What Your Sister Means to You

Siblings are like flowers from the same garden where each flower has their own unique traits and personalities. Throughout a lifetime, siblings challenge, respect, admire and teach each other life lessons when necessary. As part of our Autism Awareness Month programs, the HDS Foundation has been sharing Blogs that provide Community Resources along with personal testimonials. We asked two of our Foundation’s Board Members, who happen to be sisters, to share how they achieved such a special sibling bond bounded by love, courage, and understanding. Here is what they had to say about their connection and why it is one of a kind.

“Those of us with younger brothers and sisters experience a different type of love and connection with our sidekicks. We joke about how lucky they are to have us as their sibling, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the opportunity we’ve had to grow and learn about ourselves through each other’s perspectives, interactions, and life experiences. We are all very different and have exceptional dynamics with each other, and the outside world. My sister Kate is Autistic, growing up with a sister on the Autism Spectrum has provided me with a better understanding of many different aspects of life relationships and our lives in general. There can be conflict and confusion, as with any sibling relationship. Still, there’s an unspoken trust and a great sense of care that comes with experiencing the unknown together. We can teach each other our different perspectives, while also being challenged with everyday endeavors that can turn into turmoil. Trying to figure out how to solve a problem at hand is not always pretty, predictable, or successful when your thought processes are entirely different and unnatural to each other. However, we are always able to persevere, grow, and thrive through our experiences because of the unconditional love we share for one another. Yet, it’s not always about solving problems; I have learned that it’s more about being there to support and understand my sister in the ways she needs to be supported, rather than how I feel I should support her. These experiences have taught me to become a better sister to Kate and my other siblings while becoming a kinder person to people in my life. I always remind my siblings how grateful I am for the love and support our relationship brings to me, and I always remind myself to practice self-gratitude,” said Meagan Bouscher, Secretary of the HDS Foundation Board of Directors.

“My sister is an extraordinary person; I remember her teaching me ballet, dressing me up for Halloween, and traveling all over the world while singing Disney songs. I am on the Autism Spectrum, and sometimes things are difficult for me to process; however, things aren’t only difficult for me, they’re also difficult for Meagan. She has Diabetes and experiences daily challenges and difficulties. Meagan has had to wear a pump, test her sugar levels, and give herself insulin since she was 11 years old. I want to say that she is my hero. Meagan is beautiful, funny, an artist who loves antiques and everything vintage. She has some interesting tattoos, and, most importantly, has always been very dedicated to helping people with Autism. I think we are both a little stubborn, emotional, and sometimes we might consider that the other gets more attention from family and friends. Still, overall, I think she is awesome! I have the best sister; I hope as we grow older, we can stay best friends forever. I pray that she will always be healthy and so that we can continue to enjoy experiences together for many years to come. I love my sister Meagan,” said Kate Gilson Miranda, Junior Board Member of the HDS Foundation.

Press Release COVID 19 New EIP Guidance Statement

New Guidance about COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Beneficiaries from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul

“The Treasury Department launched a new web tool allowing quick registration for Economic Impact Payments for eligible individuals who do not normally file a tax return, and also announced that it would begin making automatic payments. However, for some people receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration–specifically those who have dependent children under the age of 17–it is to their advantage to go to this portal to ensure they also get the $500 per dependent Economic Impact Payment. I encourage them to do this as soon as possible, and want to provide the following details:

People who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits and who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who have qualifying children under age 17 should now go to the IRS’s webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments to enter their information instead of waiting for their automatic $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If Social Security beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait to receive their $500 per qualifying child.

The same new guidance also applies to SSI recipients, especially those who have qualifying children under age 17. To receive the full amount of the Economic Impact Payments you and your family are eligible for, go to the IRS’s Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info page at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments and provide information about yourself and your qualifying children.

Additionally, any new beneficiaries since January 1, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS’s Non-Filers website to enter their information.

Lastly, for Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability beneficiaries who do not have qualifying children under age 17, you do not need to take any action with the IRS. You will automatically receive your $1,200 economic impact payment directly from the IRS as long as you received an SSA-1099 for 2019.

For SSI recipients who do not have qualifying children under age 17, we continue to work closely with Treasury in our efforts to make these payments automatically. Please note that we will not consider Economic Impact Payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.

The eligibility requirements and other information about the Economic Impact Payments can be found here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center. In addition, please continue to visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information.

