Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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Governor, Cabinet Recognize Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis introduced a resolution at the Florida Cabinet meeting today declaring the month of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Florida. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Representatives from the following organizations expressed support for the Cabinet resolution:

  • Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)
  • Family Care Council Area 2
  • Florida Developmental Disabilities Council
  • Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities
  • ABLE Trust
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Blind Services
  • Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Arc of Florida
  • Association of Support Coordination Agencies of Florida
  • Support Coordination Association of Florida

Titus Williams of Tallahassee addressed the Governor and Cabinet on the importance of employment for people with developmental disabilities. Williams works in the cafeteria at W. T. Moore Elementary School in Tallahassee.

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are excited to have Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month declared by the Governor and Cabinet. Thank you to Governor DeSantis for sponsoring the resolution. This is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the achievements and challenges of people with developmental disabilities in Florida.”

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March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

This month, APD leadership, staff, partners, and customers are celebrating achievements made by people with disabilities and promoting a more inclusive society. Employment, education, and community living are the main themes of this year’s Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DDAwareness19.

Do your part to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month! Read up on the issues and get to know the resources available to you:


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Orlando’s Discovery Cove Designated a Certified Autism Center

Discovery Cove in Orlando is SeaWorld Entertainment’s day resort park, where guests can swim with dolphins, snorkel among tropical fish and rays, and other unique animal interactions in a tropical setting.

Discovery Cove was recently designated a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), the industry leader in autism training for licensed health care professionals and educators worldwide. Discovery Cove earned the distinction after completing a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training, as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. Discovery Cove is now the first all-inclusive day resort and animal interaction park in the country to be certified.

Discovery Cove Ambassadors (staff) received specialized training to make sure they have the knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to all children, including those with special needs. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness, as well as a comprehensive autism competency exam.

Working closely with IBCCES, the staff at Discovery Cove will be continually trained to assist guests with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, to help ensure a positive experience during their visit. The autism training must be taken every two years to maintain the certification.

Guests will also be provided with specific information about each of the Discovery Cove experiences, along with in-park accommodations to help them plan their day and make informed choices best suited to their individual needs.

The day resort park provides amenities, attractions, and services (including dining options) to assist and engage guests with special/sensory needs. It boasts a serene setting with lots of open, clear space, making the experience more accessible. Guests in need of some quiet time and relief from sensory stimulation can visit the Quiet Space, which has less traffic and noise. There are also animal encounter and swimming experiences for those wanting more stimulating experiences.

Discovery Cove’s website lists more details including a downloadable Sensory Guide for each ride or attraction: https://discoverycove.com/orlando/help/guests-with-disabilities/certified-autism-center/

Read the announcement press release here: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/discovery-cove-is-now-a-certified-autism-center-300797981.html


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Together, We Can Achieve Even More

Patricia Houghland
Chair, Family Care Council Florida

In honor of National Volunteer Month, I’d like to express my great appreciation for the 180 members of the 15 local Family Care Councils (FCCs) for their hard work and service educating, empowering, and advocating for Floridians with developmental disabilities and their families.

These volunteers are the driving force behind measurable, effective change on the local level. They also partner with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to make sure self-advocates and families have input in statewide policies.

We’ve made great progress, but there’s so much more we want to accomplish. With your help, we can achieve even greater things.

FCC members are individuals with developmental disabilities and parents, siblings, grandparents, and guardians of people who qualify for services from APD. They mentor families, meet with legislators, host educational forums, review APD policies, and more.

If you’d like to get involved as a member, connect with someone who is experiencing a similar journey, or learn more about the FCCs’ 25 years of service to our state, please visit www.fccflorida.org or call 1-800-470-8101.


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APD Participates in Developmental Disabilities Day

Governor Scott has proclaimed February 14 Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day in Florida! Come celebrate with from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. in Tallahassee! APD will have a booth inside on the second floor of the Capitol. The state of Florida supports more than 100,00 individuals with developmental disabilities and wants to increase public awareness and education regarding the issues affecting those individuals and their families and caregivers. Read the Governor’s proclamation below:

DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AWARENESS DAY IN FLORIDA. WHEREAS, people born with developmental disabilities are a part of every community,
socioeconomic class, religion, and country; and
WHEREAS, the state of Florida supports more than 100,000 citizens with developmental
disabilities through services provided by state programs including the Agency for Persons with
Disabilities (APD), Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Health, and Department
of Education's Divisions of Exceptional Student Education, Blind Services, and Vocational
Rehabilitation, and by partner organizations and thousands of private-sector and community
providers; and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida has made record investments to serve the APD waiting list for
Floridians with disabilities to live more independently and find great jobs; and
WHEREAS, the proposed 2018-19 Securing Florida's Future budget continues investments to help
more Floridians with disabilities receive services and assistance; and
WHEREAS, more than 40 million Americans have developmental disabilities, resulting In
substantial limitations in self-care, communication, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for
Independent living, and economic self-sufficiency; and
WHEREAS, public awareness and education enhance understanding of the issues affecting
people with developmental disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida also works with dozens of partner organizations and thousands of
private-sector community providers to support those with developmental disabilities;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Rick Scott, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby extend my support
to all observing February 14, 2018, as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day in Florida. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have
hereunto set my hand and caused the
Great Seal of the State of Florida to be
affixed at Tallahassee, the Capital, this
26th day of January, in the year two
thousand eighteen.


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Spotlighting Success

Casey Stewart, a past member of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, has been a fulltime employee of Publix for more than 13 years. Publix is honored to have such a great employee in Casey, who brings smiles to customers’ faces daily and ensures that he makes every one of his coworkers’ days better when he sees them. As a company, Publix has showed a great commitment to hiring individuals with disabilities, recognizing the unique perspectives and outlooks these individuals can share with those around them.

Karen DeLeon has been employed with SeaWorld for over 20 years. Through her employment, she was able to purchase a condo. Independence is a goal for many, and Karen is overjoyed that she has her own place to live.

Last June, Governor Scott hosted the Governors’ Summit on Disabilities at the 19th Anniversary Family Café. During the event, Governor Scott commended both Casey and Karen for their hard work and their commitments to excelling in the workplace. Governor Scott is committed to expanding employment opportunities, including those for individuals with disabilities, across Florida. Casey and Karen are two great examples of Floridians with a great work ethic. They have both been able to succeed with dedication and hard work, and their employers have benefitted as well.

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New Year, Healthier You

As we ring in the New Year, many people make resolutions. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight and become healthier. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising are key for everyone. You can incorporate simple physical activities and healthy eating tips into your routine to ensure you and your entire family enter 2018 a little healthier and remain so throughout the year.  The following are a few suggestions to help you be successful.

You can learn more about nutrition by visiting the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website: www.choosemyplate.gov. The USDA’s MyPlate program helps you find your healthy eating style and maintain it. The site has information on menus, meal plans, and healthy eating on a budget. Another great resource to find healthy recipes is the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Find recipes by visiting: https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov/

According to the Florida Department of Health, adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity each week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists some of the benefits of exercise as weight control, reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduction in the risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, strengthening your bones and muscles, and improvement in a person’s mental health and mood. Read more about the benefits of physical activity by visiting the CDC website here: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

Begin your healthy year with something simple such as a brisk walk, aquatic therapy, or seated volleyball to be more active. You can also get involved with the Special Olympics Florida, the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, or another organization in your area.

Make sure you talk to your doctor about changes you want to make to your diet or physical activity prior to beginning.

Resources