April is Autism Awareness Month
As the number of children diagnosed with autism or related disorders increases, so does the need for resources and information regarding neurodevelopment disorders.
It’s no secret that autism is on the rise. The neurobiological disorder affecting communication and social interaction abilities has affected about 1 in 68 children in the U.S — a 30 percent increase from two years ago, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Although there is no cure or medication to cure autism completely, learning tools and techniques can tremendously help a child cope with, and even overcome, certain inabilities. To equip families and the Gainesville community with these tools, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) was established in 1993.
Since then, the center has worked to assist individuals with autism (and similar disabilities), families, caregivers and professionals through services such as training sessions and workshops, resource referrals, awareness events, counseling and skill building — all free of charge.The goal is to optimize the potential of those with autism and related disabilities, such as developmental disorders or sensory impairments.
Funded by the state Legislature, the University of Florida’s center – one of seven of its kind in the state – serves 14 counties in the North Central Florida area and can help with various aspects of life, from working with a child’s teacher at school to guiding his or her family at home.
“I like being able to be that bridge,” said Cathy Zenko, education and training program coordinator for CARD. She said children with autism sometimes have trouble translating what they’re learning to different environments, so the ability of CARD staff to help bridge the gap between home and school helps children, teachers and families, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
“This increases the likelihood that children will be successful,” she said.
The center not only offers a lending library with books, videos and DVDs but also an online training library, where people unable to travel to training events can view sessions live from the comfort of their homes and even type questions to presenters. CARD also works to maintain an archive of these events for people to access on-demand.
To shed light on the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, April is National Autism Awareness Month. To learn more about autism and CARD’s services, education and awareness, visit www.card.ufl.edu.