Hello from TACA!! How about this year!? 2020 and 2021 may have similar challenges, but hope in action is shining through! The lessons from COVID-19 keep on giving. TACA keeps giving to find our way and to discover silver linings to help even MORE families. I am glad the year is almost over. I’m grateful for the lessons we learned, and I’m very much looking forward to the new year.
First, I need to applaud TACA’s team of staff and volunteers. COVID-19 continues to affect every human and organization across the world. At TACA, the challenges were enormous, but we didn’t miss a beat. Over one weekend in March 2020, we transitioned all of our programs to virtual. I am very proud of this team and how they faced many hurdles with flair. Their dedication and sacrifices are so appreciated.
Before I update more about TACA, let’s start with an update on my inspiration. Every year I have shared a window into my son Jeff’s journey. Inspiring, heartwarming, motivating, uplifting; none of these words are powerful enough to express this young man’s impact on my family.
Today, I can’t believe it – Jeff is now a 24-year-old man who continues to make plans for his bright future. He is graduating from his first-choice college in May 2022. He is thankful to be back in the dorm with a combination of in-person and distance learning still due to COVID-19. He truly misses the “REAL” college life experience especially live music, more hangouts, and concerts. Despite these challenges, a positive attitude and smile always lead the way. Friends are regrouping for live gatherings, and some continue in the digital world.
Jeff continues to “ace” his finals and achieved “A” level work in each class. To say we are proud of him is the understatement of the year. His degree will be in liberal arts with a psychology emphasis.
For fun, Jeff continues his guitar lessons. He’s committed to regular exercise, and when home, he takes over the kitchen making gluten and dairy-free recipes.
I feel like I say the same thing every year. At the risk of being redundant, I’m going to repeat it: Jeff continues to show more growth and maturity in managing stress, even facing the prolonged COVID-19 roadblocks. He is independently developing new skills and strategies. What’s more – his resilience is teaching me.
Jeff has come so far since his autism diagnosis. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is that individuals with an autism diagnosis can have a positive future. They are worth every effort to help them achieve their goals. TACA’s wish is that every person diagnosed with autism is fulfilled, happy, and thriving while living as independently as possible. Jeff will succeed in all of those aspects.
So back to TACA. Now I get to brag more about TACA and how this incredible team of volunteers and staff delivered on our mission to provide education, support, and empowerment to families living with autism. Our 2021 accomplishments included:
- Monthly, on average, we provided support to 715 families – an 18% increase over 2020.
- We distributed over 2,100 TACA Autism Journey Guides to families with children newly diagnosed with autism – a 15% increase over 2020.
- Responded to more than 41,000 requests for support – a 21% increase over 2020.
- More than 11,800 parents and caretakers participated in our virtual education programs – an 11% increase over 2020.
- Our private Facebook group, Hope and Help now has over 14,600 members – a 21% increase over 2020.
- In December, we hosted two family events. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is to TACA! These events signal our restart of in-person community activities.
- Over 375,000 social media followers across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn – a 7% increase. We typically reach over 1.5 million a month via our social media reach.
This list is only a fraction of TACA’s 2021 accomplishments. Additional family scholarship awards are in progress with our second funding cycle this year. We will be publishing a full report early in 2022. I can’t wait to share that information with even more new record highs!
The pandemic has significantly impacted families living with autism magnifying the challenges of existing OCD, anxiety, aggression, and access to services. We are grateful for the collaboration with the Orange County Register in sharing stories of autism and TACA families and how these challenges during COVID are manifested in school (2). TACA will continue to monitor the situation, work with families, and find innovative ways to provide support.
Finally, I’d like to provide recognition to the TACA staff and all those who have supported the organization and its mission. Thank you to Carolyn, Di, Dianne, Ace, Leigh, Michelle, Jessica, Melanie, Sim, Moira, Cindy, Kenny, Nicole, Heather, Kiele, Kat, Kelly, Susan, April, and Cole. Thank you to the best Board who serve, guide, and fundraise to help make it all happen (Glen, Dan, Elizabeth, Robby, Keith, Erich, Kim, Inna, Bill, and Celena). Our great ambassadors are also on the team, including Tim, Marc, Benjamin, Julia, Chris, Tom, Barbara, Jeff, Dana, Terri, Chad, Heather, Jonathan, Manny, Tyler, Kathryn, Mark, Steve, and Jessica, and Vince. A big part of our success includes committee members: Sara, Janelle, Julie, and our board and ambassadors that serve on committees too! These critical groups are constantly working to facilitate our mission – thank you! Team TACA is the best!
A heartfelt thank you to our INCREDIBLE Volunteer Chapter Coordinators leading chapters in their areas across the country and our Parent Mentors who serve selflessly. You are the core of our focus of “Families Helping Families,” ensuring that our programs reach many families in our local communities. Despite living with and navigating autism in their own homes, this incredibly dedicated team of volunteers makes the time to help others.
We have one more extraordinary group that helps us move autism forward, TACA’s Physician Advisory Team: David, Richard, Liz, Nancy, Dan, Cindy, Bob, and Anju. This group promotes TACA’s autism awareness and education platform throughout their professional circles.
- Provide direct support by leading webinars
- Participate as conference speakers
- Donate appointments
- Make monetary and in-kind donations
To our almost 2,000 supporters, thank you for investing in TACA. Thank you for standing with us. 2021 was a record revenue year for TACA! We thought it would take us five years to recover from the funding losses caused by COVID-19. With your support, we did it! Thank you for your generosity and investment in our mission. Many of you have been loyal supporters for years, always cheering TACA families on to success, always hoping for the best outcomes for children with autism.
Special thanks to Sun West Mortgage, Inc., an anonymous donor, and HMG/ Cardinal Financial with the Larsen family. These generous supporters are helping TACA significantly lift the following programs in 2022: youth and adult initiatives, children newly diagnosed with autism, conference, virtual parent education, and family events nationwide.
And to TACA Families: Keep doing what you are doing. TACA is here for you if you need help or want a refresher course. We believe in your kids. We see you working hard, and you inspire everyone at TACA! I hope you get an opportunity to check out our 10th 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/TheAutismCommunityInAction/.
Despite my dreams for change, autism is STILL the least funded disability in the U. S. with more individuals diagnosed than any other childhood disability (3). The most recent CDC-funded survey announced earlier this month a new report of 1 in 44 U.S. children diagnosed with autism (4). As the number of families needing TACA’s support continues to grow, we find ways to acquire help and provide our programs every year with little funding. Families are counting on us. We are always looking for more support to fulfill our mission. We ask the families we serve to please share this blog with someone who can donate to help TACA assist more families living with autism.
In closing, the hope I have for my son and our children remains unchanged. 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, especially the families continuing to face the challenges of COVID-19.
I wish everyone a Happy, Safe, and HEALTHY New Year!
All my best for 2022 and beyond,
TACA Executive Director and co-founder, mom to Jeff and Lauren, grandma to Will, and wife to Glen
P.S. We need additional support for TACA’s mission and programs. If you have a friend that would like to make a gift for “Actions Make Change” campaign in your family’s honor, please help https://tacanow.org/year-end. We have lofty goals in 2022 and beyond.
- Some past blogs on our personal journey:
- Albano, Dan (2020, August 24). Autism Community Scared to Death with Students Losing Ground as Distance Learning Continues. Orange County Register. Retrieved from https://www.ocregister.com/2020/08/24/autism-community-scared-to-death-with-students-losing-ground-as-distance-learning-continues/
- “About Autism.” The Autism Community in Action (TACA), updated December 2, 2021, tacanow.org/about-autism/.