November 1, 2012  By Jenna Sweeney | OC Metro

Ante Up For Autism

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The annual fundraiser netted $264,000 to help support affected families.

Diagnosing autism can be extremely difficult. Those on the spectrum often lack interest in social interaction, regularly avoid eye contact and close off to verbal communication. Many are hard to reach and even harder to engage.

With autism, the causes and treatments fall along a vast range of options and opinions. Parents and friends of those diagnosed are often left with speculations, theories and newly developed research. One in 88 children is now diagnosed with the disease, and the nonprofit Talking About Curing Autism (TACA) is pulling families from the unknown to a place of empowerment, community and hope.

TACA’s 6th annual Ante Up for Autism event was held at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point on Sept. 22. The lavish affair, hosted by actor Jonathan Schaech and singer Kate Voegle, raised more than $264,000 for the families of TACA.

For more than 10 years, Irvine-based Talk About Curing Autism has offered a referral network of expert professionals, educational seminars, and family scholarship programs. Through its many services and classes, TACA emphasizes community.

“Our goal is that people understand more about autism, know that it is treatable and know that you are not alone,” said Lisa Ackerman, TACA founder and executive director. “A lot of people think it’s a ‘game-over’ diagnosis, but I like to tell people it’s ‘game on.’ One family told me that TACA made them feel connected to a community, and that is what we are all about: connecting people to action for the best possible outcome.”

In addition to noted celebrities, a few TACA-sponsored families attended the poker-themed fundraiser. Jo and Michael Ashline’s son, Andrew, was diagnosed with autism as a small child. The couple shared their journey to TACA and the solace they found with the friendships formed within the organization.

“Autism is so incredibly isolating,” said Jo Ashline. “For parents and siblings, it is one of those things that affects all aspects of your life. They say it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to support a family with autism. TACA is our village.”

Without a known cure or definitive medical-detection test for autism, identifying a child with autism early is imperative to improving treatment outcomes. Thousands of children have shown significant strides, thanks to the help of communities such as TACA that are constantly on the lookout for new information and related resources. The nonprofit has shown that, with the help of a loving family and friends, the stressful static of autism can fade and the brightness of a full life can rise into focus. taca.org

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