I am sure that if you have found our site, you either know or love someone with autism, have somehow been impacted by autism and/ or you support our mission. Whatever it is that led you to our page, you are most likely curious as to what TAFA is and how we got started. My name is Christina Augliera and my younger son, Connor, is diagnosed with autism. Before Connor's diagnosis, I graduated with my Bachelors in Psychology from Central Connecticut State University with the intention of getting into the field of Child Psychology. My first job after graduating was as an ABA Therapist for the Institute of Professional Practice (IPP) where I had my first experiences working in ABA (applied behavioral analysis) with pre-school and elementary aged children on the autism spectrum, and I quickly fell in love with the work. About 2 years into my time with IPP, Connor was diagnosed and I got to see firsthand just how hard it was to navigate the world of autism from a parent perspective. I left my job in order to maximize in-home service hours with Birth to Three and I took a second shift position as a Residential Counselor for adults impacted with both intellectual disabilities and psychiatric disorders. The most challenging facet of handling a newly diagnosed child was the plethora of information out there. I would sit up every night googling anything I could think of only to find myself falling further down that never-ending metaphorical rabbit hole. Instead of finding comfort and solace in my late-night research, I would be left feeling more confused, more alone and more scared about how to handle the financial, scheduling, insurance, and availability of service constraints that I was facing. I failed to realize that having insurance did not mean you were automatically covered for autism specific services despite living in a state that "upholds the autism mandate", there's this tricky little loop hole called "self-funded insurance plans". I was also a 25 year old mother of two children taking a major pay cut to work off-shift hours to receive the services I was guaranteed through Birth to Three meaning the financial burden on my family was huge. In addition, I also faced the harsh reality that even if every report says your child needs 25-40 hours per week of intensive ABA, it is not a guarantee if the availability of services in your geographical area is minimal. The hours on the phone, filling out paperwork, searching for what I could do to help my son all meant time away from my husband and my older child who is neurotypical. Needless to say, I felt like I was on the starting line for a marathon that I had never trained for; worn down and depleted before the race even began. Friends and family with typical children would empathize but could never truly understand what I was going through. I needed a village, I longed for support from people who really got it; the ones who were in the trenches alongside me and really knew what it meant to be struggling to get your child to speak, potty train, answer to his name and make eye contact. This desperation for an outlet is how TAFA was born. We began as a support group in partnership with The Arc of Litchfield County (LARC) and just this past year we became our own non-profit. Our mission is to unite parents who share the commonality of raising a child on the spectrum in order for them to share experiences, resources, ideas, and struggles in a place where everyone truly understands. We also want to increase awareness in our community for those effected by autism because we truly believe that the greatest tool is knowledge and the more that we can educate our community on autism, the better allies and advocates they can be for our loved ones on the spectrum. To create tangible changes in the world around us, it truly takes a village, and TAFA is our village. We hope that you will join us!
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