Water Safety is Critical


water safety tip

There are a number of swimming lessons and water safety education resources throughout the communities we serve through CARD-USF. They may or may not have expertise working with students with autism spectrum disorder. CARD-USF staff provide trainings upon request to various recreation programs, but even with our training, you need to make sure the instructors and programs you choose are right for your family. Please let us know if there are some terrific programs that worked well for your family so we can share the good news with other families. Here is a list of resources for all 14 counties we serve: swim lessons

Disclaimer: As a policy, CARD will not lend its name to the endorsement of any specific program, practice, or model that is offered for service to people with autism and related disabilities. However, the sharing of information and training opportunities are key functions of the…

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I Got My Degree. Now What?


So I know some people, (*cough*) my family in particular, will be the first to respond to this post with, “What do you mean, now what?” or “Already getting bored with no school?”. So let me just say NO! To both questions. I am not getting bored. And for those who are asking if I am going to grad school, the answer is also no! So far I am enjoying my ‘freedom’ of coming home and being a productive member of the household.

What I mean by the title of ‘Now what?’ is simply this. You work so hard for this degree; for this piece of paper that essentially says, ‘Yay me I survived countless all nighters, mastered APA writing standards and a time management ninja” but what now? I’m an ‘older’ graduate already working full time and providing for a family. I just don’t feel as though I am ‘ready to take on the world’ like a young graduate might feel. Hell I’ve taken on and lived in the real world already (Ps. it isn’t fun).

I guess I’m at a cross road now with my degree. It is harder to chase your dreams and go after these career goals when you have a family to think about and provide for. However, you feel like your selling yourself short by staying put and not utilizing your degree the way you want and exploring your passion.

What are your thoughts? Did you feel this way when you graduated? I’d love to know or maybe I’m just the only one who feels this way.

~ Adrian

A year at CARD

quote blog  Today marks a whole year that I have been with CARD (Center for Autism & Related Disabilities). When I got the opportunity I was thrilled to do the work that I enjoy for a cause    that I’m so passionate about. I truly feel that Avah’s diagnosis and having to become a ‘warrior mother’ has given me purpose in this life. Has opened my eyes and heart to help people in  general but mostly a deep desire to work with and help families and parents like me. When I got the opportunity to begin working at CARD I was so excited and thought this will be amazing. Boy was I right. This past year has flown but never fell short of amazing.

Most importantly the friendships that have been created this past year, I am beyond grateful for. Each and every one of my coworkers are hard working and passionate individuals wanting to help families and assist individuals on the autism spectrum overcome their challenges. It is amazing to see each and every day the work they put in for families and young adults here in our Learning Academy. I am in awe of my co-worker’s perseverance and over abundance of joy they get from helping people and celebrate with the families for each milestone or hurdle the individuals overcomes. I have built relationships with other warrior mothers that are on staff and our constituency board members. Being able to share stories and learn from mothers who have already traveled the path Avah and I are on is an honor. Being able to see their beautiful daughters who are grown and doing amazing things helps give me hope for Avah’s future. These women have become a huge part of my life and know the struggles I face and no how to lend a hand and kind words anyway possible.

We work hard. We are dedicated here at CARD but we do have fun. Laughter can be heard bellowing down the halls. Our lunchtime together is always like a comedy show. Everyone clicks. We all have our place here to do the very best for individuals and their families who face many struggles daily.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here to work each and every day. Most importantly, it feels great to know I am exactly where I am suppose to be. Here’s to many more years ahead.

Blowing up balloons with Beverly for our WaWa party

Blowing up balloons with Beverly for our WaWa party. Sad it wasn’t staying up LOL

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Surfers for Autism

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Sensory Skate night ❤ these ladies

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Bulls game with MK and Beverly


College Spirit day with the co-workers (some missing)

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Autism Mommas ❤


Life becomes busy at times. We often find ourselves consumed by what life throws our way. For me with work, kids, home, and school; it gets hard for me to stop and ‘smell the roses’. To stop and truly take in what I have, what I’ve accomplished and be grateful for my life. So I wanted to take a quick moment and reflect on all that I am thankful for.
I’m thankful for my family.
I’m thankful for my children.
I’m thankful for my boyfriend.
I’m thankful for my friends.
I’m thankful for my job and coworkers.
I’m thankful for our new place and being more financially stable.
2013 has been a good year for me and my family and for that…I am thankful.
I hope you all have an amazing holiday weekend with your family and loved ones. Enjoy the down time and the holiday season.
Until next time,

2012 in review…Welcoming 2013 with open arms!


