FIU Embrace is a university-wide initiative that promotes health, wellness, and overall functioning for adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities (ID), and other neurodevelopmental disorders (OND). It seeks to help these persons lead healthy lives and maximize their individual potential across their lifespan.
FIU Embrace utilizes a person-focused, household-centric approach, recognizing that people with developmental disabilities deserve to be treated as individuals with personal patterns of talents and challenges. Through education and dissemination, services, and research opportunities, we strive to positively impact the lives of individuals affected by developmental disabilities, their families, and learners.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 children are born with a developmental disability. It is a lifelong condition that has wide-spread implications for health care, education, social services, and the development of familial and social supports. These individuals are at higher risk for multiple health conditions, injuries, exploitation, and poverty.
Moreover, every year some 250 young adults with a diagnosis of autism, a well-known developmental disability, turn 22 years-old in Miami-Dade County. 22 is a milestone year for these adults, as they age out of many publically funded programs (Medicaid services, for example). This results in a loss of continuous care due to the loss of a primary care physician, nursing services received in a Medicaid-funded school program, and home care related services. The consequences that can follow are unsettling: these persons may experience a disruption of services they relied upon since birth. This leads to a troubling transition to adulthood, as health advances which were achieved in childhood are now lost due to lack of services.
Like their typical non-affected peers, adults with developmental disorders should have access to integrated medical care, be involved in post-secondary education activities, become employed in income-producing work, engage in community-based social activities, and establish residences independent of their parents.
Children with developmental disabilities (DD), such as autism (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and other neurodevelopmental disabilities grow up to become adults with developmental disabilities, with estimates that over the next decade some 500,000 such individuals will come of age in the United States. Stress and depression among caregivers is well recognized. Therefore, in order to address the scope of challenges facing our young adults and their families, FIU is utilizing a multi-faceted approach. As a result, the University’s activities can be characterized into three areas: services, education and dissemination, and research and design.
In addition, FIU Embrace receives guidance and council from a broad range of internal and external family members, experts in their field and stakeholders to ensure that the initiative remains mission-centric.
We imagine a world in which all individuals, no matter their unique patterns of talents and abilities, are valued and meaningfully engaged in their communities.
Through leadership and collaboration, FIU Embrace pursues programs and activities that support neurodiverse individuals living healthy lives, maximizing their potential across their lifespans, and being meaningfully engaged in their communities. FIU Embrace will:
Developmental disabilities is a lot of different things.
It is a complex disorder that can include impairments ranging from mild to severe, and can involve the senses, brain, and/or physical systems that can result, perhaps most visibly, in repetitive behaviors and movements, fixated interest and routines, limitations in self-care, and reduced ability for independent living. The umbrella term, developmental disabilities, is used more generally to refer to conditions such as autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and spina bifida.
However developmental disabilities manifest or are described, the fact remains that many adults here in our Miami-Dade community face, and will continue to face, hardships if provisions are not made to develop our children into independent adults — helping them realize their own unique and valuable contributions to our society.
My own experience into the world of developmental disabilities began some twenty-five years ago when my daughter, Kelly, was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that left her intellectually disabled and visually impaired. In the early years, there were services and supports for Kelly and our family, but as the years passed, the much needed services diminished. Like many families today, I find myself searching for solutions to help her live a productive and fulfilling life.
As the Director of Operations for FIU Embrace, I feel a great sense of responsibility and hope. Responsibility, knowing that the work we have embarked upon can change the lives for many of our families; and hope, that for the first time there is an institution that is utilizing a multi-faceted approach to finding real-life solutions to help our children.
The road is long, but the work ahead is important and deeply meaningful.
Nicole Attong, LMHC
Director of Operations, FIU Embrace
Florida International University
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
11200 S.W. 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199