Professor wants expanded FAU autism center, Community meeting tonight to focus on Boca facility

Residents of Palm Beach County who need treatment for autism may be getting short shrift compared to other residents of the state.
The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities operates six regional, non-residential resource centers in Florida. One is a satellite facility at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Since the FAU site is a satellite office, it has a full-time staff of only two people to deal with 450 clients with autism.
The director of that office, Dr. Jack Scott, would like to see it upgraded to a full-fledged facility, with adequate funding from the legislature to handle the workload.
A community meeting to consider the proposal to establish the more expansive site at FAU will be held 7-9 p.m. today in Room 123 of the College of Education.
The intent of the effort, he said, is to establish a full-fledged center that will serve Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, using FAU as its framework. Among its campuses, the university has locations in Boca Raton and in Port St. Lucie.
FAU’s Boca and St. Lucie campuses could both act as centers for autism, because they are part of the same institution.
As part of that enlargement effort, Republican State Rep. Gayle Harrell will file a bill in the legislature during the 2003 session to have the center at FAU upgraded so it can deal with the expanding population of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
Scott said Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein of South County has also been instrumental in helping the center get $157,000 in seed money for its expansion.
“It has been difficult to get a CARD center for families in this area,” Klein said Monday.
He said he will meet with Harrell to hammer out the needed legislation. If it is required, he or another senator will file a companion bill in that chamber.
“We don’t want children to have to ride for an hour to get treatment,” Klein said. He said the FAU site “is small. It needs to be expanded.”
The number of people in Florida with autism is growing, emphasized Scott. So the need for services is also on the rise.
It was in response to these needs that six regional centers were established – at the University of Florida/ Gainesville, the University of Florida Health Science Center/ Jacksonville, the University of South Florida, the University of Miami, the University of Central Florida and at FAU.
The Boca campus site is a satellite of the UM center.
The treatment locations treat both children and adults of all levels of intellectual functioning who have autism, pervasive developmental disorders, autistic-like disabilities, dual sensory impairments or sensory impairments with other disabling conditions.
The primary focus, he said, is to provide individualized, direct assistance to these individuals and their families. Services include technical assistance and consultation, professional training programs and public education activities.
CARD services are designed to build on the capacities of state and local resources, not to duplicate or replace them. The centers are funded by the Florida Legislature through the Florida Department of Education, and all services are provided free.

If you go:
A community meeting to consider a proposal to expand the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida Atlantic University will be held 7-9 p.m. today in Room 123 of the College of Education on the Boca Raton campus, 777 Glades Road. The public is invited. Call Dr. Jack Scott, 775-0625.