Hi There, I'm Tara...
I'm a mom of three; two boys (9 and 7) and a daughter (3). I am married to my husband; Brandon and we reside in Scottsdale, AZ. I love to hike, go to the gym, travel, play with my kiddos, watch Kansas City Chiefs football and of course, drink coffee and wine. If you're visiting this page I assume you are a special needs family member of a neurobeautiful student. I've been in your shoes and I've cried tears of frustration, but the good news is I'm here to help. I have three autistic children with special needs, so I GET IT.
So, why did I choose "Jackson's Advocacy" as the name of our group? Because if it weren't for Jackson and his beautiful mind, I wouldn't be here helping other special needs families, like you.
All special needs stories are different, just as our kiddos are all very different with different needs. On June 26th, 2013 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in Kansas and we named him Jackson. He was our first child and we couldn't take our eyes off him. I intended to return to work after six weeks, but I couldn't leave him, so I decided the stay-at-home mom life was for me.
I remember when Jackson was a newborn he tended to get overwhelmed and overstimulated easily. When we were at loud events with a lot of people, he seemed to cry; and cry a lot. In order to soothe him, I simply took him to a small quiet room and he would stop crying.
Jackson has twin cousins the same age, and I couldn't help but notice there were differences between their development. The twins played with toys differently, while Jackson would lie on his side and spin the wheels on a car instead of pushing them. He also tip-toed quite a bit and occasionally would cover his ears. He had meltdowns that would last for hours and he was inconsolable. He was my first child so I had no idea what to expect for development, but I did know he seemed different from the twins. Jackson had extreme energy and would watch the same movies over and over and over and over. For hours. After voicing my concerns to family and friends, I concluded he was just a busy boy with a speech delay.
In 2016 we moved to Arizona so we could stay out of the snow in Kansas City! We prepped him, read books, and prepared him for the move as best we could. The significant change was something he couldn't cope with as I was routinely getting calls from the school about these hour-long meltdowns that would occur out of nowhere. He was a recluse, introverted, and wouldn't associate with other children. He would chew on hard objects, wooden train tracks, metal cars, and the like. The teacher looked at me and said, "I think it's the A-word". I was a bit confused, she then said: Autism.
Oh, surely not. There's no way its autism, but I followed through with the advice from the school. We had him evaluated via the ADOS by a Developmental Pediatrician and Child Psychologist. The evaluation determined he was autistic and would require substantial support. We were shocked. In disbelief. But after thinking about his development and behaviors, it all lined up. In a strange way, I was relieved. All of the feelings and concerns I was having were finally validated.
We applied for early intervention services, attended workshops, and I read books upon books to make sure I was better prepared to help him. After his diagnosis we reached out to the school district to have him evaluated for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). If I'm being completely transparent, I had no clue what an IEP was, an MET, or DDD, ALTCS, FAPE, IDEA...if you're in the middle of this process, this acronyms are very familiar!
I was overwhelmed. I had no idea what the teachers, therapists, and administration were talking about with these acronyms. I was lost in the IEP meetings. I had no idea what these evaluations did, nor what score qualified for services. The school district wasn't exactly helping me understand the process. Finally, I reached out to an educational attorney because I was so overwhelmed. The fees were outstanding, they required a retainer just for help, but we retained the attorney because we felt desperate.
After many IEP and MET meetings we were able to get the help we needed. Arizona is a pro-school choice state so there are so many options when it comes to education and schools. (private, public, charter, special needs...)I applied for the Empowerment Scholarship here in Arizona and was able to find a school that would benefit Jackson. He's getting the help he needs and I'm forever grateful for this school. But, what if I was in a situation where I couldn't put a legal team on a retainer?
Would I still be in the same situation I am right now? No. 100% no and this is extremely unfortunate.
Right now, Jackson attends a private Autism school and is thriving. No doubt, we still have our challenges, because there is no cure for Autism. But now, we have the correct school placement, therapies, and intervention in his life that has changed his life.
I offer all services on a sliding income scale because a child's access to appropriate education should not be determined by their financial situation
Now, I'm here to help you! I can't wait to connect.