As I look back on 2012 it was an ok year the best part is the world didn’t end so suck on that Mayans and theorists. There were some high points and some low points but for the most part it was a good year. I look forward to the New Year and what 2013 will bring to my family and friends.

2012 started on a low for me and my family as we lost my Great-Grandmother. She is missed but the great thing is she left us all with so many great memories and so many ‘Hazel moments’ that we will never fall short of having something to laugh about.

R.I.P Great Grandma

R.I.P Great Grandma

2012 was a good year for me academically I graduated from HCC and went on to USF to continue on with my education. I am currently working towards my Bachelors in Communications and my first semester there I did well. I am enjoying being a Bull and I love being part of USF. This past fall, I became active in the Autism Speaks U chapter and became the Secretary of the organization. Now heading into the spring semester and into 2013 I am Co-President of the organization alongside Georgette, a new friend of mine.

My family and I at my Graduation

My family and I at my Graduation


Go Bulls!

I also had a great internship this year with the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce which I am thankful for the opportunity. I met many great people from my few months of internship. I am especially thankful for the friendship that I gained from it. Lauren and I have become great friends with LOTS in common: USF, Communication major, social media, and we love wine. We have a lot of fun and I’m sure it will continue into 2013 and beyond.

Lauren and I at the Annual Banquet

Lauren and I at the Annual Banquet

Avah is doing great in school and her speech gets better and better each day! She is starting to lose all her baby teeth, she is getting so big and becoming a big girl. I know 2013 she will continue on with her great strides and grow even more. I am so proud of her! Ayden my little whirlwind is my social butterfly. He has so much energy and loves life! I can’t wait for him to start ‘school’ this coming year and see him develope even more. I love watching the both of them play. He has helped Avah so much and though she doesn’t interact much with her peers her love and fondness of her brother is undeniable. ❤

My babies turned 7 & 2

My babies turned 7 & 2

October 20, 2012 was supposed to be Rich and I’s wedding but we had to make the decision to put it on hold. I know one day it will happen in due time. So for what would have been our wedding weekend we went on a fabulous weekend getaway to Orlando and had a great time. We try to at least have one getaway a year and for some reason, so far, it’s always been Orlando. Maybe 2013 will take us somewhere different?


City Walk

City Walk

In December of this year I went back to work full -time for the first time in nearly two years. I always said that if I was going to go back full time it would have to an amazing opportunity. I was given that amazing opportunity I was waiting for! I began working at USF on December 3rd as the Program Assistant for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. In the past, I have helped guide families to resources and what to do next after the initial diagnosis of autism and I love helping families because I remember being in their shoes not too long ago, so being in this position to help and being surrounded by others in an office that has the same love and passion to help families and individuals with ASD is such an awesome experience. I am ready to learn and grow with this position in 2013.

RIch and the kids' first Bucs game!

RIch and the kids’ first Bucs game!

2013 is going to be great! There are so many great things happening this year! My best friend Brea is set to give birth to a baby soon and hopefully for her sake REAL soon. My other best friend Melodee is set to get married March 9th. She has waited for this day for so long and it’s finally happening. I couldn’t be happier for her and am proud to stand beside her on her big day. I am also extremely excited to be an aunt! My brother and his girlfriend Jessica will be welcoming the newest member to our family in June and I am so excited for them and can’t wait to meet my niece or nephew. My cousin Gabe is graduating high school and will be attending the University of Tampa next Fall. It is crazy how time flies as I remember watching him as a baby and now he is young man! We also have a big birthday to celebrate as Rich will be the big 3-0! (He’s not going to be happy I shared that lol). My babies will be 8 and 3 this year. I can’t believe it. I do believe 2013 will be a great year!

