FAU CARD Receives Grant During COVID Cutback

Young man with ASD at work

by Teresa Crane | Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021

A $100,000 grant from the Angelwish Fund of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties will allow Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities to keep its skilled and experienced staff intact and supported due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Services that were in jeopardy of being put on hold can now be provided to meet the immediate needs of constituents.

The Center faced a 6 percent cutback in Florida state funding due to the pandemic. FAU CARD staff received phone and Zoom calls at unprecedented levels from parents and teachers requesting support since March 2020 – the result a dissonance between support needed and resources on hand to provide assistance.

“We are so grateful to receive these timely funds which will enable us to serve families, teachers and individuals with autism who might have been unintentionally left out due to reduced resources,” said Jack Scott, Ph.D., executive director of FAU CARD. “Additional funds will allow several programs to continue, as well as afford new and important services for people with autism spectrum disorder.”

The grant enabled the FAU CARD team to assess needs and devise a plan to continue current services, offer new services, support research, provide up to date informational materials and revitalize presentations. Five specific areas were addressed.

The Center examined the problem of suicide and how to prevent it for people with autism, which can be worsened as a result of pressures imposed by COVID. Funding allowed the Center to hire FAU students to assist Scott and staff with research on preventing suicide for persons with ASD.

Elopement can lead to dangerous situations for children on the spectrum, such as accidental drowning. The Center will be able to provide Lifesaver International electronic tracking bracelets to 12 lower income families. These bracelets aid police to quickly locate children who wander away from home.

Black and Hispanic children may face barriers that lead to a lack of or delayed access to ASD evaluation, diagnosis and services. Without early identification and intervention, the chance for these children to obtain skills for life success greatly diminishes. This grant will allow the Center to increase outreach to black families, as well as increasing their Spanish clinician’s hours in order to reach more Hispanic families.

During COVID, the Center’s staff developed two electronic information pieces, a pediatrician guide and a guide for early childhood care providers. These guides will now be printed and distributed in the community. Additionally, new books will be purchased to add to FAU CARD’s materials center for staff and parents.

Finally, this grant will support the re-emergence of the Autism Speaker Series, annual presentations and sharing sessions presented by successful persons who have autism. FAU CARD plans to reinstate the in-person series in spring 2022 in alignment with any existing CDC guidelines.

The Center intends to utilize this grant money to continue with confidence, expand program offerings, serve more children and families and secure a valued position for people with autism in Palm Beach and Martin counties.