Light It Up Blue

Light It Up Blue

April is World Autism Awareness Month. At HDS Companies, we kicked off the month by participating in Autism Speak’s Signature Event “Light It Up Blue” on Monday, April 2, 2018. Everyone in the HDS offices wore blue, showing our support and helping garner greater understanding and acceptance of those affected by Autism. The offices were also decorated in blue, with HDS and LIUB signs made out of blue lightbulbs, and other fun blue decorations adorning the walls.

In the afternoon, the employees gathered in the conference rooms to start the festivities. Blue puzzle piece lollipops, blue chocolate candies in lightbulbs, scrumptious cupcakes, and yummy packaged treats were distributed to everyone as part of the fun. Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation, opened the gathering by telling everyone how they could help spread the word of World Autism Awareness Month. She had selfie-signs available to all employees so they could take picture of themselves, post them to their personal social media accounts, and help spread the word. Cristina Gilson, CEO of HDS Companies, also spoke about the day and how excited she was with the participation and comradery of the employees.

Yessenia, an employee of the Miami office whose youngest child is affected by autism, said about the day, “Autism Awareness Month means a lot to me, being that I have a little boy with autism. I know the daily struggles of an autistic child. Bringing awareness to autism is an extremely important factor in life because this would help not only in being able to gain more studies and assistance for people on the spectrum. It also would help them immensely with their everyday life, such as going to a supermarket and people knowing and understanding how to approach them and interact with them. It would help in school settings, for other children to understand and help them interact with those on the spectrum without thinking they’re weird or incapable just because there different. I personally have known what it is to have to remove my child from a daycare only because they don’t understand him and feel they can’t deal with him. Therefore, I believe autism awareness month is so important, because more and more people are learning about the spectrum and people on the spectrum. One-day I am hopeful that everyone will know and understand Autism!”

Fun was had by everyone. Promoting Autism Awareness will continue at HDS throughout the month. If you would like to participate, take a selfie with the Autism Speaks selfie sign (available at and tag it “LightItUpBlue!

Autism Awareness Month – LIUB

Autism Awareness Month – LIUB

The HDS Foundation is in final preparations for the annual kick-off of Autism Awareness Month (April). The HDS Foundation will join the United Nations and The WORLD on April 2nd, 2018 to Light It Up Blue, Autism Speaks’ Signature event.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD), one in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with Autism, and an estimated 50,000 teens with Autism will lose school-based autism services each year as they age out of the school system.

The HDS Foundation, Inc. was founded to provide mentoring services and opportunities to Teens and Young Adults who have Autism-related disabilities.  The primary focus of our  Organization is to provide work and daily living skills building opportunities and experiences via specific school-based and community partnerships.  Teens and young adults can be better prepared to meet the demands of future employment opportunities when these challenges are addressed early on.  This year, The HDS Foundation is launching ASDY-TECH, a business model poised to employ young adults on the Spectrum by providing Technical Services and Solutions to private companies.

The HDS Foundation also supports and partners with various community-based groups, aiming to enrich the lives of this special population by providing an array of opportunities to participate in many social activities, and work towards improving future independence as they relate to their day to day activities. Additionally, The HDS Foundation is poised to help educate and provide information related to available, safe and affordable housing options, that can further the possibilities of attaining independent or semi-independent housing.

On April 2nd, 2018 we invite you to join the staff and families of the HDS Companies in celebrating Autism Awareness Day, and the kick-off of World Autism Month.  HDS will LlGHT IT UP BLUE, and join the hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide who stand together to support families impacted by Autism.

Our HDS Contenders Team!

Our HDS Contenders Team!

Written by Nico Morales | Feb 8, 2018

I think that the term “Crazy 8” would be very applicable to the events of the recent Dan Marino Walk About Autism. This is due to the fact that I was invited by my coworkers at HDS to participate in the 8th Annual Walk About Autism alongside them, and that it was crazy how much fun of a great time I had before, during, and after the walk. We were all dressed up in our company T-shirts to commemorate this event dedicated to raising money and awareness for people affected by autism and other related disabilities. I can’t stress enough how important this cause is to me and all of my colleagues over at HDS. Our goal this year was to raise a total of $10,000 and I am proud to report that we beat that goal by raising over $11,400! One of the best things about this fundraiser is that 25% of all monies raised by the HDS Contenders goes directly to The HDS Foundation. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of the support from our friends and colleagues.

But we weren’t alone in our cause, for I ran into a plethora of familiar faces who were also attending the walk, such as my neighbors, my childhood acquaintance, my friend from Social GAIN, and even my beloved girlfriend and her older sister, who are also major supporters of pro-autism events like this.

One of the highlights of my time there was after the opening ceremony, when I got to meet Froggy. He is one of the radio personalities of Y100, one of my all-time favorite radio stations growing up, and I actually made him laugh with the nickname I thought of for him: Chief Toad.

I also frequented many of the booths set up by various sponsors and vendors, one of which I won a $25 voucher form to set up a tax-free savings account at Able United. It was such an unbelievably wonderful experience, and I don’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.

I am very excited for what next year’s walk will bring; hopefully, we can get an even bigger turnout.

Thank You for Making a Difference!

Thank You for Making a Difference!


We raised a total of $10,000!

We’re so grateful to all of you who’ve helped us reach our goal! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you to all who generously supported the HDS Contenders Team. Your support is so appreciated and will help us achieve our community goals.

Again, thank you to those who have supported our team this year, and in the past, and for those who have included The HDS Foundation in their philanthropy goals. We invite you to visit our website and keep up with what’s happening at the HDS Foundation.

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

This past week, the HDS Foundation attended the 19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice, organized by the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities and held in Clearwater, FL. The Conference went off with a bang with several pre-conference trainings followed by an inspiring opening ceremony featuring keynote speaker Andy Gardiner, Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Community Relations, former president of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce and Former member of the Florida State Senate. Mr. Gardiner spoke of the legislative advocacy  facing individuals with Developmental Disabilities in the state of Florida. He also gave notable advice on becoming involved in initiatives in our own communities helping those with developmental disabilities and insight as a parent to inspire other parents, providers, educators, and community members to do more to have an affect on policy. Poster Presentations by various professors and faculty on different topics of research and studies were displayed followed by the Presidents Reception and a Student Social. 

HDS Foundation staff Carla Otiniano, Program Manager, and Meagan Bouscher, Board Member, attended relative, educational sessions on many subjects including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Pre- Employment Transition Services, Improvement of Public School Autism Programs, and several Model Transition Programs taking place at different Universities.  There was even a session on “Netflix and Chilling”, and how to navigate the dating world for students in college with ASD, by our friend, Doctoral Candidate, Tara Rowe of the University of North Florida’s Project THRIVE. Foundation staff were also fortunate enough to meet James Williams of the University of Wisconsin, who gave an enlightening session on Navigating the Transition Process through the perspective of someone with Autism.

The final general session presentation was closed by motivational speaker, advocate, and author Robert Pio Hajjar who spoke on how love and hope can transform an individual to bring out the best in themselves and contribute toward a stronger society. His message “I Can, You Can” helps others “to realize ability in disability and to empower champions of inclusion and change” and was an eye-opening ending to an amazing conference.

A Special Thanks to the CEC-DADD and their Conference Committee and the various presenting Professors, Providers and Faculty for putting on such a successful event, and to the many people we were able to meet and network with, to share knowledge and information to improve policy, educational programs and work opportunities for young individuals with autism, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Be sure to come back and check out some of the presentations and available resources from the conference as they become available, on our resources page! 

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