Autism Conference in January

USF’s Autism Center, which works with schools, businesses and others, observes its 20th anniversary as it prepares for statewide conference.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 9, 2013) – Two decades in, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD-USF) at the University of South Florida has lived up to its tagline: “the first choice for autism support,” said CARD Executive Director Karen Berkman.

Thousands of parents, children, educators and health professionals and even businesses such as Mercedes Benz and the Florida Aquarium can attest to its importance to the community.

“We consult with people across the lifespan on the autism spectrum and their families. We work with schools, agencies, businesses and with fellow professionals in the field, offering information and strategies to improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum,” Berkman said. “We also maintain an active website, offer online trainings and tutorials and videos – we’re as state-of-the-art as we can be and always looking for new ways we can be of assistance.”

Berkman looks forward to commemorating this 20-year milestone that coincides with the 20th Annual Statewide Autism Conference, sponsored by Florida's CARD and the Florida Outreach Project for Children & Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind (FOP). It will be held at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach Jan. 12-13, 2013. 

“Anyone who wants to get a comprehensive view of where research, interventions and progress in this field stand, should attend,” advises Berkman.

More than 20 nationally- and locally-recognized presenters will be on hand providing a wealth of information for the hundreds of educators, service providers and families of individuals with ASD and deaf blindness who are expected to attend. Online registration is available at  For more information, call (813)974-8470 or email

CARD is a community-based project that provides information and consultation to individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities. CARD-USF offers instruction and coaching to families and professionals via a training and assistance model through the USF College of Community and Behavioral Sciences. The Florida counties served include Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota.

“I can honestly say that by all of the centers working together, sharing the progress made in this field over the past two decades, we’ve made significant contributions to our community’s children and adults who are experiencing a better quality of life,” Berkman said. “It’s hard to imagine where so many people would be without us by their side to bring evidence-based practices to them at no cost.

“We have worked tirelessly to build a more welcoming community for people of all abilities. Establishing our autism-friendly business initiative that has impacted the business’ customer base, provided internship and employment opportunities for our adults are just some examples of how CARD makes a difference in people’s lives.” 

There will also be a free Annual Pre-conference Day for Educators of Students with Autism (PEPSA) Jan. 11 held in conjunction with the main conference.  Online registration for this program is available at, or for more information, contact Donna Casella at (813) 974-6168 or email

Preceding the conference is a two-day clinical training session in Autism Diagnosis Using Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) Jan. 10 and 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost for this workshop is $280 and seating is limited. Register online at and for further information call UCF CARD at (407) 823-6011 or contact by email

“We are expecting the conference to be outstanding because we have brought the conference back to Tampa this year where CARD was established over 20 years ago and are holding it at an autism-friendly hotel where CARD has provided training and technical assistance to make this a great experience for our guests.”

For more information about CARD-USF and to sign up for its newsletter, click here visit


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.