Dear Friends,
Our world has changed so much since the last newsletter went out in March 2020. We are continuing to serve our clients remotely in this time of social distancing and doing our best to come up with creative solutions to share information and resources with the community.
At this time, all of our offices (Tallahassee, Panama City, and Pensacola) remain closed to the public. We are still working remotely using email, video conference, and phone to provide support. If you need to reach any of us, send an email to:  [email protected].  If you need to reach your consultant, email will be the fastest way. Click here for a list of our  Consultants’ Emails.
We are trying to share information and resources with all of our clients and families using social media and email blasts. Our  Facebook page is constantly being updated with resources and information about upcoming online trainings.
We are also regularly updating our COVID-19 Resource  List on  this Google Document.  For ease of use, we have created a new tab on our website  ( that links directly to this COVID-19 resource.
For parents who have children in preschool or early elementary school, FSU CARD is offering free access to the  Autism Navigator® How-To Guide for Families. Please see the article below for information on how to get your  FREE CODE
Please help us stay connected with you by doing the following:
  • Update your contact information using our Annual Update Form located on our website. 
  • Add [email protected] to your address book to prevent messages going to your spam folder. Check your spam folder frequently for any missed messages.
One positive outcome during this difficult time is the increase in participation we’ve had during two major online trainings. On May 11 th and 13 th, we had over 1,100 attendees for our 2-part regional training in collaboration with Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism (PEPSA) The training, held via Zoom, focused on reducing anxiety and challenging behavior with Jessica Minahan ( This was a record for FSU CARD and we were thrilled to have so many people benefit from the information that Ms. Minahan shared. The 2020 Summer Training Institute on Autism hosted by the FSU Autism Institute, traditionally a 3-day, in-person conference, was held online this year on June 16-18, 2020. Each day had close to or just over 500 attendees learning from experts about adult transition, sensory processing and behavior, and best practices for classroom success for PreK to 2 nd grade teachers. You can read more about both training events in the articles below.


In keeping with our shift to online training, the 28 th Annual CARD Conference is going virtual in January 2021. The call for papers is still open until mid-July. Please see the article below for more details.
In addition to the ongoing stress and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to the world, the horrific murder of George Floyd turned our country upside down. FSU CARD and the FSU Autism Institute have always fought for inclusion and equal access for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, orientation, ability, or creed. We’ve included our Facebook post from the 155 th anniversary of Juneteenth (June 19, 2020) that shares our continued commitment to educate ourselves, our clients, and our communities about racism and what we can do to be a part of the solution. We will continue to train first responders about how to recognize and successfully interact with people on the spectrum. Additionally, we will continue to collaborate with our school districts to reduce seclusion and restraint for all students, being particularly mindful of the alarming statistics regarding minority students. A list of resources addressing the issue of inequality (suitable for all ages) can be found in the article below.
Finally, a bittersweet way to end my letter is the announcement of the brand-new  Diana McLendon Excellence in Teaching Memorial Award. Diana was the Autism Spectrum Disorder Program Coordinator at the Florida Department of Education Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, as well as the Coordinator for all CARD Centers and Autism Navigator who lost her fight with Leukemia in December 2019. FSU CARD is honored to set up this award on behalf of all seven CARD locations to recognize Florida teachers who exemplify Diana’s commitment to teaching students with autism. Working closely with Diana’s children, we came up with an application process that is open to all teachers in Florida who serve students with autism. Please read more about this new award and share with the excellent teachers who have positively impacted your lives.
As always, I look forward to serving our 5,300+ clients, their families, and the surrounding communities during the next quarter. I’m interested in hearing your feedback on ways we are helping you and how we can improve.
Please stay healthy and remember to follow the guidelines to stay safe: keep a safe social distance whenever possible, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and disinfect surfaces often. Don’t forget to take a look at the resources on our COVID-19 document to help you and your loved ones understand why these precautions are necessary.
Catherine Zenko, M.S., CCC-SLP
Director, FSU CARD


Our social media accounts are listed below. Please follow us on your preferred social media platform to get the most up-to-date information.


