“Without the Tap program our family would not be able to survive. I don’t have any other words to describe how much they have helped us, help our son Logan.”

-Tonya Painter, IL

“With 1-in 68 children currently being diagnosed with autism, it is CRITICAL that we continue to fund programs that help these children succeed. The TAP program provides evidence-based treatment which educates and empowers these children so they do well in school, at home, and in our community.”

-Laurene Cichon, IL

“I want to tell how important it is to me that the state of Illinois continue to fund The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP). When my son’s preschool teacher told us he wasn’t like other 3 year olds and that we had to remove him from the school, we had no idea where to turn. We had two visits with our pediatrician who failed to see anything was different about him. Finally, we found out about TAP. They connected us with a psychiatrist who diagnosed our son with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. They educated us on autism, how it is treated, and what to do for him. They have connected us with various professionals along the way who have helped with his gross and fine motor skills, communication skills, and social development. Today, our son is a thriving fourth grader in our public school system’s gifted program. Each stage of his life brings new challenges, as with any child. When we need extra help, we turn to TAP. I can’t imagine where we would be without them. I want other families to have this wonderful resource we have in Illinois.”

-Michelle Maier, IL

“My 3 year old son has been going to Tap since he was 2 and has gained so much from the help they have provided. If we lose TAP we would have to drive to Peoria or Bloomington 2-3 times a week. We cannot afford that so my son would lose out on all therapy and would regress. Please keep funding for TAP!”

-Ashley

“The Autism Program of Illinois not only helps individual children like my daughter, but also provides vital training for teachers, assistance in creating IEPs, parent support groups, respite opportunities, and behavioral assessments and training in the home. Our state and society as a whole benefit when these children and their parents are given the resources necessary to foster social and communication skills.”

-Sharla Glass, IL

“This is a vital service to the people of this community. My grandson who is autistic is thriving because of TAP. TAP is one of the reasons my daughter relocated to Springfield. Please do not cut this resource from the budget. it is a source of hope to many people.”

-Shelley Temple, VA

“As a teacher with students affected by Autism, this program is a must in our state. It provides the resources and education to staff that is invaluable to educating this population of students. I would be lost without these resources.”

-Karon Flinchum, IL

“So many of my students’ families have used this community resource! Please consider funding for this vital program that provides parents with so much as they work to understand how best to help their children with autism be successful.”

-Amy Modrzejewski, IL

“This program has helped my family in numerous ways. Our children need programs like this. TAPs is not just an extracurricular activity that’s nice for children to have, it is a necessity in life.”

-Marlee Cooper, IL

“TAP has provided education, support, guidance, and advocacy to many individuals, families, and professionals. Their work has been life altering for many families that did not know where to turn. I am a social worker and work with many people who fall through the cracks of services and help. TAP has always filled in those gaps and has stopped at nothing to link families to quality assistance. They also provided me with a practicum while in my MSW program, giving me an education and set of skills that has hugely enhanced my abilities to help. TAP is a program that uses their resources extremely well. If they lost funding, many would be lost.”

-Susan Keller, IL

“I can honestly say that TAP saved my family. Thanks to TAP my son regained his speech and is a full functioning 6 year old.”

-Aleksandra Hodowany, IL

“I have a child with autism and have worked with the autism community for nearly 15 years. TAP is the one resource that families have been able to count on to get much needed services for their children. Many times Insurance doesn’t pay for the many therapies that children diagnosed need. Families do not have the resources to get one on one therapy, social skills, or the guidance needed to provide structure within their homes. TAP has been the one constant that has saved these families. There are few resources for families that are obtainable state wide. Even Easter Seals is priced out of reach of most families unless they happen to have an insurance that covers the services. And even then it usually stops at age 6. Tap does not have an age limit, our children do not have an age limit on needed services.”

-Jacqueline Mace, IL

“I have been given the opportunity to intern with TAP. It is a very inspiring program in which the families are so grateful for the help with their children. I have seen so many gains with the children that receive help for their future.”

-Samantha O’Connor, IL

“I am a single mother of an autistic 7 year old child. When my son was 3, I started noticing that something was off. I didn’t know where to turn. I talked to his doctor and she suggested that I go to TAP for more information. We were unable to get into see a specialist for 9 months, to get a diagnosis. TAP helped out so much with their vast knowledge support and resource room that within a few weeks they were able to get my son into the CDC in Champaign.”

-Rachel Dean, IL

“Working at The Autism Program of Illinois truly changed my entire path in life. I am currently in graduate school pursuing Applied Behavioral Analysis all thanks to what TAP has given to me. It does amazing things for both the clients and staff.”

-Rachel Arena, AL

“I’m signing because TAP has helped our whole family. We gained knowledge and coping skills from the service. We learned how to support our son, as well as how to take care of ourselves during the storms of meltdowns and breakdowns in communication. We have met others in similar situations and gained social support. We have become donors and volunteers for TAP. Please restore this much needed resource in the Northeast Illinois community.”

