Address: 2733 W 8th Ave, Denver, CO 80204
Phone: (303) 295-0163
Danny Combs, President & Founder
“TACT is the first and only program of its kind in the country. Its immersive, hands-on vocational training effectively prepares young people with ASD — who now represent one in 59 children between the ages of three through 17, for skilled trade careers that are the fastest growing and most difficult-to-fill professions in the country. Over its short history, TACT has made a tremendous difference in the Denver autism community, more than doubling its program offerings, supporting and training 400 participants in skilled trades, and connecting 80% of its working-age students to their first employment opportunities. Currently, TACT provides career training in: AUTO MECHANICS, CARPENTRY, WELDING, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ELECTRICAL. These trainings take place over a minimum of one semester (17-18 weeks long).”
From the Website:
TACT was founded in 2016 by parents very much like many of you reading this – parents inspired by both the strengths and challenges unique to their child.
In 2009, Claire and Danny were blessed with a beautiful son. The first few years his progress was “on track,” however around the age of three they began noticing his speech was behind, he was toe walking and few other “differences.” They visited a few doctors and he started speech and occupational therapy to work on his sensory developments. Fast forward to 2015: Their son is in the first grade and growing into a remarkable young man. He’s becoming an extremely creative and innovative thinker, however, there are clearly some continued difficulties. After years of working with doctors and teachers he is placed on the Autism Spectrum. He’s not alone. In 2014 the CDC reported that 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 168 girls) are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.
As parents, Danny and Claire started looking into programs to build upon their son’s strengths to help him build confidence and social and emotional awareness. They couldn’t find anything outside of the doctor’s office. So, they founded T.A.C.T.
TACT offers a variety of year round programs and workshops for children, teens and young adults. Executive functioning, gross motor/fine motor skills, and social skills are increased through organic, hands-on learning in these project-based learning workshops. Workshops/classes include Makerspace, Fiber Arts, Instrument Building, Carpentry, Photography, Electronics, Auto Mechanics, Welding/Metal Arts. TACT also offers camps during multiple school breaks.
TACT is located in Denver, a five-minute walk from another very impressive program serving people with disabilities—Blue Star Recyclers employs many people with disabilities in the computer recycling industry.
I visited TACT on a summer afternoon when there were no classes in session. Danny Combs was kind enough to give me a tour of the building and the automotive shop and to explain the mission and goals of TACT. Participants ages 5-21 are “exposed to working with their hands to see if they like it.” As above, there are many options including computer science, auto mechanics, carpentry, welding, etc. We toured the computer room (which included audio engineering and electronics), the weaving, knitting and sewing area, and woodworking, carpentry and instrument making. Danny shared that his participants has worked with such businesses as Dirt Coffee (a Littleton, CO coffee shop training and employing people with disabilities), and the Jefferson County School district; they have restored 168 tables as of the date of my visit.
A highlight of the visit was meeting and observing Jake at work as he restored a 1967 Ford LTD car. Danny offered in interesting insight. “You think you need to make accommodations for people on the spectrum—you think they won’t like grease, or loud music It has never been an issue!”
- It is important to expose people with disabilities at a young age to a range of hands-on activities. They and the adults in their lives can begin to get a sense of what they like and are good at.
- People on the autism spectrum—both verbal and non-verbal—often have talents and skills which may not seem obvious at first.
- Don’t make assumptions. For example, we often think loud music and grease would provide sensory challenges; in our experience, this has not been an issue.