2021 CARD Conference Goes Virtual
There is no question that our daily lives are feeling the impact of COVID-19. For 27 years, the statewide CARD conference is something we have looked forward to every January. It gives all an opportunity to see families, professionals and individuals we now call friends that we do not get to see on a regular basis and catch up on a laugh and or a triumphant moment that occurred in the last year of life.

After ongoing consideration, and given the necessity to move forward with planning, the CARD directors have unanimously decided, with the health and safety of attendees foremost in mind, that the CARD conference will be a fully virtual experience for the 28th year. The dates will remain the same January 15-17. 2021. Please click this link for additional information –

Call for Papers is open until July 15, 2020 – Please click this link for additional information – 

What Does This Mean for You?

For attendees, we believe it means simplicity. Join us online from the comfort of your own home! No need to pay for travel, hotel rooms, respite care, parking fees, meals away and any other additional cost incurred while away from home. Join us live on Friday. January 15. 2020 for our free PEPSA Day (if you choose) and then if you wish for the 28th Annual CARD Conference for a small fee starting at $80. We can promise that you will enjoy the same innovative content, motivating speakers, and welcoming network of colleagues you have always enjoyed over the last 27 years.

For exhibitors, we believe it means cost effectiveness and increased reach with analytics. No need for travel, accommodations, or meals away from the office. Your employees can remain at home and speak directly to CARD attendees. Depending on your level of support you may have a live session for 60 minutes in conjunction with daily interaction with attendees. More exposure via the web and social media and let us not forget the savings on printed materials. All materials will be uploaded providing attendees to print or save on their own. Participants will have the information for longer periods of time with ease of access. Exhibitor prospectus for 2021 is now available.

The Details
Currently, we are all working on the logistics to enhance your learning experience. The conference will consist of live keynote presentations, an exhibitor area with ability to connect to exhibitors live, and will include more than usual networking opportunities with speakers and attendees. We are even seeking a bookstore for your convenience.

Do not worry if your time schedule does not meet ours. If you are a paid attendee, you will have the ability to view the sessions on your own time for up to 3 months.

On behalf of the board of directors and the CARD staff we wish to thank you for your commitment as a CARD supporter and devotion to autism. We look forward to seeing you all online and hope you are staying healthy and taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

If you have any concerns or questions at this time please contact the CARD conference organizer Judee Samuels at [email protected], and she will respond as soon as possible.

Diversity and Inclusion at FSU CARD

On the 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth, FSU CARD took the opportunity to make social media posts joining our voices and actions by showing that we support the  # BlackLivesMatter movement  and always strive to treat everyone, regardless of color, gender, orientation, ability, or ethnicity with the utmost respect.
We at CARD will not be silent when we see an unmet need. This is an opportunity for us to seek knowledge of ourselves and our own biases and to listen and understand the lived experiences of others in or der to actively practice being anti-racist. Listening and not making assumptions is a first step in this process, but it cannot be the last. We must create informed plans for dismantling systemic racism to create meaningful and lasting change and then we must carry out those plans..
Across the years, CARD has worked extensively on issues related to safety for those in the autism community, including decreasing the use of seclusion and restraint in schools and helping first responders, especially law enforcement, to interact more successfully with people with autism during crisis situations. The intersection of disability and minority status puts many people at greater risk for heightened, dangerous interactions with public authority. We want to empower safe and successful navigation of these challenging situations through our outreach and training. We will continue to emphasize these activities in order to increase the safety and security of individuals on the autism spectrum, especially those of color and diverse cultural backgrounds.
We will continue to share resources to educate ourselves and our children about race and acceptance. We are proud to be a part of the FSU College of Medicine and Florida State University and we join with them as we all take a stand and share ways we can be a part of the change that needs to happen.
Books for children to help talk about racism and discrimination:
Resources for parents to use to talk to their children about racism:
Help for adult clients struggling with trauma:

