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

April is Autism Acceptance Month

By Jeniffer Viscarra, Commissioner

(Wednesday, April 3, 2024) – My first full time job after graduating college was with a private school as a special education teacher. 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 small. That experience influenced many of my future decisions, including choosing to practice family law and mediation. Over the years I have seen the “spectrum” of need across families and will continue to support efforts to enhance the city’s services to become a more inclusive city during Autism Acceptance Month and throughout the other 11 months as well.

Since 2021, when the city partnered with the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) program, Sunny Isles Beach has made great strides improving services for families with autistic children. For starters, our parks have been inspected for appropriate autism-friendly features, spaces, and sensory-friendly activities. The city will factor in autism inclusivity as we rethink our parks going forward. At our big events, you may have seen our sensory tent or special secluded spaces, which are intended as safe and soothing environments for children with sensory processing disorders, such as autism or ADHD, who can become overwhelmed in stimulating settings.

Furthermore, our police department has trained in effective strategies when interacting with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), of whom there are approximately 50,000 in Miami-Dade County. This training helps them promptly identify behavior related to ASD and avoid potentially tragic consequences. SIBPD has hosted other agencies in this effort, and most recently Teresa Becerra and her adult autistic son, Robert, provided training just for our department. As an added bonus, all this training has been at no cost to the city. Our Police Department has also instituted a decal program, offering decals to registered participants for placement on their vehicles and homes. This voluntary use of decals serves to alert law enforcement that they are approaching the vehicle or the home of an individual on the ASD spectrum. Decals can be picked up at the records unit window in the Police Department at the Government Center, 18070 Collins Avenue, Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sunny Isles Beach is committed to becoming a more inclusive city and more welcoming for citizens of all abilities.

Contact Commissioner Jeniffer Viscarra at seat4@sibfl.net or 305.792.1750.

The views, opinions, representations, information, or statements made or expressed by any individual contributor in this newsletter are those of the individual contributor only and do not represent the views or beliefs of the City of Sunny Isles Beach or those of the broader community. The views, opinions, representations, information, or statements by individual contributors are provided on an “as-is” basis with no guarantees of completeness or accuracy, and the City of Sunny Isles Beach assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omission therein, or for the consequences of any action or inaction on the basis of any views, opinions, representations, information or statements made or expressed by individual contributors.