There was a time in my life when I was scared. Confused. At a complete loss as how to handle this life I had been thrown into. I spent many nights crying. I was up anyway because sleep in my house was almost non-existent. My daughter’s autism had an intense grip on everything in my family’s life. It ruled us. It dominated conversation. It monopolized our time. It tore at our hearts.
When my daughter was very young, my husband was surfing the web and found information about an autism conference that looked extremely promising. It advertised new information with cutting edge science. It was many states away. I told my husband that we could not afford for me to travel to a conference. His response was “I don’t think we can afford for you NOT to go.”
As usual, he was correct. (Don’t tell him I said that.)
It was an opportunity to take some uninterrupted time for myself to learn about the treatments that are helping our kids based on the most recent science. I’m not going to lie. It was overwhelming and eye-opening.
This was almost 15 years ago. I still go to conferences but TACA (The Autism Community in Action) conferences are my very favorite.
So, you ask, what sets TACA conferences apart?
1. The parent volunteers
TACA conferences are known for their many parent TACA volunteers in red T-shirts at the mentor booth, in the hallways, introducing speakers and greeting and chatting with parents. It is a more welcoming environment than any other conference. I am now one of these parent volunteers.
2. The wide variety of topics
There are lectures on the medical aspect of autism, IEPs, different forms of therapies, how to deal with insurance, wills and guardianship, promising scientific break-throughs and more. There are different tracks to choose from. Mix and match and pick what lecture interests you most. Bring a laptop if you use one. You get a free copy of slides to download from every presentation. Or go old school with a pencil and paper. Either way, I have never been so happy to take notes!
3. Coffee Talk night
Derived from TACA’s famous community coffee talks, this is a unique event that allows you to get one-on-one attention from a presenter. You rotate between tables three times and get an opportunity to ask questions of the presenter of your choice in a roundtable fashion.
4. The hope
One parent said “I didn’t know you gave this away at TACA conferences.” We asked “Gave what away?” The parent answered “Hope.”
What is more valuable than that?
I am not going to sit here and tell you any of this is easy. Helping a child, teen or adult with autism be the best person they can be is difficult. It involves lifestyle changes, research, time and dedication. Most of our kids have underlying medical issues that need to be addressed. They need therapy. They require your unwavering patience. They challenge us in ways most of us are unprepared for.
The good news is that you are not alone. TACA is families with autism helping families with autism. We help parents to understand what is going on in our kids’ bodies so we can better understand, sympathize and devise a plan of action. And a TACA conference is a mass meeting of autism parents gathering to accumulate information and fuel up on hope to carry us all through the year. We hope to see you there!
Our website has information on the upcoming TACA conference here.