The number of children diagnosed with “autism spectrum disorder” is on the rise. There is a center right here in Tampa Bay whose sole mission is to provide awareness and support for people with autism, their families and professionals. USF’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (also known as CARD) provides no cost services such as resources and referrals, consultation with families, technical assistance with schools and businesses, and training for 14 counties in southwest Florida including the Tampa Bay Area. 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder according to the CDC. Autism is prevalent across the country and the figures are growing. It is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. and costs a family $60,000 a year on average. While this disorder is growing, there is no medical detection or cure for autism.
One innovative project that CARD created is their “Autism Friendly” Business Initiative. They work with businesses to define their goals in servicing the disability population, train employees to understand autism spectrum disorder, and design customized materials for the company to use for making access easier and more welcoming. Approximately 60 businesses in the Tampa Bay area are currently branded as “Autism Friendly” through CARD’s program. These businesses include restaurants, museums, hotels, churches, banks, aquariums, and more. To learn more about CARD’s “Autism Friendly” businesses, visit their webpage at http://card-usf.fmhi.usf.edu/community/business.html. For information about CARD-USF, visit http://card-usf.fmhi.usf.edu/