Thriving special needs community in The Villages inspires young family to build in nearby Middleton

Thriving special needs community in The Villages inspires young family to build in nearby Middleton

More families around the country are discovering The Villages, FL is a great place for special needs adults to thrive and live their best lives. But we didn’t anticipate this interest could spill over into younger families with a special needs child. Until now. Meet Middleton, by The Villages.

This past November, we announced plans to provide more extensive coverage of all the exciting things happening within our special needs community in The Villages. The rate of incoming emails and calls have increased significantly since, as special needs families around the country are becoming more curious about the opportunities available here for their adult children. Many are finding our Villages related articles posted at

Until recently, most incoming calls and conversations have been with seniors from around the country who have only dreamed of retiring to the Florida sunshine but didn’t think it was possible because of their responsibilities as parent and primary caregiver to their special needs adult child. They felt limited in their options and couldn’t imagine there was a place both they and their child could experience a thriving social environment. The thought of uprooting their family and relocating elsewhere seemed daunting, risky and not worth the effort. The thought of moving was simply out of the question at this point in their lives.

However, I’m seeing some interesting trends evolve. Some of these conversations have resulted in Lifestyle visits and ultimately a home purchase. Other conversations have sparked excitement and further interest in exploring the possibilities this amazing retirement community offers while knowing their special needs adult child has opportunity to thrive here as well. I’m always eager and grateful to share what we’ve had the privilege to experience here, and more importantly, how optimistic I am for the future. I welcome each request for a call and have enjoyed our conversations and the opportunity to help, if even in a small way. And I’m very much looking forward to welcoming these families to our community once they make the move!

Something interesting and unexpected could be developing here

I opened an email recently, and much to my surprise, it was from a younger family from Tallahassee, FL who recently made a decision to relocate to Middleton, one of The Villages most ambitious new developments to date. Until this incoming email, it never occurred to me that Middleton could be an attractive destination for younger families with a special needs child.

Here’s part of the email from Layla Cotton-Presnell: “Articles like yours inspired our move to the new village of Middleton. We’re hoping this is the transition to our next step moving in the villages proper once my son is 19. He is 14 years-old with autism and IDD. A very social kid that loves other people. We heard the villages is great for adults with disabilities and we want to start building our community in Middleton and transition to the villages.”

Something else struck me when reading Layla’s email. Not only did she feel Middleton was a great choice to relocate her family now, but that it also provides a future pathway to move to The Villages proper once her son reaches adult age. From a family planning aspect, I think it is quite brilliant!

I was eager to hear more and wanted to speak with Layla directly. We soon connected and had a wonderful conversation.

Meet Layla and her family

Dad (Robby), Cameron & Mom (Layla)

Layla Cotton-Presnell has a family of 5, including her husband Robby, daughters Mia (22), Eva (20), and son Cameron (14). Cameron is on the autism spectrum and is IDD. He loves theme parks, so they drive to Universal and Disney often from their current home base in Tallahassee in the Florida panhandle. Cameron especially loves Star Wars. A move to Middleton should significantly shorten the drive (to an hour or less depending on traffic) to Cameron’s favorite adventures!

While Layla was already quite familiar with The Villages, she was excited to learn of our thriving special needs community here. Knowing this made the family’s decision even easier. Their conclusion? This community offers Cameron an opportunity to live his best life. And it offers a pathway to establish themselves in Middleton and ultimately transition just north to The Villages as they age.

Introducing Middleton by The Villages

Through frequent vmail updates from The Villages developers, I have been following the exciting progress on the build of their two newest charter schools. I already knew Middleton was geared toward younger families (although there is no age restriction). And I realized Middleton was the vision of the Developer to attract workers and address the need for more employees to support the continual expansion of businesses and growth in resident population here locally. But I had no idea until speaking with Layla that construction of homes was already in high gear in Middleton.

I had to learn more about Middleton, and I am delighted to share more here with our audience.

Middleton is located in North Central Florida and conveniently adjacent to The Villages community along Central Parkway. At the heart of Middleton there will be two new state-of-the-art school campuses surrounded and connected to quaint neighborhoods, shopping, dining, and recreation – with something here for everyone.

Located throughout Middleton, recreation areas feature playgrounds, swimming pools, basketball and pickleball courts, dog parks, open spaces and more. At the heart of Middleton is The Villages A-Rated Charter School with two state-of-the-art campuses and employment opportunities for enrollment qualification in almost every industry imaginable. Also planned is a downtown with shopping, dining and all your daily conveniences. Navigating Middleton will be fun as family members can choose their favorite mode of transportation – whether you like to ride a bike, a scooter, travel by golf car, or by foot.

Here’s a direct quote from the Developer’s website regarding their vision for Middleton: “The creation of Middleton was a natural and logical next step in our growth to bring our experience, purpose and philosophies of development to bring a community for all those who help create, nurture and maintain the tremendous growth of our area and central Florida.”

So far, it seems they are on track to make this a world-class, master-planned community like no other. To learn more about Middleton, I encourage you to watch the 6 minute video here.

Future is bright for our community

What most impressed me about Layla was her enthusiasm and determination to lead the way in Middleton regarding setup of social networks and programs for the benefit of Cameron and other special needs families like theirs who may be relocating to Middleton. It sounds like she is already starting to organize around a plan. It also sounds like she brings a lot of experience with her from her community involvement from their time in Tallahassee.

I’m certain our special needs families here in The Villages will also look forward to learning from Layla and the team of volunteers she builds around her. Youthful enthusiasm is often contagious. We would surely welcome fresh ideas with open arms!

My commitment to Layla and her family is to introduce them to our amazing network of volunteers and clubs already established here in The Villages. I’m confident there are things that can be replicated or retrofitted to benefit younger special needs families that choose Middleton. I’m sure my friends and colleagues here will eagerly jump at the opportunity to collaborate with Layla and others down in Middleton.

I look forward to meeting Layla and her family in person when they close later this summer. Welcome to Middleton, by The Villages!