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Raquel Regalado on Autism: A true warrior and empath of Autistic residents in the community since 2010

Raquel Regalado is an advocate of Autistic individuals and the educational and employment opportunities available to them

Raquel A. Regalado’s professional life is a testament to her unwavering dedication to the people and causes that make Miami unique. Her election to the Miami-Dade County Commission makes her the first Hispanic woman elected from her home city to serve on the Miami Dade Board of County Commissioners.

As the daughter of former City of Miami Mayor, Tomas P. Regalado, she takes the family's passion forward by working on projects that are inclusive for people of all needs and abilities. Raquel Regalado has acomplished alot in her professional career apart from serving on the school board. She has led the overhaul of the school transit system, she has sued BP, and she has also restructured the value adjustment board. Not to mention, she also ran for County Mayor in 2016 and won the votes for County Commissioner in 2020.

Eradicating the stigma around Autistic girls

Back in 2003, when her daughter Isabela was 18 months old, Regalado struggled to get a formal autismdiagnosis for her since people simply didn’t believe that autism impacted girls. There were very few girls who were diagnosed with the condition, or they had multiple neurodivergent traits that didn’t meet the markers for autism.

Being Autistic was considered a taboo and a temporary phase that children eventually grew out of. Not many people knew that it is a condition that affects children’s learning and development their whole life. Regalado decided that her first order of business should be to address these misconceptions.

Today, when her daughter is 18 and turning 19, diagnosis procedures, programming, knowledge, and sentiments surrounding neurodivergency are much different. Now there’s more awareness, and there’s less stigma surrounding autism in girls. 

Education for children and adults with special needs

Raquel Regalado did not run for office solely because her father was an elected official. Back when her daughter was diagnosed with autism, she couldn’t find programming for her at the local school districts. That’s what motivated her to run for a position on the school board.

After working for schools and finding no programming, she decided to become a school board member for District 6. Her six-year tenure focused on creating programs for children and adults with special needs.

With her help, an autism-intensive communication academy was established at one of the district's most underserved schools. Children with special needs now have sensory rooms in three Miami-Dade County elementary schools, thanks to private donations.

How can we create employment for adults with disabilities?

When her daughter turned 10, Regalado started thinking about her future and independence as a young adult in a world dominated by neurotypical folks. To empower the youth of today that face challenges and lack facilities suited to their unique needs, she advocated for vocational training in schools. However, she faced people’s reluctance and resistance.

In the wake of this pushback, Raquel realized that the work had to be done in parts. She took on a unique approach to creating jobs for adults with special needs. While normally you would acquire certain skills and look for a job that fits them, employment for people with disabilities worked the other way around. You have to find a job first and then train them to fit its requirements.

At this point, she had to step down from the school board to focus on bringing these employment opportunities to Miami-Dade’s economy. When she came to the county level, she had more knowledge than most commissioners did about the issue the school districts were facing in Miami-Dade. Check out her website to keep up with her work and learn how you can help her make a difference.

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