My name is Simran Garcia and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to share my TACA (The Autism Community in Action) experience.
In 2006 my son Akshay was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Akshay was considered moderate to severe. He was diagnosed as non-verbal as he spoke only ten words and couldn’t put them together in a sentence or answer questions. He had extreme sensory issues. He couldn’t stay still; he was constantly running, jumping, slamming himself into our walls. He had his fingers in his ears constantly as he couldn’t tolerate sounds. Akshay was also very aggressive, and it happened everywhere…. at home, in the community, and especially at school.
Who knew 15 years later, on June 8th, 2021 we would be sitting at Akshay’s high school graduation. A lot of people asked if this made me emotional. Are you kidding? In that moment when Akshay moved the tassel on his graduation cap from right to left my heart nearly burst from my chest. For Akshay, that simple flip of the tassel signified a lifetime of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the village it took to get him where he is. I thought about the huge amount of effort it took to get that tassel to move. All the advocating, arguing, tears, and prayers over a 15-year period. The sheer volume of people who believed in Akshay and to get him where he is today.
- 5 Principals
- 5 Assistant Principals
- 2 Guidance Counselors
- 12 Elementary School Teachers
- 16 Middle School Teachers
- 12 High School Teachers
- 7 Special Education Teachers (who did double duty as Case Managers)
- 2 Resource Specialists
- 6 Speech Therapists
- 3 District BCBAs
- 4 Occupational Therapists
- 3 Reading Specialists (at school)
- 4 School Psychologists
- 9 1:1 Behavior Aides
- 5 School Nurses
- 1 Inclusion Counselor
- 16 Classroom Aides
- 3 ABA Companies
- 40+ In-Home ABA Therapists
- 6 In-Home BCBAs
- 3 Bus Drivers (yes, they helped)
- 2 Neurologists
- 1 EEG Guru
- 2 Functional Medicine Doctors
- 2 Assistant Special Education Directors
- 4 Special Education Coordinators
- 4 Auditory Processing Programs
- 1 Outside Reading Program
- 15 Reading Specialists (outside)
- 1 Independent Educational Psychologist
- 1 Vision Therapy Program
- 2 Special Education Attorneys
- 1 Speech Company
- 3 Outside Speech therapists
….and I’m pretty sure I’m missing a few people
This also doesn’t include his sister (who is the one who finally got him speaking), his family, friends, TACA Aunties/moms, other therapies, programs, and so many more who helped us. However, the Autism Community in Action (TACA) was the biggest support of all. If it weren’t for TACA, I would have been lost! I found TACA within 2 weeks of Akshay’s diagnosis. I immediately realized the depth of resources that were available and most importantly, that these were people who had walked in my footsteps and had deep understanding of the challenges that lay ahead and how to navigate them. I went to Chapter meetings, Coffee Talks, TACA Conferences, and Family Events. I got myself a Parent Mentor to help guide me through IEPS, services, and medical. I read my Autism Journey Guide cover to cover and spent a lot of the time researching on the TACA website. We were lucky to be recipients of some very important TACA scholarships too. We leaned on our fellow TACA moms/dads when things got rough, and we celebrated all the milestones, gains, and victories with them too.
What it really comes down to is Akshay. He did it. He did all the work, all the programs, all the classes, all the learning. He did the labs, the assessments, the appointments, and all the testing. He persevered and battled on no matter what. He had really tough days, days that it was too much. Through that, Akshay regrouped, and every day was a new day to try again. It was not easy, but he did it! Akshay made that tassel move, and we couldn’t be prouder.