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 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.

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.

As a result, a demonstration project was funded in 1990 by the legislature with supplementary  support from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and the 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.

Locations of other CARD sites throughout Florida include the University of Florida in  Gainesville  and a secondary site in Jacksonville, Florida State University in Tallahassee, and the  University of  Miami.

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

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