Thanks 2018 and Hello 2019

 

by Lisa Ackerman

What just happened? Where did 2018 go? Did I experience a time warp? It feels like the time to compose this note presents itself just a little bit faster each year. Faster, though it may be, there’s no shortage of activity to report and I always enjoy the opportunity to catch everyone up on what’s going on at TACA.

This year TACA delivered more program services to more families than any previous year in our history. This was fueled by an ever-growing requirement for what TACA provides and a community of TACA supporters who contributed more than in any other year.

TACA continues to fulfill the needs of a community that is seeking hope, help and support for their children. Eighteen years ago, TACA’s services primarily centered around newly diagnosed and young children. We’ve had to expand our mission to address the new realities of families whose children with autism are now young adults.

At TACA there never seems to be a slow time. There are never extra resources just hanging around. TACA delivers its mission through a team of dedicated, hardworking and caring individuals who are all aligned with a common goal of helping families living autism. Needless to say, I’m very proud of Team TACA and what we’ve accomplished together.

TACA began its journey over 18 years ago. Every year since, I have sent out an end of year update. Every year I have shared a glimpse into my son Jeff’s journey. Inspiring, heartwarming, motivating, uplifting; none of these words are powerful enough to express the impact this young man has on my family.

This year, Jeff turned 21. That, of course, came with the fulfillment of his birthday wish. A trip to Las Vegas. I’d tell you more but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. He also completed his first semester of his third year in college. It was perhaps his toughest semester as a student. But once again he rose to a new challenge.

I feel like I say the same thing every year, and at the risk of being redundant I’m going to say it again. Jeff has shown more growth and maturity in managing stress, novel situations and independently developing new skills than the previous years. His class load included: Biology, Biology Lab, World Literature, History and Political Thought. His semester of “torture” had a required reading list of 10 books including Shakespeare’s The Tempest, John Locke Two Treatises of Government and The Communist Manifesto.

At the start of the year Jeff met with his counselor to discuss his upcoming class schedule. It was at this time he learned that the current semester was informally referred to as “the weeding out” semester. He was told to expect the courses to be extremely difficult, but this was the last big hurdle before he could begin focusing on his major in sports medicine. School work, homework and tutoring became more than a full-time job and Jeff worked diligently seven days a week. Did he bellyache or bemoan about the task in front of him? Nope, he dove in with a positive attitude and a smile. Something I wish I could adopt more often in my days!

Yet, we knew, dealing with the stress of passing these classes would be a challenge. Especially since Jeff is always focused on doing well and getting good grades. So, Team Jeff brainstormed ways to manage and adjust perspective. In the spirit of always trying to find the lighter side of things we came up with a fun frame of reference for Jeff to put everything into perspective. The new tagline for his college experience: D’s gets degrees! He loved it. It worked. Jeff completed the semester with almost a B average.

Jeff continues music lessons in piano and guitar. He continues to commit to regular exercise and helping me in the kitchen with even more gluten free and dairy free creations. His favorite activity includes going to any live concert – his favorites this year Jacks 13th Show and Surf City Blitz with headliner Social Distortion.  This man likes to rock.

Jeff has come so far since his autism diagnosis and original prognosis (see earlier blogs for those details (1). The most important lesson that I’ve learned: Individuals with an autism diagnosis can have a positive future and are worth every effort to help them achieve that goal. Team TACA’s wish is that they are able to be fulfilled, happy and successful while living as independently as possible.

NOW on to TACA: this incredible team of volunteers and staff works so hard in providing education, support & empowerment to families living with autism. Here are some highlights from 2018:

       296 scholarships were provided to families in need including: medical visits, camps, conference and family activities.

       4th Annual National Coffee Talk Day in 84 locations gathering 586 attendees across the country.

       772 families were matched in our mentor program to more effectively navigate their autism journey.

       National TACA Autism Conference was held in Southern California with almost 1,300 attendees.

       1,344 families were educated through free live webinars.

       TACA launched our new website.