-Christina Eldridge, IL

“My daughter has autism. She’s 5 years old. She has gained so much knowledge, comfort and confidence from the tools/products they provided. Many autistic kids have difficulty functioning without deep pressure. I wouldn’t have known about this prior to the weighted vest. I’m also very grateful for the book they gave to us that gives my daughter a way to communicate with me and work on building her language skills. I’m a single mother, I’ve managed to go to school to finish my associates in Science while working full-time, renting a house, and paying off a car loan. My job as a mom is never ending, your mind and body never stops running, my daughter’s sleep cycle is unpredictable, there are moments when she will fall asleep at 12am and wake up at 4:30am. The weighted blanket helps at times. If it wasn’t for TAP, I wouldn’t of known how to manage some of the things she does. Please keep the TAP Program going. This is a leading disorder that is only growing more in the U.S. 1 in 68 children are diagnosed, 1 in 42 are boys (5xmore likely than girls). Parents, like myself need a program like this are what we need to reach out for when we are struggling. Having a child with autism is definitely a financial strain.”

-Serena DeLaRosa

We have a daughter who is 4 years old at this time.  Our daughter, Makaelyn Grace was born premature and has multiple health problems.   Makaelyn was a strong, through tiny, baby who has survived to be a blessing to all who meet and know her.  We are doing the best, with assistance and prayers to help her grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Developmental Delays have been a constant problem to deal with, along with all the challenges of tube feeding.   Vision weaknesses have been noted and are somewhat corrected.  Her sensory integration disorder and weak muscle tones are challenges she (and we) face daily.  Yes, she has been diagnosed as autistic, which as you well know may involve complex thinking skills to be challenged, channeled and managed.  With help such as TAP (The Autism Place) provides, many young people grow up to be very productive adults.

She is improving with eating and may not longer need feeding tube within the next couple years.  She has been receiving Early Intervention therapy and it has helped with her muscle and eye weaknesses.  In the last couple years, we have noticed the autism (and delays) being the strongest challenge in her thoughts and actions.  She has difficulty with eye contact, following directions, focus on activities, playing with objects similar to peers.  She prefers to play with cause/effect items that bring sensory outcomes.

Her strength is gross motor skills.  She does not have interest in TV and movies but prefers physical interaction and physical activities.   She really seeks sensory play. We as parents, have strongly encouraged those opportunities by doing a lot in community recreational programs, programs at our local libraries, and other events she is capable of participating in.  She is a strong little girl in her own way.

When she turned 3, she was placed in a program at our local school district.  They are able to provide some therapies, adaptive swim and gym, and she joins the regular class for music.  The teacher, Nancy, is wonderful; however, I noticed the program didn’t seem to match some of her needs.  Makaelyn is very mobile and gets around quick to explore.  Most of the kids who are in Makaelyn’s class have physical disabilities necessitating that they are in wheelchairs and not mobile.  Makaelyn doesn’t have much chance of physical interaction such as playing activities, “Ring around the Rosie”, interactive play, doing physical activities together.   I was concerned about this.  It was more apparent that she needed to be in a setting with other children who were on the autism spectrum.  Also, Makaelyn was using a switch to do actions (for example, stirring a blender to make class baked goodies) when she is fully capable of holding and turning with some guidance.  In addition, Makaelyn was often (we felt it was too often) playing with meaningless toys while waiting her turn for many different activities.  (Teacher and assistance needed to tend to other kids multiple needs.)  This bothered me as she is at the age where children learn so much so fast and I didn’t want time wasted when she could be learning various concepts.  Personally, I think the class size is too large to meet individual needs often as should but then again district has had to deal with budget cuts and trying to meet needs with limited staff, and etc.

Having taught children who are deaf/hard of hearing for several years in couple different states/programs, I’ve experienced working with students who had additional disability or health issues such as autism, delays, trache, tube feedings.  I had a feeling there was a better educational match for Makaleyn’s needs.  I had a strong feeling that Makaelyn had autism and I wanted a diagnosis in hopes for her to have help in areas really needed related to her autism aspects.  I talked with Makaelyn’s neurologist and as he watched Makaelyn and heard my descriptions of her behaviors.  He agreed she was on the autism spectrum.  Makaelyn was finally diagnosed and I was beyond relieved in hopes Makaelyn could have different type of education related to her autism needs.  After talking with school’s social worker, we had hoped Makaelyn would be in TAP program.  Blessed beyond blessed that Makaelyn got into the TAP program and wow, this was a much better situation for her!  She still goes to school district afternoon program for adaptive swim and gym.

