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Families and Professionals concerned with autism and related disabilities have been advocating for improved services for many years.

In 1987, the Florida legislature authorized and funded a Task Force on Autism that was operated out of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute at the University of South Florida. The task force generated a report in 1988 which included the primary recommendation of developing comprehensive, regional resource and training centers to serve people with autism and their families throughout the state.

As a result, a demonstration project was funded in 1990 by the legislature with supplementary support from the Florida Develop-mental Disabilities Council and the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute. The demonstration project continued to operate for three years with support from the Council and the state's Department of Education.

In 1993, the legislature passed a statute that authorized the program and appropriated start-up funds to establish the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at four sites across the state. In 1994, the legislature increased funding for this effort and authorized the establishment of a fifth center site.

Locations of other CARD sites include the University of Florida in Gainesville and Jacksonville, Florida State University in Tallahassee, and the University of Miami. The 1998 legislature provided funds to establish a new site at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and a satellite of the Miami site at Nova Southeastern University. In1999 CARD-USf received funding to open a branch office in Ft. Myers.

Each CARD center has a constituency board comprised of family members who help guide program policies, priorities, and activities.