       TACA created a new Facebook forum just for parents to find community, receive education and support which now hosts over 5,000 members.

       TACA’s National Facebook page now reaches over 150,000 people (over 100% growth over last year) with daily inspiration messages, news, treatments and autism facts.

 

This list is only a small portion of what TACA has accomplished in 2018. We will be publishing a full report in January. As 2018 comes to an end, TACA counts over 60,000 families affected by autism in its membership.

I know I have said thank you in general, but, I have some specific shout-outs for the TACA staff. Thank you to Jackie, Carolyn, Tracey, Di, Moira, Holly, Cindy, Janice, Nicole, Kelly, Michelle, Sim, Susan, Steph, Heather, Jacey, Tara, Jonathan, Ace, April and Monique. Thank you to the best Board who serve, guide and fundraise to help make it all happen (Glen, Pat, Dan, Elizabeth, Robby, Keith Erich & Kim.)  Team TACA is the best!

A special, heartfelt thank you to our 75 INCREDIBLE Volunteer Chapter Coordinators leading chapters in their areas across the country and our almost 300 Parent Mentors who serve selflessly. You are core to our mission of Families Helping Families and ensure that our programs reach many in local communities. TACA would be lost without this incredibly dedicated team of volunteers providing Real Help Now.

We have two other incredible groups that help us move autism forward and that includes TACAs Ambassadors and Physician Advisory Team. They support TACA in their professional circles and talk about autism on a regular basis. These friends have made invaluable contributions to help champion the mission with webinars, conference lectures, donated appointments, donations and their valuable time.

To our over 2,200 supporters: thank you for investing in TACA.  Without you we couldn’t do what we do!

And to TACA Families: We are so proud of you! Keep doing what you are doing. If you need help or want a refresher course, TACA is here for you. We believe in your kids. We see you working hard and all of us at TACA are proud of you! I hope you get an opportunity to check out the our 7th Annual TACA Celebrations Campaign where we celebrate our kids’ accomplishments over the last year. You can see these on our national Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/talkaboutcuringautism/. These stories are beyond inspiring.

Despite my hopes and wishes for each new year, autism is STILL the least funded disability in America with more individuals diagnosed than any other childhood disability. The newest CDC funded survey now reports 1 in 59 U.S. children have been diagnosed with autism (2.) Another parent survey reported the number of 1 in 40 (3.) TACA continues to find ways to acquire help and provide our programs every year with little funding. We are always looking for more help for our mission. We are asking the families we serve to please share this blog with someone who can make a donation to help TACA assist more families living with autism.

In closing, the hope I have for my son and all our children remains –together, we will work towards the future and create positive outcomes for all. Together we can be the autism community in action for the families who need us. Thank you for being a friend to families living with autism.

 

Happy New Year!

All my best for 2019 & beyond,

Lisa Ackerman
TACA Executive Director & Co-founder, Mom to Jeff & Lauren, grandma to Will and wife to Glen

 

P.S. We need additional support for TACAs mission and programs. If you have a friend that would like to make a gift to help move autism forward in your familys honor please help https://tacanow.org/year-end-2018/.

 

P.S. We need additional support for TACAs mission and programs. If you have a friend that would like to make a gift to help move autism forward in your familys honor please help https://tacanow.org/year-end-2018/.

 

References:

 

1)      Some past blogs on our journey:
https://tacanowblog.com/2013/05/16/just-because-they-dont-speak-doesnt-mean-they-dont-understand/
https://tacanowblog.com/2013/05/01/genetically-modified-organisms/
https://tacanowblog.com/2013/02/14/uncles-should-be-fun/

https://tacanowblog.com/2013/02/07/leading-with-anger/
https://tacanowblog.com/2012/04/20/oakley-one-icon-magazine-features-taca/
https://tacanowblog.com/2011/09/12/anniversaries/

2)      New autism numbers https://tacanow.org/autism-statistics/

3)      New parent survey https://tacanowblog.com/2018/11/29/new-study-reaffirms-autism-epidemic-continues-to-affect-1-in-40-kids/

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