Florida's First Choice for Autism Support

Posts tagged ‘City of Tampa’

Farewell Dr. Berkman

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.”

Sincerely,

Adrian & the CARD/TLA team

Tampa Mayor Goodbye

In his State of the City Address in 2017, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced that the City of Tampa will partner with CARD-USF to make Tampa an autism friendly city. There the #AutismFriendlyTampa initiative was born and we hit the ground running. CARD-USF facilitated 60 trainings and has trained over 1,700 first responders and City of Tampa employees. CARD-USF has worked closely with the city’s parks and recreation department, created Distract Paks that contain sensory materials for various City of Tampa locations and local parks are being updated to become accessible for all. So much good has come from this initiative and it is because of your commitment Mayor Buckhorn. We thank you for this great partnership and for your service to this amazing city and ALL of its citizens. Farewell and good luck on your next adventure Mayor. #AutismAwarenessMonth #CityofTampa 

My Take on Becoming an Autism Friendly Tampa Advisory Committee Member

Recently, I was asked to join the new City of Tampa’s Autism Friendly Advisory Committee, a council approved by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. It was an incredible honor, and almost overwhelming in a way. While it may have something to do with self-confidence issues, I felt like I didn’t deserve it. All I am doing is indulging my passion for writing with this blog, and now I’m asked to represent the ASD community in the Tampa Bay area? While it’s still difficult for me to process, I decided wholeheartedly to accept the invitation. The meeting included representatives from several prominent institutions around the area, including MOSI, Glazer Children’s Museum and WEDU, and all were fully committed to the idea of an autism friendly Tampa Bay. For my own part, I put forward several ideas on how to improve the general relationship between individuals with autism and the city, such as promoting success stories and highlighting the positive aspects of inclusion in regards to ASD. If there’s any way for me to continue to provide a voice for our community here in Tampa, I’ll be proud to do so.

Perhaps the most important thing we discussed in the meeting was CARD’s crown jewel, the Autism Friendly Business Initiative that, with collaboration from the mayor’s office, has expanded into Autism Friendly Tampa (AFT). I’ve discussed it previously in past blogs, and you can read all about it on our website, but essentially AFT is a project aimed at training various businesses around the city, as well as the city employees & first responders. The training is provided by CARD-USF at no cost and seeks to improve an understanding of autism and best practices to engage and accommodate those on the spectrum and their families. Considering the significant number of us (there are estimated to be more than 25,000 people with autism in Tampa Bay), you can see how important this is to us. I fully support AFT’s efforts, and speaking from experience I can see the incredible potential. While I’ve never felt discriminated against in any way, I will say going out to certain places can be an anxiety-laden nightmare, where I feel like I’m being judged for my awkward posture, stuttering speech, inability to make eye contact, etc. Removing that layer of fear I know would be valuable not only to myself but others as well.

For its part, Tampa has been receptive to AFT, and we believe in it going forward. The positive feedback we’ve already received has been fantastic. One respondent went into detail about the importance of this project. They wrote, “cooperation with traffic and safety departments for a process to request caution road signs for motorist awareness could potentially save lives,” “The things some people may take for granted, such as dentists’ offices, recreational programs and therapy providers are critically important to our families,” and “With the right people and resources in place, I’m confident the Tampa initiative will have a profoundly positive impact on autistic individuals and their families.” This is a sentiment we hope to hear echoed over the coming years from families across the region affected by ASD.

G. Sosso

gage header

** To view the official City of Tampa’s press release and the list of committee members click here.

 

Autism Friendly Tampa

 

Tampa’s Mayor, Bob Buckhorn, delivering his State of the City address where he unveils the city’s new initiative, Autism Friendly Tampa, and the new partnership with CARD-USF.

Tag Cloud