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Meet Yazmin Castellano

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yazmin Castellano.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I posess a B.A. in Clinical Psychology from Sacred Heart University, PR and an M.A in School Psychology from Interamerican University, PR. Currently, I am a doctoral student at USF towards the completion of an Ed. D in Educational Program Development with a concentration on Educational Innovation. I started working for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD-USF) on August, 2019. As a CARD Consultant I serve middle/high school children and young adults. My primary goals are to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and CARD-USF services to Hispanic families and professionals, to increase how CARD-USF serves its Spanish speaking families and raise awareness among professionals about the Hispanic Culture in an attempt to build a bridge between the professional community and the Hispanic community to better satisfy the needs of our community. I have been reaching out to the Hispanic community by translating information into Spanish for the CARD-USF website and CARD-USF YouTube Channel including: brochures, and trainings on mental health, suicide, anxiety, challenging behaviors, sleep, feeding, and safety.

I work in collaboration with Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) as a board member of the Health Services Advisory Committee. I have participated in the Family Café Annual Conference as a presenter in English and Spanish, CARD Statewide Conference, Promising Pathways Conference and NASW (Florida Chapter) Conference. I am also part of the Safety Kids Committee in Polk county where I started to raise awareness about the importance of having and providing safety information in Spanish. I am also a part of the Diversity Committee at USF (CBCS). I have been able to reach out to the Hispanic families via TV doing interviews with Telemundo Tampa, Univisión Tampa and Orlando, Rumba (iHeart Media), Más 100.7, ¿Qué Pasa Polk? (local TV show) and currently I have a monthly section with D’latinos in Univisión Ft. Myers. Before joining CARD, I worked in the fields of mental health, education and case management. My experience includes working in school settings, residential programs and clinical settings for individuals with behavioral, emotional and psychiatric disorders. I also performed duties as director for community-based programs. On my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, dance, read, journaling and meditate.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Although I have had the opportunity to reach out to the Hispanic community throughout the media (TV, Radio, Social Media) and professionals by participating on different trainings, there is still much to do. As a Hispanic single mother of a child with Autism and other disabilities, I can understand the challenges that parents faced in this wonderful journey of having a child with disabilities. As parents we faced fears, frustrations, excitement, exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, depression, love, hope, courage, etc. I can also understand as a professional the struggles in trying to connect with a person with disabilities, their families and their culture. One challenge is the lack of awareness among some health care professionals (physicians, therapists, nurses, etc.) in regards to Autism Spectrum Disorder their needs and the importance of early identification, diagnosis and treatment to better satisfy their needs. A second challenge is the lack of awareness among the Hispanic community in regards to the Autism Spectrum Disorder. According to the latest prevalence from the CDC, 2020; the Hispanic Community has the lowest prevalence in diagnosis of autism when compared with the white and black community. According to CDC, 2020 the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) identified language barriers, low income and lack of information in Spanish about Autism as possible contributing factors for the lack of diagnosis of autism among the Hispanic community. As a result, these children are not receiving the early intervention services they need to develop basic skills such as executive functioning to succeed in school and to prepare the child into becoming an independent adult in society.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I work for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida (CARD-USF). CARD-USF provides the following services, free of charge, to the community: * Direct Assistance: Consultants provide direct assistance to families, schools and agencies by providing specific strategies and resources to meet an individual’s needs. It can include any or all of the following: telephone or email contact as well as home consulting, community visits, meeting attendance, dissemination of research resources, connect families with community resources, assistance with implementing training ideas *Technical Assistance: service provided by CARD to schools and agencies, which have direct interaction with individuals on the autism spectrum. The focus of technical assistance is on building capacity with a teacher and/or team around an entire classroom issues or concern. Technical Assistance does not focus on an individual student. *Training: CARD-USF provides group trainings to schools, agencies, and parent support groups on topics of importance to those involved with individuals with autism and other related disabilities. The focus of training is on awareness, skill development and enhancement, systems change, and capacity building. *Resources and Information: CARD-USF has gathered information about local and regional resources that may be of use to parents and professionals. *Public Awareness and Outreach: CARD collaborates with community partners in hosting public awareness events to enhance education about autism spectrum disorder.

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