What is CARD?
Our Mission: The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities provides support and assistance
with the goal of optimizing the potential of people with autism and related disabilities.
CARD Overview Video
A brief overview of support and assistance available through CARD-USF.
CARD is a free community based program funded by the Florida Department of Education through an annual grant. Services are delivered wherever families, professionals, schools, agencies or businesses are located within our 14 county region in southwest Florida. There are seven regional CARD centers in the state of Florida. Visit the state-wide CARD Regional Site Directory for their locations and contact information.
Learn about CARD and the ways we help families and professionals within our 14 counties.
Trifold brochure describing CARD's Statewide Program.
Describes CARD services at USF. This is a small tri-fold business size card.
This flyer provides the reader with an annual snapshot of statewide CARD services and needs in order to educate legislators and community members.
Meet the staff of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF:
Charisse Dawkins, MSW
Our work focuses on providing communities, organizations, agencies, service providers and families with the knowledge and skills to support children and adults in early intervention, school, community, work, and home settings. In our work, we address issues that impact individuals across the life span.
CARD's work includes:
- Developing and disseminating materials. Our materials are available online and in hard copy.
- Developing and distributing an online newsletter two times a year. On a monthly basis, we send our CARD Connector, an online blast with educational and informational content for folks on our mailing list.
- Organizing and conducting local, regional and statewide training events. Each year, regional workshops are organized on topics of great interest to families and school personnel.
- Maintaining an active website. Families and professionals often access the web to gather information. Our website links to information and resources about autism and related disabilities, provides a list of training events, and other valuable information. The website is updated on a regular basis. CARD-USF also distributes information through our Facebook page and Twitter.
- Engaging in individual consultations. CARD-USF offers families and/or professionals strategies or information on best practices to increase skill development or address behavioral concerns by observing the individual in natural settings, and collaborating with the person's team and family members to suggest appropriate services and supports. Once our staff has determined the individual needs of a child or adult with ASD, we may provide direct consultation in a home, school or community setting.
What We Don't Do
There are a number of activities that are outside our work scope.
CARD does NOT:
- Provide treatment. Children and adults with autism do not receive direct treatment or therapy from CARD-USF employees but we can refer you to professionals who can offer these services in your area.
- Diagnose. CARD-USF employees do not conduct formal assessments, evaluations or testing, or provide diagnostic services but we can refer you to professionals in your area who do offer these diagnostic services.
- Perform crisis management. We are not a crisis management program. Our focus is on proactive programming to prevent challenging behavior. We maintain a list of professionals who can assess the situation, and may be able to identify professionals who can provide other forms of assistance.
- Promote one intervention method or a single approach. Instead, we educate families and professionals on evidenced based strategies that are known to have a positive impact on outcomes so that people can determine the best course of action for the individual with ASD.
CARD-USF Service Area
We serve the following counties: Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota.
To find a CARD center servicing other Florida counties, visit the state-wide CARD Regional Site Directory.
CARD serves children and adults of all levels of intellectual functioning who have autism spectrum disorder; an autistic-like disability (documented on an evaluation that describes the characteristics that are being considered "autistic-like" by the evaluator); a dual sensory impairment; or a sensory impairment with other disabilities. It is a requirement of the legislation that created CARD that we have documentation of a qualifying diagnosis in order for an individual to receive our services. For children aged 0 to 5 years, we may accept a developmental disability diagnosis with documented evidence of autistic-like behaviors.
Any document from the following list of examples can be accepted as documented evidence of a qualifying diagnosis:
- Most recent descriptive report written by a licensed mental or medical health professional (psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician, physician, neurologist, or a neuropsychologist) based on direct observation
- Most recent descriptive report written by the school evaluation team (school psychologist, diagnostician)
- Most recent descriptive multidisciplinary team report from an early intervention program
- Most recent Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) - children 0 to 3 years of age
- Most recent Individual Educational Plan (IEP) - individuals 3 years to 22 years of age if the IEP indicates an eligibility of an autism spectrum disorder.