There are so many things great things happening all around me. Looking at my calendar of events and to do’s already makes me tired but it will be worth it. I have a great loving family, my children are happy and healthy, and 2013 will bring many great things our way. I wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year! Stay safe tonight!

Goodbye 2012 and hello 2013!


Monday to recuperate…

What a weekend!

Last week was daunting as I had many papers due for my classes. I spent all day Friday working on one of them just so I could attempt to let go and enjoy my weekend of football. After finishing my paper I was able to visit with family and see my aunt and uncle who came down from Tallahassee. It was great being able to visit with them, as it doesn’t happen often. Late Friday night it was time to prepare for the big day tomorrow. GAME DAY! At midnight I was up painting my nails green and gold… (Gotta have spirit!)

Saturday was the day! It was the highly anticipated rematch, USF VS. FSU. Not only was it exciting because of the rivalry and the big event around town, but it was also my first football game as a USF student. I was excited! The only thing that would have made it better is if I had family or close friends coming with me. After doing a little bit of tailgating it was game time. It was an amazing atomosphere to be a part of! I loved it! Being among other students being part of the USF unit was amazing. I even won Fan of the week because of this picture…..

GO BULLS!! \m/

Herd of Thunder (HOT)

Even though USF lost, I was glad in the fact that we didn’t get completely destroyed like many predicted. It sucks to lose at home especially to the Seminoles. By the way can someone please tell their band to play something else other than that freaking war chant! It is highly annoying to hear it constantly, back-to-back. Regardless, it was a good game!

S-O-U-T-H  F-L-O-R-I-D-A, South Florida, South Florida GOOOOOOO BULLS! \m/

In less than 24 hours I was back at Raymond James stadium to watch the Bucs play the Redskins. Still exhausted from the night before we had a good time. Amazing seats again given by #77 Carl Nicks of the Bucs. He is very kind in helping us families with autism and through CARD-USF we were once again, front row endzone and loved every minute of it! Avah did too!

Avah loved being there. When the crowd yells the famous, ‘Tampa…..Bay”, she thought we were saying Hooray! (close but not quite!) She also loves when the stadium plays Ozzy Osbornes ‘Crazy Train’ song the “ey ey ey” gets her everytime! She sings that part perfectly on cue everytime. She even gave Captain Fear (the mascot) a high five!

                                                                                                                    GO BUCS!

                                                   We even made it on television!!! Exciting!

The Bucs lost too, which was a bummer that both my Tampa teams lost, but what can you do!? By the time we got home Sunday, I was spent. My throat hurt from all the screaming and I was just drained. My whole Monday was spent recuperating! It was a fun weekend. Which as a family, we don’t have much of so I can’t complain too much, but  it is still none the less exhausting.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend!

❤   Adrian

Grandparents Day Tribute

“Grandparents make the world…a little softer, a little kinder, a little warmer.”

-Author Unknown


Tomorrow is Grandparents Day. Quite possibly the most overlooked holiday in our culture. We celebrate other holidays with parades, days off, and memorials. We celebrate recognize Father’s day and Mother’s day but what about Grandparents day? So with that said I wanted to write about my grandparents. Pay tribute to those who have passed and highlight those who are still here and still bring love and joy into my life and my children’s lives.

     Luckily for me my family is relatively young. Each generation is about 20 years a part. So I grew up with all my grandparents around and even great-grandparents. I loved it. Grandparents are the center of the family unit. They are the anchor of the family. Thier history and wisdom are essential for grandkids. There is a certain bond between a grandchild and grandparent that is undeniable. At least for me anyways.

     My great-grandfathers Leslie Caldwell and Robert Craw was extraordinary loving men. Both as young men served in WWII and after the military continued to be honorable men within their communities. They were loved and cherished by us all within the families and still to this day are missed. Great-Grandpa Craw lived in Indiana so unfortunately I didn’t see him a whole lot but when I would he was always so warm, funny, and a character. My great-Grandpa Caldwell I have more memories of as we lived in the same city and obviously shared more holidays together. I remember as a kid christmas eve, as tradition, going to my great grandparents house and him reading “The Night Before Christmas”. Both were so loving and devoted family men.

