our kids work harder than I ever will. It is in their attitude and perserverance that I suck it up & find strength.
Hugs and gratitude - Lisa

Excellent choice. Lisa is a wonderful, hands-on leader who, above all else, sincerely cares for people with autism and their families. She has an keen ability to cut through all the crap and keep everyone focused on what's most important: helping families. God bless Lisa and TACA for touching so many lives so profoundly.

Lisa also helped organize the fantastic Green Our Vaccines rally in D.C.

She is a force!!!

(Time for another rally)

This is awesome! Lisa and the people at TACA, specifically TACA Orange County/Long Beach, have definitely contributed to improvement in our son's daily living and have brought our family up from despair to hope! Way to go Lisa!!

Excellent choice! Congratulations, Lisa!!

Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you Lisa, TACA and Age of Autism. I live in Mass. and here we are constantly bombarded by complete ASSHOLES who do nothing but beg for money for Autism Speaks (who, bottom line, do NOTHING for the kids)and are considered "heros" by the ignorant masses. No, people like Lisa are the real heros and are truly making a difference. Thank you again and keep up the great work.

Hurray, Lisa!!! This award is so well deserved!! It is amazing how TACA has grown over the past ten years and how much real tangible immediate and long-term help she and her team have provided to families affected by autism. It seems she is not deterred by all the complexities and controversy. She somehow plows ahead through it all. Her sense of humor, people skills, organization skills, and work ethic are quite a combination.

And what a great letter nominating her.

A very good choice! Good job in picking her, and thanks for all you do Lisa!

In Jenny McCarthy's book 'Mother Warriors' Lisa Ackerman describes her feelings of rage about how her son has been injured.

"There is a scene in the movie The Princess Bride in which the character says, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die." Well, my name is Lisa Ackerman, you poisoned my kid, and I want those years back."

I read this two years ago and I felt this great rush of energy. That is exactly how I felt when I realized what had happened to my son. This became one of my favorite Autism quotes and I use it often when describing how I feel about Nick's vaccine injury.

Reading Lisa's chapter, I felt, here is a woman who is as mad as I am and has my same, crazy sense of humor. I've never met Lisa but I've been a big admirer for a while.

Thank you Lisa and TACA!!! If it wasn't for her my family would still be lost in the sea of autism.

Congrats, Lisa! ♥

Wonderful! Lisa is truly a warm, caring and inspirational person and TACA here in IL is such a devoted group.

She is the perfect choice! Congratulations, Lisa!

Perfect choice and a well deserving individual. Contratulations, Lisa. Great work!
Maurine

Congratulations Lisa!! THANK YOU for everything you are doing, you are making a HUGE difference for so many children and their families.

Early on, Lisa's videos highlighting parents who were recovering their children really inspired me.

Great choice!

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