- The CARD Physician’s ASD Diagnostic Check List. Ask CARD to provide this form to your doctor who has given an ASD diagnosis if an evaluation report is not available.
If you do not have any of the above documents, you would need to contact the person and/or agency who conducted the evaluation and request a copy of the report. If the individual is in an early intervention program, the coordinator can provide you with a copy of the Individual Family Support Plan (IFSP). Likewise, the school in which the individual is enrolled can provide you with a copy of their most current IEP.
The following documents will NOT be accepted:
- A diagnosis written on a prescription pad
- Treatment notes from hospital or physician visits
- Therapy evaluations or treatment notes
- Letter from doctor that does not specify characteristics on the autism spectrum that lead to a diagnosis.
Can I have my child diagnosed at CARD?
Although CARD cannot perform diagnostic evaluations due to our legislative directives, we can help families find qualified professionals if they are seeking a diagnosis.
Parents often call us for information on where they can go for a diagnostic evaluation, if they need one for their child and do not know where to start. CARD does not do psychological or medical evaluations or make a diagnosis, but we can give you a list of providers who can. The diagnosis can be made by a physician, such as a pediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist, or by a licensed psychologist. After making a diagnosis, the provider may recommend that you call CARD once an ASD diagnosis has been established.
What does CARD do?
CARD is here as your source of information for questions about autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The level of service you receive depends upon your need. Often, a phone consultation will be all that is needed to solve an ASD related problem that your family may be experiencing or to answer a question that you may have. If you live within our catchment area, you may call CARD-USF any time that you have a question that pertains to autism or related disabilities and one of our professional staff will try to respond to your question during a phone consultation. Most questions can be answered within a day or two. Other questions may require research in order to provide answers and that may take longer.
The first time that you call CARD, you will be asked for your contact information and preliminary information about yourself or your family member who has an ASD. These questions register you with CARD. See our Services For Families page for more information.
You will be placed on our mailing list. Most mail to you will be delivered electronically. You will receive CARD conference announcements, events and fundraising information, as well as our monthly and bi-annual newsletters. You may be assured that the CARD mailing list is not shared with any other agency outside of CARD unless required by law. If for some reason you would prefer not to be on our mailing list, you can advise us of that when you call. You will have the ability to remove yourself from our mailing list any time you wish through the MailChimp program.
What do families need to do in order to access CARD?
Families may contact CARD by phone or email with your questions or your interest in registering with CARD. Once we have your contact information and the other preliminary information that you provided, your file will be forwarded to a CARD Consultant on the Early Childhood Team, the School Age Team, or the Adult Services Team. The CARD Consultant will contact you within ten days of receiving your file to discuss your question or concerns. Often times, a phone call will solve your issues at hand. The CARD Consultant will give you resources or help provide you with strategies that you can implement on your own.
If your situation is more complex and the CARD Consultant feels a visit to your home, school, or in the community is needed, then the Florida Legislature requires that we obtain proof of diagnosis on the autism spectrum before implementing more in-depth service.
CARD will send an information packet to you which will include a return self-addressed postage paid envelope, some brochures, and an Authorization of Information release that you will need to sign and return to us. You will also need to provide CARD with documentation that we can use as proof of eligibility. We describe the type of document(s) we need in the Who We Serve section of our web site. Once eligibility has been determined a CARD consultant will be assigned to your family. The CARD Consultant will decide the level of service that your family needs and will work with you around your main concern(s).
How often can we call CARD?
You can call us as often as you need. We are here to be a source of information about autism and to provide answers to your questions.
What are some additional supports available by CARD?
Our services reflect a wide range of support activities that can be provided to individuals, families, educators, businesses, and agencies. Some of these support activities are of short duration while others are more intensive, long-term approaches for helping to build the capacity of families and agencies. A description of services can be viewed on our Services page.