By PAT TOMLINSON Times Staff Writer
Contributed Photo (Keelin Daly)
STAMFORD — When it comes to helping those with developmental disabilities, one Greenwich-based nonprofit agency is saying no to status quo.
Since being founded in 1951, Abilis has continually been one of the foremost advocates for equal rights for individuals with developmental disabilities.
In addition to starting one of the area’s first “all-abilities” kindergarten classrooms back in the 1970s and pioneering a home-share program that matches a typical roommate with a person with developmental disabilities, Abilis is now looking to revolutionize their capacity for aiding individuals with developmental disabilities by opening a new therapy center tailored towards evidence-based, personalized treatment.
“I believe that Stamford is very blessed by the nonprofit organizations, and the leaders of those organizations, because they provide so many services to our city,” said Mayor David Martin. “If we tried to do this through the government, I’d have a stack of regulations and bureaucratic paperwork up to the ceiling and we wouldn’t actually be able to provide any of the actual services that [Abilis] provides.”
Abilis’ new center, which is housed in Stamford, will be offering a wide range of therapeutic services for individuals of all ages to address communication, social, sensory, physical and cognitive challenges, as well as behavioral issues that negatively impact family dynamics and community inclusion.
While Abilis has long offered such treatments to individuals with the disabilities, in the past they had relied almost exclusively on government contracts to accomplish their goals. With the opening of this therapy center, Abilis President Dennis Perry hopes that will change.
“Our objectives are to expand the source of our revenue beyond what is provided by the state, so this enterprise represents an opportunity to develop clients on a private-pay basis, in order to augment state funds,” said Perry.
Prior to the center’s grand opening, Abilis had been limited in what age groups they could provide services.
Typically, government money was allotted for services offered to infants up to the age of three. However, at age three the children moved into the public school system, at which point Abilis would suspend their services until the individuals aged out of the school system at age 21.
“If you have a developmentally disabled child and you’re satisfied with the speech therapy that you’re getting or the occupational therapy or whatever the support is, discontinuity is not your friend. You want to stay the course and stay with the people that are helping your child. This [therapy center] represents the vehicle to make that happen,” said Perry.
With Abilis’ new private-pay model, they hope to be able to circumvent this 18-year layoff period and provide a consistent service to individuals for the entirety of their developmental years and beyond.