A Star-Studded Night for a Miami Luminary

UM Psychology Professor Recognized for His Dedication to Fostering Diversity and Inclusion of People with Autism and Related Disabilities

Dr. Michael Alessandri, a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), received the Fostering Diversity & Inclusion award at the Dade County Bar Association’s General Counsel’s Ball.

Dr. Michael Alessandri, psychology professor and director of UM-NSU CARD.

The ball recognized high achieving members of the South Florida community, from local business leaders to CEO’s, attorneys, and entrepreneurs.

Acknowledged for his over 30 years of autism service to thousands of families in the South Florida community, Alessandri was also praised for his research on autism and developing and implementing educational autism programs in South Florida.

Graciously accepting his award, Alessandri passionately revealed why his work and mission to support and promote the employment of people with autism in the workplace is so important to him.

“I am here to tell you that I am in this field because I see the possibilities,” he continued. “I think this world is a better place with people with autism and related disabilities in it. People with disabilities can work, they can thrive, and they can contribute in meaningful ways to our society but they need places to work, they need places to live, and they need people to believe in them.”  Alessandri invited guests to join him in “making this community the truly inclusive and diverse place it needs to be.”

Other recipients at the gala included South Florida philanthropist Dr. Philip Frost who was given the Philanthropic Investment in Community award; Adriana Cisneros, CEO and vice chairman of Cisneros, who was given the Rising Corporate Trailblazer award; and real estate developer Craig Robins who was given the Building South Florida award.

Recently, CARD expanded its services in Broward County by opening a new branch office at Nova Southeastern University’s campus in Miramar, which houses CARD’s Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Transition and Adult Programs. CARD has two main offices, one on UM’s Coral Gables campus and one at NSU in the Broward city of Davie. The Miramar branch brings CARD’s total branch offices to three, with additional sites in Homestead and Miami Lakes.

About 80 to 90 percent of people with autism are either unemployed or underemployed in the workplace. Clinical research has shown that many people with autism function well in highly rigid systems with well-defined expectations and procedures, while the average person may become bored with the repetition.



February 07, 2017