Miami Lakes welcomes people with special needs

Community By Megan Jacobo, Reporter Thursday, April 15, 2021

April is World Autism Month, and the Town of Miami Lakes has programs and facilities available all year round to help people with special needs.

“Miami Lakes has embraced the all-inclusive town model and many of these centers have gravitated toward us,” said Miami Lakes Councilwoman Marylin Ruano. “They are choosing Miami Lakes as their home and we welcome them with open arms.”

An estimated 1 in 54 children is on the autism spectrum of disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among organizations that serve children and adults is the non-profit HDS Foundation.

It offers guidance for families, mentors autistic youth and helps them become independent and adjust to adult responsibilities.

Before the pandemic struck, another non-profit, The Arc of South Florida, held a “Job-A-Palooza” in town for people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Also before COVID-19 stalled plans, officers with the Miami-Dade Police district in Miami Lakes began working with the town’s Special Needs Advisory Board to create a registry.

It will identify Miami Lakes residents who have neurological illnesses or disabilities.

Registrants will receive bracelets that will alert police officers that the person wearing it may not be able to communicate during an emergency.

Decals for their homes will also notify responders there may be someone inside who has special needs.

Health privacy paperwork is still being sorted out.

“We’re almost ready to launch the program,”
said Vivian Levy, chair of the Special Needs Advisory Board.

About 2,450 people with special needs, which may include those who are on the autism spectrum, live in town, Levy said.

“We look forward to serving the needs of the community and encourage everybody to take advantage of the program once it’s up and running,” said Miami-Dade Police Maj. Javier Ruiz, who leads the agency’s district in town.

A new facility, GiGi’s Playhouse, is opening in the Windmill Gate Shop- ping Center on April 24.

“Miami Lakes is a town that promotes inclusion,” said Clarimar Zeledon, president and founder of Gigi’s Playhouse, which serves those with the genetic chromosomal disorder Down syndrome.

“From the Mayor [Manny Cid] to the small and large businesses, thank you for being part of our very special mission to provide free therapeutic and educational services to individuals and families facing the challenge of Down syndrome,” said Zeledon.

GiGi’s Playhouse has 53 centers; the Miami Lakes location will be the first in South Florida.

Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Luis Collazo says he is proud of the town’s efforts to embrace and include all residents.

“Within our town boundaries, we are blessed to have a diverse network of agencies and companies that serve our special needs community,” Collazo said.

Among those he listed: The Arc of South Florida, Little Angels Special Care; Gigi’s Playhouse; South Florida Autism Charter School Outreach Center; Angels Reach Academy and the town’s Special Needs Advisory Board, “just to name a few.

“Some of these have been established in Miami Lakes for a while but others have recently come online to serve our community,” Collazo said.

“I truly believe this recent growth can be directly attributed to these providers taking notice of our ongoing efforts and commitment to serve our special needs community,” he said.

Miami Laker Wendy Lozada sends her son Ryan to KidSpace Therapy so that he may work on his language skills.

“My son goes for speech therapy,” Lozada said. “It’s important for them to help one-on-one and bring him up to the level for his age.”

South Florida Autism Charter School at 3751 W. 10th St. in Hialeah, opened their permanent location
on April 10. The charter school is just west of Miami Lakes, across Interstate 75.

It began in 2008 and rented space at different schools and now has its own home. It is managed by Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Miami Lakes resident and parent John Rogger says his family moved from Missouri so that their sons, Dominic, 10, and Anthony, 7, could attend that school.

“Across the country there is limited assistance for kids with autism,” said Rogger, who is also a spokesman for the school.

“This school offers
this uniqueness that you can’t find in other places, Rogger said. “Both of our kids came to this school nonverbal. Four years later our oldest, he’s learned how to talk, how to put his own clothes on, he talks
to us, all these things are a direct result of this school.”

The K-12 charter school is tuition free for up to 300 children from Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

Facilities for special needs in Miami Lakes

Creative Extended Care Center Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care

Skilled nursing and physical, occupational, respiratory and speech therapies. Ages Infant to 21

14505 Commerce Way, Suite 545, Miami Lakes 786-238-7220 

Enhanced Living Therapy

Occupational speech, language and physical therapy Ages Infant to 21
15291 NW 60th Ave.

Suite 104, Miami Lakes 786-615-3246

GiGi’s Playhouse

Learning programs for individuals with Down syndrome
Ages Infant to 65

16451 NW 67th Ave. Miami Lakes 786-287-5551 

HDS Foundation

Advisory services and mentoring, affordable housing for youth with autism syndrome disorders and related disabilities.

5175 Ludlam Rd.
Suite 203, Miami Lakes 

KidSpace Therapy Center

Language therapy, eating disorders
Ages 1 to 19

15291 NW 60th Ave.
Suite 101 Miami Lakes 305-705-7702 

Little Angels Special Care

Pediatric home health care agency
Ages Infant to 21
5979 NW 151 St.

Miami Lakes 786-953-5120 

Nicklaus Children’s Miami Lakes Outpatient Center

Urgent care, rehab for speech, physical therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy

Ages Infant to 21

15025 NW 77th Ave. Miami Lakes 786-313- 7800