Diana McLendon Excellence in Teaching Award
This award is being offered in the memory of Diana McLendon who lost her battle with Leukemia in December 2019. Diana was the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Program Coordinator for the Department of Education, the statewide Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) centers, Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism (PEPSA), and Autism Navigator.
FSU CARD is proud to set up this memorial award to honor our colleague Diana on behalf of all seven CARD centers around the state. We are presenting this award to honor Diana and her passion for students with ASD.
During Diana’s first year of teaching students with autism, she won the prestigious Florida Council of Exceptional Children Dr. Jack R. Lamb Rookie Teacher of the Year award in 2008. The ideal candidate would possess many of the characteristics and qualities that Diana had in her professional career.
Diana was an individual that demonstrated a positive attitude and faced each day with extreme energy. She was highly motivated and approached the ASD world with a kind and genuine heart. Diana approached teaching students with ASD with an open mind and lived by the motto “No child is left behind.” In the classroom you could see her passion and dedication as she interacted and taught her ASD students. Diana was innovative, finding new techniques and strategies to improve teaching in her classroom. As an ASD Program Coordinator, Diana was committed to improving the lives of ASD children throughout  Florida. In her role as liaison she helped manage discretionary projects such as CARD, PEPSA, and Autism Navigator. Diana  p rovided critical technical assistance and worked professionally with many of her statewide ASD contacts and school districts. She had solid leadership qualities that enabled her to work as a team player. Diana considered working as an ASD educator and coordinator a privilege. Her family and colleagues want to continue to honor Diana and live out her legacy.
As an applicant, tell us about yourself and how you feel you best portray similar characteristics that are recognized by Diana McLendon’s family and colleagues as the traits of an excellent teacher.
Requirements for the Award:
Must be an educator teaching in Florida — Any grade level
Must have at least one student with ASD in the 2020-2021 school year
Must have contact with regional CARD center
Upload Curriculum Vita/Resume
Upload two letters of recommendation (professional, family of student)
Application Deadline: October 16, 2020
Winner(s) will be notified by 12/31/2020
PEPSA, FSU CARD, and Jessica Minahan M.Ed., BCBA present:  Reducing Anxiety and Challenging Behavior in Students
On May 11 th and 13 th, the Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism (PEPSA) and FSU CARD teamed up to provide a two-day training by Jessica Minahan M.Ed., BCBA. Over 1150 people tuned in online for this 2-part virtual training on  Reducing Anxiety and Challenging Behavior in Students.
Jessica  ( is a board-certified behavior analyst and special educator who serves as the director of behavioral services at the Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents group practice in Newton, Massachusetts, and as a consultant to schools internationally. Jessica has over seventeen years of experience supporting students who exhibit challenging behavior in urban public-school systems. She is the co-author of  The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students (Harvard Education Press, 2012) and author of The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety- Related or Oppositional Behaviors (Harvard Education Press, 2014).
The online audience included caregivers, educators, administrators, and related service professionals. With up to one in three children struggling with anxiety in this country, overwhelmed adults require a new approach as well as a practical and easy-to-implement toolkit of strategies that work. Students with autism are at greater risk than their typically developing peers for developing anxiety and anxiety disorders such as phobias, OCD, and social anxiety disorder. In the time of COVID-19, and the subsequent societal changes, anxiety has become ever- present in students of all ages.
Through the use of case studies, humorous stories, and examples of everyday challenging situations, Jessica packed the training with strategies for reducing negative thinking, interventions for the classroom, and ways to recognize and work with students exhibiting anxiety-related behavior.
2020 Summer Training Institute on Autism
The 2020 Summer Training Institute on Autism was held on June 16th, 17th and 18 th. We featured numerous astounding individuals who presented new findings on evidence-based practices and offered practical strategies for implementing these practices for individuals with ASD in educational and community settings.
The Training Institute was sponsored by the Florida State University College of Medicine Autism Institute and Autism Navigator LLC and was held as a virtual training due to COVID-19. There were about 500 participants logged in each day.
This Training Institute was designed to prepare educators and service providers to understand the social communication, behavioral, and learning characteristics of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It included participants across the disciplines: general education and special education teachers, district-level personnel, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, early interventionists, psychologists, behavior analysts, and social workers serving children with autism spectrum disorder.
Tuesday sessions included:
  • A Life Course Perspective on Autism and the Transition to Adulthood: Using Population Level data to Inform Policy and Practice presented by: Anne Roux, MPH, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute
  • Building Work Skills for Employment Success: Strategies and Resources presented by: Tracy Dempsey, MS, Project 10
  • Applying the Data to State Practices: A Panel Discussion with Florida Transition Policy Makers and Stakeholders moderated presented by: Anne Roux, MPH
Wednesday session:
  • Challenging Behavior Management – Leveling UP! To Provide Comprehensive Support for Emotional Regulation presented byAmy Laurent, PhD, OTL/R & Jacquelyn Fede, PhD, Autism Level UP!
Thursday session:
  • An Interactive Guide through Autism Navigator®Classroom Success in Pre-k to 2nd grade — Strategies for In-Person and Virtual Classrooms presented by: Joy Moore, MS, Lerena Fleck, MS, Renee Holland, MS, Amy Wetherby, PhD, Debi Cassidy, BS, and Catherine Zenko, MS, Florida State University Autism Institute
The Summer Training Institute was a great way for participants to come together to virtually learn and discuss topics that are pertinent to persons on the spectrum.
Click on the link to read the full descriptions of each training:
Arts4All Florida and FSU CARD
FSU CARD and Arts4All Florida teamed up again to bring another Artist in Residence Series for aspiring artists led by local artist Megan Cameron Holmes. Seven artists came together weekly to learn about art as a business, art technique, and to create art.
Cameron exposed them to contemporary artists, such as Lisa Congdon, that have a following in the graphic arts genre and could share how they turned their passion into a living. They also had a local sketch artist guest speaker who talked about the business and creative side of what she does, and the education entailed. She explained how each and every artist has a different path to follow whether they do art for fun or to support themselves.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the planned in-person exhibition has had to go digital.  Here is a link to the exhibitions on Arts4All’s  website:
Here is a link to the exhibition entitled “The Future is Art.” which consists of artists hailing from the Miami Youth Academy, Lake County’s Leesburg High School, and the Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (FSU CARD):
T he art program was also mentioned in this Tallahassee Democrat article:


