Mixed emotions are in abundance here at CARD-USF. We’ve all known this day would eventually arrive but we didn’t anticipate it coming so fast. It seems like it was yesterday she was whispering the words, “I’m going to retire next year”, yet here we are looking at her last week as Executive Director. To say Dr. Karen Berkman will be missed is a true understatement. Many of us, her included, are so busy preparing and planning that it keeps us from stopping and thinking about the sadness of it all. Which is good, keeps the tears at bay for a while longer. After 16 extraordinary years leading CARD-USF, Karen will set out on a new adventure; retirement. Although we as a group couldn’t be more excited for her, we are sad to see her go.
Karen is the true definition of a leader. She is determined, forthright, and has the ability to inspire those around her. She has pushed us to great heights and constantly nudges us to think bigger, smarter and beyond by asking “what’s next?”. However, at the same time, she is compassionate, understanding and willing to stop at nothing to make sure we have all we need for the overall success of our work.
She has had such an impact on families and individuals on the autism spectrum. Whether it was from creating The Learning Academy for young adults to learn employment skills, to creating the Autism Friendly Business initiative after seeing a need in the community; she has the keen sense of seeing a need and from that creating something amazing. She was instrumental in the development of the Autism Friendly Tampa Initiative along with the City of Tampa and former Mayor, Bob Buckhorn. She served on the Governor’s Autism Task Force to help implement changes to the state. She also brought CARD-USF and HIPPY together for a collaborative effort to assist children with autism with the reading curriculum provided through HIPPY.
She has achieved much success during her time at USF. Her impact here at USF, CARD and throughout our 14 counties reaches far and wide; she has so much to be proud of.
Dr. Berkman, if you’re reading this (which I’m sure you are) I along with the CARD and TLA team will miss you so very much. We will do our very best to continue on with your great work and we will strive to make you proud. Enjoy your retirement and the crisp air of the mountains. You deserve it!
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Adrian & the CARD/TLA team
It’s that time of year once again, every kid’s favorite: back to school! We hope everyone’s successfully readjusted to their school schedule and aren’t still stuck in summer mode. It can be a stressful time for parents as well, not knowing how their kids are going to be treated by the other students, their teacher, and the administration. Will they make friends? Will they have to sit alone in the cafeteria? Is getting them to do homework going to be a daily stress? My parents can attest to all those feelings, and I know personally just how scary the whole experience can be; the first day of school was my worst nightmare when I was younger. But it really doesn’t need to be. School can be a wonderful and fulfilling part of your life, a time you’ll look back on with nostalgia when the realities of adult life hit you.
I’d like to outline some general advice I have for the back to school period that can be beneficial for both the student and parents. This is assuming you’ll be in a general education classroom which, as I’ve previously discussed, is becoming more common for kids on the spectrum. First is to keep a constant line of communication between student, parent, and teacher. As someone who’s going into the teaching profession, I can’t understate the importance of this. Teachers have to balance the needs of an entire classroom, and it can be difficult to properly identify one student’s troubles if they don’t know what’s going on in that student’s mind. Not only is a good relationship with the teacher positive academically, but I’ve seen firsthand teachers who are willing to help integrate their special needs students with the rest of the class. New friendships are formed that never would have been otherwise.
Another important thing, and it’s one that in hindsight I’m glad my family forced on me, is to get involved. Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, clubs, any extracurricular activities. When I was much younger I did these things (reluctantly at first), and ended up making many of my friends through them. It also allowed my mom to form relationships with the other parents so they could set up play dates for all of us. Even for older students, it’s never a bad idea to stay active, learn some valuable life skills, and have fun instead of wasting away doing nothing like many high schoolers are prone to do. I know that for many with ASD, putting yourself out there in social situations can be a daunting task, but facing your fears and anxieties is the only way to overcome them. Building a rapport with your teacher and getting involved with the school are what I consider to be the most important methods of feeling comfortable in school from the very beginning of the year.
With the uncertainty of Hurricane Dorian’s impact on Florida, now is a good time to prepare. CARD-USF has Hurricane Safety brochures in English and Spanish as well as a Hurricane Social Narrative. Also, be sure to register with the Special Needs Registry in your county at FLGetAPlan.com
Hurricane Safety (English):https://www.dropbox.com/…/CARD_2018HurricaneGuide_FINAL_dig…
In May, CARD provided an autism awareness training to many of the Guest Services staff and Airport Traffic and Police at Tampa International Airport as part of their effort to meet the needs of people with ASD. We were thrilled to learn about their TPA 360 Traveler Education Program.
Airline travel is often a break from the typical routine and can spark anxiety and stress in most families; especially those with individuals affected by autism. The friendly and supportive TPA 360 staff understand this and offer a “pre-travel” experience that invites families and individuals to visit the airport, take a tour of the areas they will be using during their actual flight, and practice going through the whole process from check-in, to security screening, to actually getting onto the aircraft! This is like a “living social story” that provides a real experience and sets the expectations of all the travelers in a family.
If you travel or plan to take a flight out of Tampa, we encourage you to contact Tampa International Airport Guest Services (813) 870-8759 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to book a TPA 360 tour. For more information and a view of their webpage.
For more information on tips and resources for air travel and autism CARD-USF has created the Airports, Airplanes & Autism booklet. Access it here.