I explained and had concerns about Makaelyn’s social abilities, independent skills, and communication to the supervisor at TAP.   Come to find out those are the major areas that the TAP program focuses on.  I was thrilled and excited for Makaelyn!  In addition, she would have an adult who works with her individually to help meet her needs which made me feel even better.  Within the first year (last year) she has learned the routine and transitioned in also a retired teacher noticed that her eye contact had greatly improved.  When she finishes the program in the morning, she is happy and I could tell she enjoyed and learned so much.

In TAP, the ISU students focus on students independently taking coat and backpack off, preparing for class, and other independent skills.  They provide story time and often there is action that goes along with the story and Makaelyn likes to listen and watch the actions even then she can’t focus on all of it but you can see her smile.  At the same time, they provide her sensory chewy so she is not out seeking sensory objects but able to participate in activities by flipping pages in book, clap or other related things during story time.  She has learned how to put name on and off schedule board with guidance.  She works on fine motor, table top, sensory (shaving cream, pumpkin guts, etc) type of activities.  They also have the students sit in a pool (no water) with their favorite toys and teach/encourage students to interact with high fives, turn taking playing with each other toys. They also provide Applied Behavior Analysis and currently Makaelyn is working on following directions, imitation, identifying and etc.  This is wonderful for her to work with an adult in an isolated room without distractions to learn various concepts (directions, imitation, etc).  They have been teaching Makaelyn the PECS (picture exchange communication system) so Makaelyn has a way of communicating her request.  Makaelyn has no brother or sister to play with so Makaelyn REALLY enjoys being surrounded with other kids and sometimes watches them off and on.   She sometimes gets tired of being with us adults a lot and likes to be with other kids similar to herself.  I feel better with this too as the other kids are working on similar goals and Makaelyn is not treated or viewed as VERY different.  This is a GREAT ADAPTIVE preschool setting for Makaelyn.  I dream they have education program for elementary grades but that seems very unlikely at this time.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this program.  The staff is VERY optimistic!  They know current, effective techniques that help with kids who have sensory disorder and are on the autism spectrum.  They are patient and very understanding of each child’s situation.  They make the students feel good about them and always give positive reinforcement.  The environment is relaxed and very positive for the kids.  They share star moments and sometimes pictures and videos of just the child herself/himself.  They are consistent with the goals of independent skills, communication and social areas.  They are always looking for student’s growth and want to encourage that growth continuously!  They have data to explain to us parents how students are showing growth and they meet with us parents quarterly to discuss data/growths, concerns, other areas that need focus.  I really appreciate the notes sent home as they make couple comments on what Makaelyn has been working on and what she has accomplished that day.  I’m always looking for accomplishments (no matter how slow or small)and they share those with me.  They have a sense of pride when students achieve skills.  Students also have a sense of pride and belonging after each morning program.  Mothers can sense things about their children and I can sense that Makaelyn really enjoys and grows from this program.

Makaelyn has shown growth in learning how to use a PEC picture to a book full of PECS pictures AND she carries this book around.  She is nonverbal and we are in hopes she will talk around 7 or 8 BUT we are also facing reality that she might not speak at all and we are working on PECS with her already now so she is prepared for a communication board in the near future if need be. She also has learned to sign more and eat.  She does a lot of communication with body language.  In terms of independent skills, she is carrying her own backpack now, hangs up backpack/coat off, pulling up her own panties/pants after bathroom, zips coat, put shirt on almost all by herself, walks from one area to another area on command, and much more.  In terms of social interaction, she is learning to give other friends high five independently, how to share toys (waits for them to finish and then plays), imitates what adults do (for example clap during story time, tuck animals into bed during play time, etc.)  She is comfortable with other children.  She watches ideas from other children and sometimes imitates their actions.  She likes to listen to them.  When playing on slide, sensory table, jumping, she enjoys that she is with others doing similar thing.  This is the greatest thing for me to see in my opinion!

When I had heard that funds might be reduced and the program might be reduced… I was sad for Makaelyn.  This is one of the best things in her life!  TAP provides so much various opportunities.  Makaelyn would only get half of these opportunities if I did home school with her because I don’t have all the equipment, resources, services that TAP has.  My main goal for Makaelyn is to reach her full potential and I see that happening at TAP.  She is learning such variety of different things and growing in so many areas.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t stop this growth.  Makaelyn already has challenges and limitations and TAP is a good program that brings great, much strength in her life.  She needs TAP program to continue.  I can’t tell you enough how much she enjoys and learns from this program.  She is a happy girl and I want her to continue to be happily learning at the same time.   When she doesn’t have the interaction or learning opportunities, she becomes blah (not as expressive and she fidgets and rotates with sensory toys) and she is capable of MORE than this.   Do I want her life to be stagnating? NO, I want her life to continue with GROWTH and TAP makes this happen! Would you feel you were doing all you could for your child to get the best our of life? Please allow funds for Makaelyn to continue to have an effective quality of life and education and live it to the fullest?  She reaches up and out still today and wants to grow.  Please reach out and pull her up to continue growing?

MK1

-Melissa and Tim Kearney, IL