We will continue to update Social Security’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ as further details become available.”

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To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

This press release was produced and disseminated at U.S. taxpayer expense.

B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Goes Virtual

B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Goes Virtual

The B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Class from Cypress Bay has gone virtual! Facilitators Kathy Gorman-Gard and Donna Mansolillo have been holding their Life Skills class digitally via Zoom. Although the learning style has changed and students will have to adapt, the class will be continuing to learn independent living skills so they will be ready to transition to their post-secondary journey. 

On the first day of virtual learning, students were overly excited to see one another after going two weeks of not being in school. They immediately started talking up a storm sharing stories left and right. One of the students, Sam, mentioned how great it’s been having two teachers for this class and how he wished there were two teachers in his other classes 

The plan for the virtual B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program is to meet twice a week and focus on mock interview processes, filling out job applications, and completing resumes. In order to perfect the students’ interviewing skills, they will be using the Virtual Interviewing Software for Real World Success (ViTA) which was developed by the Dan Marino Foundation team along with the USF Institute for Creative Technologies. The ViTA is specifically designed for students with disabilities to help better prepare them for their future job interviews. In addition to the VITA tool, students will also have to dress professionally as if they were going in for their interview. 

We applaud our amazing B.R.I.D.G.E.S. facilitators for working so hard over the past few weeks to alter their lesson plans for their students in this difficult time. Stay tuned for more details! 

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?


What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Although people with ASD don’t look physically different, they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from others. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving skills of people with ASD can range from gifted to low functioning. Some people with ASD need varying degrees of help in their daily lives; others can live fully independent lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.

Early Screening

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for ASD as early as 18 to 24 months. Screening doesn’t diagnose Autism, but flags behaviors associated with the disorder. According to Federal law, if the screening identifies developmental delays or learning challenges, then parents don’t need to wait for a diagnosis for their child to receive services. Research shows that early intervention may lead to positive outcomes later in life for people with ASD.


The transition from adolescence to adulthood (ages 18-25) is usually associated with becoming a full participant in the social, civic, and economic life community in which we live. However, because of the lack of resources and supports devoted to this phase of their life, the transition to adulthood remains a significant challenge for teens and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to create an Intellectual Educational Plan(IEP) and provide services to students with disabilities. The IEP does not apply after a student graduates from high school, and therefore special accommodations will cease. Students will then fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. When students apply to college, they must self-identify as a person with a disability and be an advocate for themselves to determine what accommodations they need to help them be successful. The Summary of Performance is a document that must be provided to students with disabilities when they leave high school. Colleges will require additional materials, and many will require a recent evaluation. To make sure these accommodations are in place before beginning classes, students should contact the disability services office at the technical center, college, or university they want to attend as far in advance as possible. Find contact information for disability services providers on the Florida State University System page. https://www.flbog.edu/universities/admissions-transfers/students-with-disabilities/

The 2020 United Nations observance of the World Autism Awareness Day draws attention to issues of concern related to the transition from adolescence to adulthood, such as the importance of participation in youth culture and the community, self-determination, and decision-making, access to post-secondary education and employment, and independent living.

HDS Foundation Resources for Transitions

The HDS Foundation, Inc. is a 501 (C)(3) Non-Profit Organization founded to provide mentoring services and opportunities to Teens and Young Adults who have Autism-related disabilities. The primary focus of the Organization is to promote the development of work and daily living skills, build socio-educational transitional experiences via specific school-based partnerships, and support the post-secondary journeys for this growing population. Bridging the gap that can support the diverse abilities of young adults and facilitating college-level and other post-secondary education will strengthen this population’s chances for meaningful, long-term employment and self-sufficiency. Teens and young adults can be better prepared to meet these demands when they are addressed utilizing a spectrum of solutions. The HDS Foundation supports and partners with various community-based groups, aiming to enrich the lives of this special population by providing an array of social opportunities. These are designed to further develop personal growth and independence. 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. This will be done via Private, Federal, State and Community-based programs and assistance.

For more information, please contact Liz Falk, Program Manager at liz@hdsfoundation.org.

