woman holding heart with puzzle on white with hand prints for World Autism Awareness

Becoming a More Inclusive City

By Jeniffer Viscarra, Commissioner

(Monday, May 3, 2021) – My first “real job” after graduating college was as a special education teacher at a school that catered to students with special needs. It was in that role that I became more familiar with autism and grew to appreciate all the dedication that families pour into every victory, however big or small. That experience influenced my decision to practice family law and helps me consider the needs of our community in my role as Commissioner.

At our April Commission Meeting, I asked my colleagues on the Commission to consider improving services for families with autistic children by partnering with the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) program. I am happy to announce the Commission unanimously decided to move forward with the partnership, notwithstanding my request for a resolution to be presented at the May Commission Meeting.

UM-NSU CARD estimates that there are approximately 50,000 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Miami-Dade County. A collaboration with CARD will include teaching City staff who interact with the public effective strategies in promoting autism-friendly experiences. Furthermore, the training will include recommendations for autism-friendly spaces and sensory-friendly activities. A separate training may be provided to our police department, which would allow law enforcement to promptly identify behavior related to ASD and avoid potentially tragic consequences. As an added bonus, the training would be at no cost to the City.

Sunny Isles Beach is on track to becoming a more inclusive city. The ultimate goal is to create an even more welcoming community for citizens of all abilities and make a difference in the lives of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or related disabilities.

Contact Commissioner Jeniffer Viscarra at [email protected] or 305.792.1750.