card partnership

Autism friendly community

Library Director Ray Baker, Christina Rodriguez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, and Dr. Michael Alessandri. 
By A&S News

Library Director Ray Baker, Christina Rodriguez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, and Dr. Michael Alessandri. 

Autism friendly community

By A&S News
UM-NSU CARD partners with county public libraries to create a space of inclusion and belonging for individuals with autism

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) has designated the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) as an Autism Friendly Partner.

“The Miami-Dade Public Library System is a wonderful example of an organization that is providing a welcoming, compassionate and inclusive environment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and related disabilities. We’re proud to call them our partner,” said UM-NSU CARD Executive Director Dr. Michael Alessandri. “Our mission is to optimize the potential of people living with autism and related disabilities, and we are eager to help create places and spaces in our community where our clients and families feel a true sense of belonging,”

In collaboration with UM-NSU CARD, the partnership is part of the Countywide Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Neurodiverse Inclusion Program, which includes training opportunities for county staff, the development of autism-friendly spaces, the expansion of age-specific programming for individuals with ASD, and the development of social narratives for county spaces, including libraries, parks, and transit.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who sponsored the resolution for the County to enter into an agreement with UM-NSU CARD to develop the program, participated in the ceremony along with Library Director Ray Baker and Dr. Alessandri.

“The goal of this Countywide Autism Spectrum Disorder and Neurodiverse Inclusion Program is to build a more welcoming community for people of all abilities,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado. “UM-NSU CARD is a great partner to help develop the program and I’m very happy that Miami-Dade Public Libraries is the first County department to be designated an Autism Friendly Partner.”

To date, nearly all public library employees have completed training provided by CARD. County libraries have also created custom social narratives for each of its 49 branches with input from UM-NSU CARD. The social narratives help individuals with autism and neurodiverse persons better understand what to expect when visiting a library.

The narratives are available online on the MDPLS website at www.mdpls.org/branch-a-z

“Making Miami-Dade a more equitable, inclusive place where all residents and families feel welcome is a key priority for my administration," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "Our public libraries have always been a place of inclusion and I’m proud that they are at the forefront of implementing this important Countywide effort to continue expanding and enhancing our programming and services for people of all abilities."

MDPLS is also working in collaboration with UM-NSU CARD on expanding its sensory-friendly program offerings to include more autism friendly experiences and neurodiverse programs and continuing to develop autism and sensory-friendly spaces in its libraries.

“I am so appreciative of the work and dedication of our Miami-Dade Public Library employees in this achievement that will make a difference in the lives of neurodiverse individuals and those with autism spectrum disorder,” said Library Director Ray Baker. “We’re honored to have been designated an Autism Friendly Partner and look forward to our continued collaboration with UM-NSU CARD.”

For more information about UM-NSU CARD’s Autism Friendly Initiative, click here