From 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.
Michelle Del Rosario