What is CARD?
Although we are called a Center, we are not a place where people with autism and related disabilities come to stay and receive services. We are a nonresidential program, meaning that our staff members travel to visit our constituents in their homes or schools or wherever assistance is requested. The State of Florida is divided by counties into seven regions with CARD professionals serving each area. Because our program is funded by the Florida Legislature, all of our services are free.
Whom Does CARD Serve?
CARD serves children and adults of all levels of intellectual functioning who have autism, autistic-like disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, dual sensory impairments (deaf-blindness), or a vision or hearing loss in addition to other disabling conditions. Legislation requires CARD to obtain documentation of an eligible diagnosis in order for an individual to receive our services; however, we do not withhold services from a family if they are actively seeking a diagnosis. For example, if autistic characteristics are present and autism or a related disability is suspected but you have been unable to see a doctor yet for an evaluation, we will still assist while you are waiting for a diagnosis. It is not uncommon for parents to 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.
What Does CARD Do?
An average case for us usually goes something like this: A parent will call after having a child recently diagnosed with autism or a related disability. The diagnosis can be made by a physician, such as a pediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist, or by a licensed psychologist. We will do what we call an intake, where we record all the basic information on the child and his/her family such as address, telephone, age, school, current therapies, health status and current concerns.
Some parents will be calling only to have their child put on our database and to receive information about our program and/or their child's disability, but will not currently need our services. Other parents may request our involvement at that point for a number of reasons. For example, their child may be presenting behavioral challenges at home or in school, they may be having trouble communicating or making friends, or they may be having significant difficulty learning new skills.
At that point one of our staff members will take their case and begin to assist them. Most of the time this involves a home and/or school visit, in order to meet the child, parents and teacher. Then the staff member will make recommendations for ways to improve the situation. For example, the staff member may suggest using a picture schedule to help with communication or starting a program to help with toilet training. The staff member can help to set up the programs and train the parents, teachers and aides in how to implement them.
Keep in mind that the above example is an average case for CARD, but we serve people of all ages with autism or a related disability and their families, not just children.
What Do Families Need To Do?
If you are not yet registered with CARD, give us a call. We will do an in-office or phone intake and start the process. If your child's difficulties are occurring at school, we ask that you contact the school, teacher or principal, tell them about CARD, and ask them to call us and invite us into their classroom/school after you have registered with us. We will then send them a Technical Assistance Request Form to complete. In order to foster a cooperative relationship, we prefer to enter a classroom or other facility only if we have been invited. If you are already a CARD constituent and you find that you once again need our services, just give us a call and we will re-activate your case. It's that simple! For more information on "Accessing CARD Services," please click the "Requesting Services" link on our homepage and then download the Fact Sheet on "Accessing CARD Services."
How Long Will CARD Stay Involved?
We will stay involved for as long as it takes for the family to feel they are able to cope with the child's disability without our support. We only ask that the family cooperate with us and continue to do their part in supporting their child. We also ask that families be patient with us as we try our best to meet the needs of all our constituents across South Florida.
How Often Can Families Contact CARD?
You can call us as often as you need. We only have a small staff to serve 3 counties in South Florida, so we may not always be immediately available, but we will get back to you as soon as possible. Some families call often and some hardly ever. Families may call us whenever they need support, information or to share something about their child. Schools or other organizations that serve individuals with autism or related disabilities may call us when they need training, information, or consultation and technical assistance. All services are provided at no cost to the family or organization. However, because we have a limited staff, we do not actively solicit support contacts with our constituents. Instead, we take our lead from the constituents, and provide services and follow up only when we are directly contacted by families or service providers.
Can My Child be Diagnosed at CARD?
No, CARD staff are not able to perform diagnostic evaluations, but we will help families find a qualified professional if they are seeking a diagnosis. Often parents who have been referred for a diagnostic evaluation have many questions about how autism is diagnosed, and some families may wonder how appropriate such an evaluation would be for their child. CARD can provide an introductory meeting, to discuss the various forms of pervasive developmental disorder, diagnostic indicators and evaluation procedures to help families approach the evaluation experience. We are also happy to talk with families after a diagnostic evaluation, to explain results, to answer remaining questions, or to provide other information.