HDS Companies Shines a Light on Autism

April is World Autism Awareness Month! World Autism Awareness Month was initially implemented in 2007 by the United Nations to help educate society about Autism and how this global health issue is rising over time. Each year, the HDS Companies joins thousands of individuals worldwide to stand together and support the Autism community. This year, we are commemorating Autism Awareness Month by hosting a “Shine a Light on Autism” digital celebration on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day. This celebration is followed by a company-wide participation in community events and campaigns throughout the month.

Campaigns like our “Shine a Light on Autism” help spread information across the globe of the outcomes of Autism. They also help distribute appropriate information regarding matters such as early diagnosis, therapies, transitions, post-secondary education, employment, and the journey to independent living. About 1 in 54 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to estimates from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Autism and the Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Today, our Autism Awareness banner went up outside of our new office building in the Town of Miami Lakes, and we lit up the exterior of our building blue. Our HDS team members, the HDS Contenders, proudly wore blue shirts along with their HDS Autism Awareness Ribbon and got their selfies on.

Wondering how you can help Shine a Light? Here’s how! Share your stories and show your support of inclusion by swapping out your standard (front) outdoor light bulb(s) with a blue colored light bulb(s) and keep them lit for the entire month of April! Make sure to tag us, @HDSFoundation, on your posts for a chance to show up on our social media feed.

How can you Shine a Light on Autism and help the HDS Foundation? It’s easy! If you are a frequent Amazon shopper, sign in through AmazonSmile.com and select the HDS Foundation as your charity of choice. From there, any purchases made through AmazonSmile will donate a small proceed to our nonprofit. For more information about how the HDS Foundation celebrates Autism Awareness, follow our social media pages @HDSFoundation!

HDS Celebrates Employee Milestones

At HDS Companies, our employees are our biggest asset. Each year at our Annual HDS Meeting and Employee Recognition event, we honor employee milestones for those who have reached 20, 15, 10, and 5 years of service. In 2018, we honored our first group of...

You Had Me at Pizza

You Had Me at Pizza

Pizza Pizza Pizza! Last week, the Cypress Bay High School B.R.I.D.G.E.S. class took on a three-part pizza challenge that gave students the opportunity to practice their budgeting, independence, development and social skills.   The first part of the challenge took...

CBHS B.R.I.D.G.E.S. First CBI of the Year!

CBHS B.R.I.D.G.E.S. First CBI of the Year!

The new year has started for the Cypress Bay B.R.I.D.G.E.S. class! Yesterday, the students went on their first CBI trip of the year to the Bank of America and Panera Bread where they were able to engage in their budgeting, resources, independence and social skills....

CBHS BRIDGES Spreads Christmas Cheer

CBHS BRIDGES Spreads Christmas Cheer

The season of giving is upon us! This means making others feel special by showing love and appreciation. Many get the special pleasure of spreading holiday cheer to their community by giving gifts and making wishes come true. With that being said, the Cypress Bay...

CBHS B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Visit the Post Office

CBHS B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Visit the Post Office

Every Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Cypress Bay High School B.R.I.D.G.E.S. class gets together for a new learning opportunity towards independent living. On Tuesdays, the students participate in an in-class activity that prepares them for their Community Based...

What Are You Thankful For?

What Are You Thankful For?

GOBBLE GOBBLE! What are you thankful for? This week the Homestead Senior High B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Self Determination Class gathered at Olive Garden to give thanks and celebrate Thanksgiving. In lieu of the usual turkey and mashed potatoes, students opted for Italian where...

HDS Companies Lights it Up

Light it up with HDS Companies this Saturday, November 30th from 5:00 to 9:00 PM at the annual Miami Lakes Festival of Lights! For more than 36 years, Main Street has been the ultimate shopping, dining, and entertainment destination attracting generations of...

Broward Partnership for Homeless, Inc.

Broward Partnership for Homeless, Inc.

Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year. At Housing and Development Services, Inc, Thanksgiving is a time to remember what we are thankful for and help others.. This year HDS employees were fortunate to volunteer at...

Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret?

The game that keeps the mystery, thrill, and surprise ALIVE! One of the biggest traditional Christmas games - Secret Elf. The rules to this game are simple. Each member of the group randomly picks another member’s name to become his or her secret elf. Wish lists are...

HDS Companies Gives Thanks

HDS Companies Gives Thanks

In this Thanksgiving season, HDS is giving thanks and helping in a special event in our community. On Wednesday, November 20th, HDS will be partnering with BPHI to assist in feeding the homeless. For many years, HDS has worked with the Broward Partnership for the...