The Loving Push Book Study
By: Crystal Grey-Hewett

Earlier this month, I began having a small group book study of  The Loving Push by Dr. Debra Moore and Dr. Temple Grandin.
This text focuses on helping parents find a roadmap for assisting their teen and adult children with autism spectrum disorder attain a level of independence and success. There is no time too early to be thinking about how to help our children in this domain, as that 18 th birthday seems to sneak up on us.
Some of the topics discussed include the importance of helping your child find and exploit their interests, helping them learn to cope with and rebound from setbacks and failure, and the importance of keeping them socially engaged in the outside world. In addition, the book tells us of the experiences of 8 adults on the spectrum, their various struggles, and their eventual paths to independence and success.
If you are interested in participating, please sign up, as it is not too late and we would love to have your viewpoints and experiences as part of this learning experience.
To sign up, please follow the link here –

Client Corner

Autism Navigator
Free access to the Autism Navigator® How-To Guide for Families

FSU CARD is pleased to continue to offer free access to our CARD families with young children not yet old enough to enroll in kindergarten to the online Autism Navigator®  How-To Guide for Families course. This self-paced course will teach caregivers how to use strategies and supports in their everyday activities as well as provide them with access to a variety of “tools” to chart their child’s developmental growth and monitor meaningful outcomes.  This online course is full of video libraries to illustrate how to promote learning and development of their child with ASD.  For more information about the Autism Navigator®  How-To Guide for Families, please visit their  website .  If you are a parent of a young child with FSU CARD and would like to request a code to the How-To Guide for Families, please click this  link: 

In addition to the online course, parents that enrolled in the How-To Guide for Families, will be invited to join a weekly meetup (a Guided Tour) where parents will have the opportunity interact with other families with similar issues from the convenience of their computer, phone or tablet.  We hope to start the next CARD facilitated How-To Guided Tour as soon as 10 to 12 families express an interest in getting one started.

Learn More >>

Baby Navigator
Baby Navigator Website

The Executive Director of FSU CARD and Director of the College of Medicine’s Autism Institute, Dr. Amy Wetherby, launched a new website,, that walks parents through early childhood development and alerts them to early signs of autism.

Click on the article below for more information. HERE →

Share with CARD!

FSU CARD is continuously looking for clients who would like to share their art, writing pieces, or success stories in our quarterly newsletter. If you are interested in sharing for our next issue, please send a message and image electronically to Tammy Dasher ([email protected]). All art or writing pieces should be titled. Select submissions will be chosen for each edition of the newsletter; artists and authors will be notified if their article is chosen.

