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FAU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities Receives Mobile Screening Van from Unicorn Children’s Foundation

Van Will Serve as Mobile Assessment Clinic

BOCA RATON, FL (April22, 2010) –The Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (FAU CARD) recently received a specially equipped van as a gift from the Unicorn Children’s Foundation. The van will serve as a mobile assessment clinic by bringing FAU CARD professionals to various locations throughout Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast to provide free screenings to children, ages 18 months to 5 years old, who present signs of autism and other developmental disabilities. With its enhancements, the vehicle is valued at $100,000. Monies raised at the Unicorn Children’s Foundation’s first annual golf tournament in 2009 were used for the van purchase.

A luncheon was held on March 23, at the Eleanor R. Baldwin House on FAU’s Boca Raton campus, to publicly unveil the vehicle and to pay tribute to the Unicorn Children’s Foundation for this most generous gift. Representatives from the Unicorn Foundation, including its executive director and director of programs Sharon Alexander, were in attendance at the luncheon, along with FAU Interim President John Pritchett, FAU CARD administrators, College of Education Dean Valerie Bristor and members of FAU’s division of University Advancement. 

“Since our founding in 1995, the Unicorn Children’s Foundation has been dedicated to supporting programs for children with neurological disabilities and communication disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder and dyslexia. We are tremendously drawn to FAU CARD and all it has to offer,” said Alexander. “The van will travel throughout the region to assess children at risk, many who are from traditionally underserved areas. It will also be stationed at schools and at community events, such as health fairs, to provide teacher training and to promote autism awareness. With this mobile clinic, FAU CARD will be able to approach those families who would otherwise be trapped by physical, language and economic barriers.”

 Also honored at the luncheon was FAU benefactor Marleen Forkas whose pledge of $10,000, made in memory of her husband Harold Forkas, will provide multiple-year support of the van’s operating costs. FAU CARD friends Glen and Tricia Stein were the first to address the issue of the van’s upkeep with their gift of $5,000 made in 2009. A pledge of $5,000 from Joe and Fran Eppy will be used to produce educational and collateral materials for public distribution. 

“I am excited that my gift will help get this mobile assessment clinic to where it is needed most,” said Forkas. “The van will extend FAU CARD’s presence in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast and in doing so will provide parents with information and appropriate resources. This is a cause that touches me deeply — it resonates in my heart. I hope that when people in the community know that the van is coming, they will see it as an opportunity for evaluation and a step toward possible intervention.”

Housed in the College of Education, FAU CARD, one of seven such centers in the state, currently has a caseload of 2,000 clients, most diagnosed with autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD). Providing free assessments and acting as a clearing house of information, FAU CARD reflects a strong belief in early intervention. The focus of FAU CARD is to optimize the potential of people with autism and related disabilities by enabling them to learn, work, communicate and socialize.

“We are most grateful to the Unicorn Children’s Foundation, and to Marleen Forkas, Glen and Tricia Stein, and Joe and Fran Eppy for their generous gifts,” said Jack Scott, FAU CARD’s executive director and principle investigator. “Thanks to their support we will be able to reach a greater number of children, parents and community groups. Our mobile assessment clinic will be staffed by board certified behavior analysts, certified special educators and FAU student interns. Diagnostic screenings will be performed at no charge. For some children, these screenings may be the first step in a longer evaluation process. In those cases, we will provide referrals and hopefully reassurance to families during what is often an overwhelming experience.”  

- FAU-

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