       My great-grandmother, Hazel Caldwell passed away at the beginning of this year. A true matriarch of our Caldwell family. This woman was so hilarious and witty. I miss hearing stories about what she did to embarrass my aunt or something funny she said. I remember one of the last times I saw her she kept on insisting on giving me a $5 bill. She wanted me to have it and by god she wasn’t taking no for an answer. Even as she was growing older and down to her final days she still kept her head strong personality. My other great-grandma Johnson- I unfortunately do not have memories of. She passed away while I was quite small. My grandmother and mother adored her and I know if they did, I would have too. I wish I could’ve met her.

      My Grandma and Grandpa Brooks – Though grandpa Brooks, also a WWII veteran, passed away when I was 13. I have many wonderful memories of him. Going to visit him and he sitting there listening to his talk radio smoking his pipe and discussing what was wrong with the world. He was hard of hearing so he spoke loudly and thus we had to speak loudly to him so he could hear us. The TV would be blaring so loud sometimes you couldn’t hear yourself think lol. I remember playing cards, and the triangle peg game. I remember he would let us grandkids ride around on his scooter like it was a race car. They were snow birds and in the summer would head north to Massachusetts. That is where my grandma Brooks resides permanently now. She is getting up there in age and her memory is fading slowly. I haven’t seen her in a few years as with life scheduling, money, and her health makes it hard for either of us to travel. She still to this day makes THE BEST fudge. Holiday times I start craving the fudge and breads she makes. She was a homemaker her whole life, devoted to my grandfather and her children. I remember as a child singing songs with her and retrieving pine cones that had fallen from her tree. I remember going over for breakfast sometimes and she would make homemade pancakes and they literally would be the size of a large frisbee! So many great memories from my childhood. I am thankful that they were a part of my life. Most importantly thankful for being who they were and adopting my dad and his two siblings. Keeping the three of them together so that they could grow up alongside each other and their kids (me and my cousins) could know each other. I thank them tremendously for that.

        Which leads me to my Gramma Marilyn – Though she knew who I was all along, I didn’t discover who she really was until the age of 8/9. My inquisitive self came across a birthday card to my dad that was signed ‘mom’ which led me to ask, ‘why does she sign the card mom?’ Up until that point I just figured they were family friends. Looking back I know I put my dad in a tight spot having to explain adoption to a 8-year-old, but luckily for him I was bright and understood. At the age of 8 going from calling her marilyn to grandma seemed different and out of context but it soon faded and we developed a wonderful relationship. I’ve always felt fortunate since that day. I not only had all my grandmothers still around to enjoy, I had three of them! My grandma Marilyn and I made up for lost time and share many memories and even more of laughs. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Especially now with Don in her life. A wonderful man who I just love. Spending the weekend with them in November while I was in town for a conference was so awesome and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  

       My grandpa and grandma Caldwell – What can I say! I have sooo many memories that I can’t even put them all into this already long blog.  I would spend the night and my grandma and I’s imagination was endless. One night we had a fabulous dinner and traveled the world all while sitting at her dining room table. We could find the littlest things humorous. Things that others may not understand we do: the snow bunny cowboy, the corpse singing in the choir, the half xmas tree, the rewashed windows, the piranha in the pond incident, the iguana in the tree, trying to squeeze the bunny mansion in a two door Chevy Cavalier, christy eating the whole pumpkin pie, exuberant amount of time stirring jello, sweeda sweeda lady…So many more. So many memories at their house for me and my cousins. My grandpa always silly taking his teeth out just to get my brother and cousins to chuckle. A loving man with a sweet demeanor and already adored by my two year old. I was fortunate to live with them for a short time so I could finish out my senior year at King. I loved those few months. They have always been my biggest fans, pushing me to be the best I can be. Always supportive. I adore my grandpa and grandma. We’re very close and they are huge pillars in my life.

    I am very fortunate of all my grandparents. All the memories. All the things that each individual one has taught me. I love them all. They have all been so supportive in my dreams and goals. So on the eve of another grandparents day I thank each of you for what you have given to me. I love you all so much.

  – XOXO   Adrian Marie