Client Feature: Marsha Emma Lyn Collin
By: Tammy Dasher
Marsha Emma Lyn Collin, a rising 6 th grade student at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Fort Walton Beach, is the winner of Autism Spectrum on the Emerald Coast   (ASEC) ‘s  t-shirt design contest. ASEC, with support from TSP Screenprinting and Embroidery, asked CARD clients from around the Panhandle to submit original artwork for the t-shirts. The autism awareness shirts are a fundraiser for FSU CARD.
“I’m really into the show  Masked Singer,” Marsha said. “I have drawn all the characters from all over the world. My favorite is the Peacock, aka Donny Osmond.” Marsha’s colorful peacock image and her inspirational words about “being yourself,” from the winning design were inspired by the show. This contest is the first time Marsha has been recognized for her art. “I was so excited to have won,” she stated enthusiastically. Marsha’s favorite way to create art is to draw first with a pencil and then outline and color with markers and gel pens.
In addition to art, Marsha has many other talents. She participates in ATA Taekwondo, a form of martial arts. She is a 1 st degree black belt and the 2020 Florida State Champ in the area of Forms, Weapons, Sparring, Combat Sparring, and Creative Weapons. She is currently in training to compete in the district and world competitions slated to be held in the fall of this year. During the last school year, she was on the archery team. She plans to try out for Color Guard next year.
Marsha keeps busy with all her activities, but likes to relax by playing  Adventure Academy and watching Disney Plus with her family.
“My family have been members of FSU CARD since I was 4,” Marsha explained. “Ms. Debi [Cassidy] has helped me so much throughout my school years. I am excited that the Autism Spectrum on the Emerald Coast picked my design and that the proceeds from the t-shirt go to FSU CARD.”
If you are interested in purchasing one of Marsha’s t-shirts, please use the link below for more details. 
Orders must be placed by 7/15/2020.

Client Feature:  David Byram
By: Taylor Fabrega
As we continue living in an ever-changing world, exercise and recreation activities are things that many have been missing. Luckily for residents in the Pensacola area that were eager to return to their local YMCA, David Byram was ready to greet them with a smile when doors opened to the public once again!
David is a young man that has been involved with FSU CARD and similar programs in the panhandle for much of his life.  He is known for his friendly nature and always begins a conversation with a heartfelt, “Hi, how are you doing?”  In his free time, he enjoys watching funny movies. At recent talent showcases hosted online for fellow adult clients, David treated his peers to some jokes he had prepared for the occasion and even a few karaoke songs! True to his typical kind self, he also showered others with compliments and positive feedback after they performed their own feats.
In a recent interview, David talked about at his employment at the YMCA and his journey to get there.  He saw there was an opening at the nearest location and decided  to apply.
Although he was nervous about the interview, it went well and shortly after he was hired as the newest staff member!  As with any new job, there was a bit of a learning curve but he quickly got used to the routines and expectations. David has had a few other work experiences leading up to this one, but he particularly enjoys how welcoming his coworkers are and his current position. It is the perfect fit for his personality- being a greeter!
David reports that his duties and responsibilities have evolved quite a bit over the last few months.
Before Covid-19 precautions, he would check members in (usually an old school pen-and-paper affair), figure out where they were going, and provide quality customer service. Now, much of that is done with social distancing in mind. He scans members in with an app on their device or types their phone number, all while providing the same great customer service.
On most shifts these days, David is also assigned an hour-long deep clean where he sanitizes common areas in addition to his greeter station. He says that wearing a mask is “not my favorite thing”, but with practice and patience he is getting used to it.
David is always sure to ask his supervisor if there is anything else he can help with while he is on the clock. His advice to other adults with autism when seeking and maintaining employment, “Stay positive, be cool and collected even when it gets tough.”

Health & Nutrition

Nutritional Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Taken from the article: ” This review summarizes the state of the current clinical and experimental literature on nutritional interventions for ASD, including gluten-free and casein-free, ketogenic, and specific carbohydrate diets, as well as probiotics, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and dietary supplements (vitamins A, C, B6, and B12; magnesium and folate).”

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