Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.
Florida is the home to many persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. With over 18 million people, Florida is the fourth largest state in the nation and growing rapidly. Fortunately for persons with autism and related disabilities, Florida has a statewide system consisting of seven autism service centers called the Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities or CARD. CARD’s mission is to provide support and assistance with the goal of optimizing the potential of people with autism, dual sensory impairment, and related disabilities. These centers provide an array of nonresidential supports including information about autism, referral to service providers, assistance with long and short term planning, workshops for parents and teachers, and support groups. Individual and direct family assistance is provided in the home, community and school. In addition CARD staff provide technical assistance to schools, (both public and private)in regards to challenging behavior, academic learning, social skills and other areas. In addition, CARD provides teacher training.CARD staff members are active as initiators and team members in community efforts to promote better outcomes for persons with autism. These efforts vary based on community needs and may take the form of creating new transition options for secondary students with autism, or initiating an electronic tracking system for children with autism who wander or a focus on school aftercare options. CARD partners with organizations such as the state and local chapters of the Autism Society of America, and other groups on advocacy and service efforts. Each January, CARD holds a three-day statewide conference. Last year over 700 people attended. All seven centers cooperate to make this conference serve the needs of families, teachers and other professionals.
The centers have, since the inception of the program, been based at universities. Presently, there are centers at the University of South Florida- Tampa, University of Florida- Gainesville, Florida State University- Tallahassee, University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University-Miami, University of Florida College of Medicine -Jacksonville, University of Central Florida-Orlando and Florida Atlantic University-Boca Raton. Several of the centers serve an especially large or populous region. In these cases, regional offices are used. The Florida State University, for example, covers the long stretch of the Florida Panhandle with offices in both Pensacola and Panama City. University faculty direct the program, following the specifications of the legislative mandate. The accomplishments of each center are too numerous to list here but will be highlighted in the presentation along with a brief analysis of the synergies realized at each university as their autism and disability support efforts are strengthened by hosting a CARD program. Each center works collaboratively with a Constituency Board that consists of at least six members each of whom is either an individual with an autism spectrum disability or a family member of an eligible constituent. The Constituency Board meets quarterly with center staff to provide advice and offer support. In addition, center staff meets regularly with school district autism leaders to plan trainings, share priorities and explore new directions.
CARD continues to grow. Legislative allocations, while not lavish, have allowed for expansion within the initial centers and provided for the addition of three independent regional centers. The Autism Society of Florida is recognized as the primary constituency group by the Florida legislature. They work with CARD directors and boards to develop a legislative proposal and then share this with parents. A yearly Florida ASA Rally at the state capitol helps raise awareness of autism. Parents have been in the forefront in expressing their support for CARD. The legislature has, in turn, recognized the value of the specialized services that CARD is able to provide. The close partnership with families and the communities and the Florida ASA is at the heart of this process. It stems from the conviction, shared by staff at each CARD center, that people with disabilities are members of families and that each family has strengths and capacities and are integral members of a person’s system of support. Additionally there is a shared belief that people with autism and related disabilities have the right to be regarded as individuals who need services and supports that are based on their unique characteristics.
We conclude the presentation with suggestions for how parents of persons with autism and other advocates might begin to collaboratively plan for a statewide system of specialized autism services similar to CARD in their state.
Participants will learn:
Content Area: Life with Autism
Jack Scott, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD)
Ven Sequenzia Jr.
President, Autism Society of Florida
Autism Society of Florida
Karen Berkman, Ph.D.
Executive DIrector, CARD-USF; Director, Learning Academy
University of South Florida
Diane Adreon, Ed.D.
UM-NSU Center for Autism & Related Disabilities