Sponsored By Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade

April is National Autism Awareness Month, but for Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department’s Disability Services Division, autism and other developmental and physical disabilities are celebrated every day all year long! Since 1993, the Disability Services Division has developed community programs to a diverse urban county of more than 2.7 million people and has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

“Parks has more than 30 programs designed for children as young as six through adults,” Mary Palacios, Disability Services Manager shared. “Our programs are led by Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists – the highest level of certification within recreational therapy – whose extensive knowledge and skill-based training enhances a participant’s quality of life and helps them stay active, healthy and independent by developing life skills, knowledge and behaviors for daily living.

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The goal of the division is for participants to have fun, learn, grow and develop positive skills that will transfer into their lives not only for today, but for the future. It also serves as a conduit for people with disabilities to have seamless, open access to parks.

“Able bodied people may not understand what it is like not to be able to walk across the sand and jump in the ocean,” Palacios points out. “Everything Parks does from providing accessible restrooms and parking spaces to single rider golf carts at all of our golf courses, to beach wheelchairs and accessible beach showers and pathways onto the sand connects people with disabilities to all of the elements of our parks so that everyone can enjoy them!”

Individuals with disabilities have access to pool lifts at all Miami-Dade Parks’ pools as well as accessible shower/changing rooms.  The department has also instituted policies on sign language interpreters and accessible field trip vehicles to be contracted whenever needed. The Internship Program for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities gives young people with identification an opportunity to be on a team with other workers learning and possibly earning a County job.

“We get to help people with disabilities learn their own sense of strength and personal power and give them the same opportunities to choose how to spend their leisure time and develop recreational skills as persons without disabilities does,” Palacios declared.

“We welcome them to explore our services, parks and programs!”

For more, call 305.755.7848 or email mary.palacios@miamidade.gov


Life After Transition Fair
Life After Transition Fair for teens and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Tropical Park Mary Abreu Community Center, Friday April 28, 5 pm – 7 pm. FREE

Children’s Trust Sites
Six sites are available for afterschool, day off from school day and summer camp. Available to ages six through 22. All sites are overseen by a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, and offer quality programs including sports, arts and crafts, swimming and field trips. FREE.

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Leaps Program: Leisure Education and Planning Skills Program
A social outing program for teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities. For ages 15-25 who can function in the community with minimal assistance. First and third Friday of the month; 6 -10 pm. Westwind Lakes Park, 6805 SW 152 Ave., Miami, FL.  $20 per night plus the cost of food and or entrance fees depending on outing.

S.T.A.R.S. Program: Sports Training for Autism Sports
Offered at various sites. Seasonal sports training programs include swimming, basketball, soccer, and flag football. Saturdays. $40 registration/$12 annual registration fee.

Leisure Access Center at A.D. Barnes Park Adult Training Program
This, year round Life Skills Development Level III program funded by Medicaid Waiver Services, trains adults in daily living, adaptive skills, social skills and employment activities.

  • Seasonal Sports Training
    Program for adults with intellectual disabilities: swimming; basketball, track and field and bowling. Participants are assisted with training and competition as an athlete for Special Olympics.  $40/per month; $12 registration fee – offered at various sites.
  • Fun on Fridays
    A social program for adults 21 and older with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Participants have an opportunity to enjoy community events and visit location attractions while working on social and safety skills. $25/ per week. Fridays 6 – 10:30 pm.

Paralympic Partners
Paralympics sports and related programs such as wheelchair basketball, boccia, handcycling, archery, quad rugby and more.

Miami Heat Wheels Basketball Team National Sanctioned Division I
The Miami Heat Wheels wheelchair basketball program offers players the chance to learn and develop the athletic skills to play wheelchair basketball in a competitive environment. Since 1998, Miami-Dade County Parks’ Disability Services and the Leisure Access Foundation have provided a way for athletes to achieve their highest potential.

The Miami Heat Wheels competes at Florida Wheelchair Basketball Conference and competes at local and regional competitions from September through March; with the NWBA National Championships in April.

Boccia Tournament for Individuals with Physical Disabilities
Saturday, April 22 10 am – 3 pm; Miami Springs Recreation Center
$15/per team.

Handycling Program
For ages 15 and older. Thursday nights starting on Thursday, April 20
Tamiami Park, Shelter # 5. Free 

Above Content Provided By Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade

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