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UCF Observes National Autism Awareness Month

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By Valerie Moses

The UCF Center for Autism and Related Disorders will host events this month and in early May that will help the center support the 7,000 families affected by autism spectrum disorders that it serves.

As part of its observance of National Autism Awareness Month, UCF CARD on April 1 launched its first virtual fundraiser, which allows people in the community to create free, personal fundraising websites that they can customize with messages and images. The fundraiser ends April 30, and proceeds will help fund summer camp programs, social skills groups, parent and community education, recreational activities and more.

"This is a way for families to give to the center without costing them anything, while building more programs in Central Florida for individuals with autism spectrum disorders," said Judee Samuels, coordinator for the center.

Other highlights of UCF's National Autism Awareness Month observance include:

  • UCF CARD will sell baked goods from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 19 and 26 in the Health and Public Affairs building and in the lobby of the UCF Foundation building, 12424 Research Parkway. The center has partnered with Happy Eatings, a company that creates custom foods and provides employment opportunities for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
  • The Across the Spectrum 2013 conference and resource fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Daytona State College UCF Campus, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., Building 150, Room 101. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The free event will offer workshops for parents, individuals and service providers affected by autism. Space is limited. RSVP to Lora_BFOCASD@msn.com.

In addition, CARD will distribute autism indicator cards to local businesses and doctors' offices to increase awareness and help diagnose children sooner. When the center opened in 1999, autism incidence rates were 4.5 in every 10,000 births, while today it's 113 of every 10,000 births.

"We as a community need to take care of our families here," said Samuels. "It is important that we stand and unite as one to support each other. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders can be successful, supportive community members with a helping hand."

To learn more about how to participate in National Autism Awareness Month, visit http://www.palsucfcard.myevent.com/3/fundraiser.htm.

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