Founded in 2016 by:
Danny and Claire Combs in Denver, CO.
Danny is new to the Autism community but has been teaching for over a decade. He started his career working in the music industry in Nashville, TN. There he worked with platinum album selling Grammy and Oscar winning recording artists. However, he had a passion for education. He decided to leave the music industry to start teaching private lessons and inner-city high school students. He won several awards, including a Grammy Enterprise Award for his program in Nashville and became a published educational author, arranger and songwriter. In 2013, he moved with his amazing family to Denver, CO. He has a Master’s degree in Teaching Music and Bachelor’s degree in Guitar. He is a fourth generation wood worker and
mechanical tinkerer. In 2015, after his son, Dylan, was labeled with Educational Autism he began putting together the idea of T.A.C.T.
Claire grew up in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC. Her family is one of educators, artists and engineers. This inspired to her get her Bachelor’s degree in business and art at Wheaton College in Illinois. After college, she worked in Nashville doing graphic design and marketing with one of the pioneers of the wellness movement and online health coaching. When Dylan was born she became a full time mother and crafter. She has been a fan of fiber arts for most of her life and enjoys a variety of crafts including knitting, quilting, crocheting and sewing. She is the mother of two amazing children, Dylan and Ellie.
We were incorporated in June of 2016. TACT Kids, Inc. is a Federal 501(c)(3).
Danny Combs, Claire Combs, Sonia Carty, Kerry McCowen, and Becky Mershon
Sonia Carty has recently relocated to Colorado from New York City where she served as a director of the WilderNest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides assistance to special needs children. In New York, Mrs. Carty also gained experience in the art field working at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Christie’s Auction House, and the Lower East Side Printshop. She also founded a New York based art business called Roam Contemporary. Mrs. Carty holds two Master’s Degrees and is fluent in English, French, and Polish. She also has a history of academic and professional successes as a Research Analyst and Management Consultant with work experience at McKinsey & Co, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and NATO, amongst others.
Kerry McCowen is a Texas native with a rural background who moved to Colorado in 1976 where he has been employed in the energy business for 43 years. He currently serves as Vice President of Operations at Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. Mr. McCowen originally served as a volunteer for TACT, teaching in the automotive section of the organization. His grandson is on the spectrum and resides with Mr. McCowen and his wife Deb. Having a full time child with special needs has driven him to perform much research on the disorder in order to understand and help his grandson improve. He was introduced to Danny and Claire Combs at a TACT meeting early on where he was able to interact with Temple Grandin and volunteered to help immediately. Mr. McCowen holds two Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Management from the University of Phoenix as well as serving in and holding the title of District Engineer in the energy business. He has been a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers for 35 years. His focus is on helping all children on the spectrum to learn skills that will serve them for a lifetime. He is a father of two and Grandfather to his buddy Kyle.
Becky Mershon is a Colorado native, mother of three and Registered Nurse. She became interested in TACT the moment she heard about it. Her oldest son is on the spectrum and like many parents of children with special needs she had researched and tried a lot of different programs/therapies to help him thrive. She finds the vision of TACT so inspiring that she could not wait to find out more about it. She loves that this program aims to instill a true sense of pride, accomplishment and practical skills in our children. Focusing on what is possible for our kids and not solely on the struggles they face is empowering and therapeutic.
My name is Danny Combs and I’ve been a teacher for more than a decade. I’ve taught in a variety of settings including: five years in an inner-city high school, a Montessori school, private lessons and tutoring and most recently a private k-8 school. Although I’m a music teacher I grew up working with my hands. My father taught me and his father and grandfather taught him. For generations my family has done woodworking and mechanical tinkering. They’ve built homes, cars, airplanes and tinker with just about anything. This had a huge impact on me – especially working on cars and working with wood.
Like many of you, I’ve noticed how children don’t “build stuff” anymore – with wood, tools, take apart machines and see how they work. There is a huge shortage of children (and adults) that can make and repair things. They all seem focused on cellphones and iPads. Because of this, having a hands on approach has been a big part of my life and something I’ve always tried to incorporate into my teaching.
In 2009, Claire and I were blessed with a beautiful son. We named him Dylan. He’s an amazing boy. Like a lot of parents the first couple years his progress was “on track,” however around the age of three we began noticing his speech was behind, he was toe walking and few other “differences.” We visited a few doctors and he started speech and occupational therapy to work on his sensory developments. Fast forward to 2015: He’s in first grade and growing into a remarkable young man. He is extremely good at putting LEGO’s together, carrying a tune and is extremely artistic. However, there are clearly some continued difficulties. After years of working with doctors and teachers he is labeled “Educationally Autistic.” This term was new to us as it’s different from “Medically Autistic” but carries many of the same ideas and meanings. 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 a father and educator I started looking into programs to build upon my son’s strengths to help him build confidence and social and emotional awareness. We couldn’t find anything outside of the doctor’s office.
So, we began developing T.A.C.T. In 2016 I was able to listen to, meet and speak to Dr. Temple Grandin. She’s incredible. (www.templegrandin.com) I spoke to her about the idea of T.A.C.T. and she loved it! She encouraged me to go for it and her reassurance of the idea gave me the push I needed to go for it.
So, here we go!