By Michelle Spitzer
Parkland is the first city in Broward and second in Florida to be recognized as autism-friendly.
The designation was presented on Wednesday through a partnership with UM-NSU CARD, the University of Miami, and Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. Its mission is to optimize the potential of people living with autism and related disabilities.
Former Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky began this initiative two years ago and was on hand at this week’s city commission meeting to accept the designation.
“This is just another tool in the toolbox and shows Parkland to be the wonderful inclusive city that it is,” said Hunschofsky (D-Parkland).
City staff, including library workers, BSO-Parkland deputies, school resource officers, and parks and recreation employees, have received more robust training on how to work with individuals with autism and their families.
Parkland also offers sensory maps for various city places, including the library, city parks, and city hall. There’s also access to social stories, which gives residents and visitors detailed explanations on what they can expect from sights and sounds at different places throughout the city.
UM-NSU-CARD works with many businesses and restaurants, but Parkland is the first city in the state to receive a designation from the organization. Tampa, the only other Florida city deemed autism-friendly, received the designation from another organization.
Mayor Rich Walker is hoping other cities take notice.
“This designation shows that we are leading the way for other cities in our inclusivity,” Walker said. “It’s important for everyone to know that we are an inclusive city. This designation shows that Parkland works hard to understand the diverse needs of all of our residents.”
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- Michelle Spitzer grew up in Coral Springs, attending Westchester Elementary, Ramblewood Middle, and J.P. Taravella High. She attended the University of Florida and has been a journalist for nearly two decades. As a reporter and editor for The Associated Press and USA Today, she’s covered everything from U.S. Presidents to shuttle launches to Jamie Foxx’s New Year’s Eve party.