By Lisa Ackerman
Training is a big part of TACA. We take the job of supporting families living with autism very seriously and training is a key element of everything we provide.
We are blessed with over 500 active volunteers assisting TACA, our mission and the families we serve. We are deeply indebted for the thousands of hours they give to help families like theirs.
We have a variety of volunteer groups consisting of chapter coordinators, key meeting volunteers, mentors, office and event volunteers, and autism youth ambassadors.
Today is the start of our 7th Annual TACA Leadership Conference for volunteer coordinators to continue efforts in their own communities.
Chapter volunteer coordinators are community leaders at TACA. They lead volunteer chapters and give an extraordinary amount of time to help further our mission in 19 states. All coordinators are parents of children living with autism. Chapter coordinators go through an interview, training and multiple-step process before being awarded a chapter in their area. Other steps to qualify for a chapter include: amount of need in the particular geographic area, quantity of volunteers to meet the need and financial support from their community. TACA does our best to bring on chapters in a way that we can support and help them thrive. We know many communities would like a chapter and the organization will consider chapters that are best fits for the communities meeting our stringent criteria. It is also important to ensure we can help sustain chapters as they are added since TACA’s budget is small. (1: for a list of current chapters)
Key meeting volunteers support the volunteer coordinators and provide invaluable efforts to help the chapters run smoothly. They are both parent of children living with autism and friends.
Mentors are our “coordinators in training” and provide much needed 1-to-1 support to families living with autism. Mentors must be a minimum of two years on their autism journey and must apply to be a TACA mentor. They receive initial and follow up training so they have the best practices to support families. Mentors can upgrade to possibly become chapter leaders with a minimum of six months of services in their community. Individuals who want to be considered to bring a TACA chapter to their community need to start as a mentor. (2: more about our mentor program)
Office volunteers receive training – especially if they are answering the phones. We want them to know how to answer questions about autism and best direct families to the support they need. (3: TACA volunteer opportunities)
Event volunteers help TACA with numerous special events that occur every year across the U.S. We want them to know about TACA, autism and our mission.
Autism Youth Ambassadors are fantastic teens that help train each other about autism and how to be a good friend right in their community. They are autism ambassadors helping to share information in their community and the importance of why autism support is needed. (4: more about our Autism Youth Ambassador program)
TACA also understands the great value of providing training for parents. We know that empowered and educated parents can really drive positive change for their families and their child (or children) diagnosed with autism. Chapter meetings and other parent education efforts provide training and education through our Real Help Now Conferences, Autism Education Seminars and Autism Journey Seminars for new parents. (5: Parent Education events & 6: Conferences)
We recently introduced webinars for families who don’t have a TACA chapter near and want to receive training right in their own homes. Webinars are based on the TACA blueprints and also cover other important issues for families on their autism journey (7: webinars)
I wish I could pay these volunteers for the hours they serve. One volunteer shared with me the most beautiful quote “The more I volunteer for TACA, the more I receive in return. This experience has helped my family and helped me pay it forward to other families like mine. I love that these new families don’t feel alone.”
1) Chapters: https://www.tacanow.org/local-chapters/
2) Mentors: http://www.tacanow.org/about-taca/parent-mentor-program/
3) Volunteer opportunities: http://www.tacanow.org/ways-to-help/volunteer-opportunities/
4) Autism Youth Ambassadors: http://www.tacanow.org/ways-to-help/autism-youth-ambassadors/
Parent education events http://www.tacanow.org/events/parent-education-events/
6) Real Help Now conferences: http://www.realhelpnowconference.com
7) Webinars: http://www.tacanow.org/webinars/