What is ASD? and How We Can Help

By: Veronica Castro

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological disorder that may affect a person’s ability to communicate, understand language, play and socially interact with others. The first signs of ASD usually appear as developmental delays before age three. Every person with autism is different, however the following are some common characteristics found in those diagnosed with an ASD:

  • Difficulty in using and understanding language (but some children develop typical speech patterns until age two),
  • Poorly developed social skills and unusual play with toys,
  • Over or under sensitivity to sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell,
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as spinning objects or rocking,
  • Certain behaviors exhibited to stimulate the senses, such as switching a light on and off repeatedly or humming loudly,
  • Difficulty with changes to surroundings or routines,
  • Very high levels of activity for long periods of time, and/or,
  • Uneven skill development (some skills are normal or superior for their age while others show significant delay).

How can FAU CARD help?

Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (FAU CARD) is here to help. Autism can be complex, severe and sometimes frightening, but it is not hopeless.  With the help of high quality intervention and services, individuals with ASD can make excellent progress and achieve a higher quality of life. FAU CARD is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that provide expert consultation, training, education, referrals and resources to individuals with autism or related disabilities, their families and the professionals serving them…all at no charge. Some of the services that FAU CARD provides are:

  • Developmental screenings
  • Social skills groups for children with ASD
  • Social group for adults with ASD
  • Connect families to community resources
  • Consultation and trainings for families and professionals on topics such as:
    • Development of new skills
    • Enhancing communication
    • Developing social skills
    • Behavior interventions and supports
    • Transitioning to adulthood
    • Visual strategies
    • Wandering and elopement
  • Regional trainings hosting experts in the autism field for families and professionals
  • Annual Family Connections Conference
  • Summer Academy for professionals
  • And more!

FAU Card supports individuals with ASD across their lifespan by helping them become valued members of their communities, enabling them to learn, work, communicate and socialize. FAU CARD currently supports over 3,500 constituents in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast with offices in Boca Raton, Jupiter and Port St. Lucie. Here is a personal account of how FAU CARD has helped one Palm Beach County family in their journey to help their son maximize his potential:

Andrew P. is a friendly 15-year-old boy with a great sense of humor. He is a loving older brother to Nicholas and enjoys spending time with his family or traveling to see other family members & new places. Andrew enjoys riding the school bus to his neighborhood middle school where he looks forward to seeing his teachers & classmates each school day.  His favorite class is Beginning Band where he plays the xylophone and bells. Andrew has Down syndrome. He is diagnosed with Graves Disease and also has moderate to severe hearing loss, vision challenges, hip dysplasia, and sensory integration issues that deeply affect his daily living & learning skills and overall communication.

Andrew struggles with turn-taking conversation, which makes it difficult for him to make friends and interact with others. He spends much time in weekly therapy, consisting mostly of physical and occupational therapies. However, he manages to attend recreational activities (swimming, paddle-boarding, bike riding, basketball, mini-golf, soccer, or horseback riding).  We are always amazed at how he adjusts and learns new skills with the help of many knowledgeable & caring individuals. Andrew’s eligibility for CARD services falls under the "related disabilities" category (sensory impairment with another disabling condition).  After 5+ years, FAU CARD continues to be the most helpful organization in our lives. Through their services, Andrew’s team of teachers and caretakers continue to learn new strategies to best teach him in the school, home, & community settings. FAU CARD maintains a strong presence in our community.  The staff collaborates with countless local organizations and is always prepared to provide assistance, communication, and education. We are most appreciative of the staff’s ability to share their expertise!

FAU CARD serves a five-county region including Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties, and is one of the seven regional centers across the state of Florida.  FAU CARD provides expert consultation, support, and training, at no charge, to families and professionals who have or are working with individuals with ASD.  Contact FAU CARD at 561-297-2055 or card@fau.edu for more information.