Michael Alessandri: Leads UM’s multi-county, one-stop-shop to aid with autism
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Michael Alessandri has been wholeheartedly committed to working with people with autism. After a fated interaction with a person with autism the summer after graduating from high school, he’s never looked back.
Fresh out of Rutgers University, he took an assistant professor position at San Jose State University, where he taught full time for four years. He also started to work at Stanford University, where he became the associate director of an autism clinic.
But he said he was missing patient contact. A unique opportunity to work for UM CARD, one of several state-statute programs for autism in Florida, brought him to Miami.
“I thought ‘Maybe I’ll go to Miami, spend a year, learn about how they did it, and then go back to California and do it there,’” he said. “One year turned into 24 years.”
Today, as executive director of UM-NSU CARD, he balances his professorship duties, leading the institute, speaking to legislators and leaders in the private and public sector to ensure funding while also working with his clients. He stressed that seeing them is the most gratifying aspect of his job.
“I have a very rich emotional satisfaction that comes from the work that I’m doing,” he said. “I think if you were to talk to any parent that I’ve worked with, they would probably echo that they feel a real connection to me emotionally. They know I would crawl through the muck to support them.”
Dr. Alessandri spoke to Miami Today’s Gabriel Poblete through a video call.
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