September 21, 2017 | Norwalk Hour

WILTON — Starting in October, high school graduates with special needs can find help transitioning into adulthood through a new life skills program at Trackside Teen Center.

The program will help young adults develop skills they need to be competitively employed and to live more independent and socially connected lives, said Dennis Perry, chief executive officer and president of Abilis, the Greenwich-based nonprofit offering the program. The facility in Wilton is beautiful. It’s so well-structured that it allows for quiet time, cooking practice, larger groups. And there’s many things we can do in the proximity to downtown Wilton, which is what our program is all about,” Perry said. “We want our people in the community to become familiar with the community.”

Sept 21 Hour


In the last couple of years, Perry said it’s been clear Abilis should expand its geography and operations throughout lower Fairfield County. Founded in 1951, Abilis offers services and supports to more than 700 individuals of all ages with specials needs. “We get the W’s: Westport, Weston and parts of Norwalk and towns directly above like Easton,” Perry said. “By coming to Wilton, we’re able to capture New Canaan, Ridgefield and North Stamford. It represented a sensible expansion of our geography.”

After the program’s successful launch in Greenwich in 2007, Abilis opened satellite programs in Westport and Stamford in 2016 and 2017, respectively, to allow clients to develop in their current communities. He hopes the same trend will pan out in Wilton. “If you are coming into the adult world, your skill sets are not well developed so our life skills program helps those we serve develop areas of interest, which we then convert into areas they’ll cultivate,” Perry said. “At the end of the day, our primary goal is to find a way in the community, and if they’re able to, to help them get a job.” Through the years, What Perry is finding in other towns is that high schools occasionally introduce their students to their programs rather than having a program that’s exclusively run by the town.

“So the beauty of having a program in Wilton — as proven to be the case in Greenwich, Stamford and Westport — is the school systems begin to introduce their students to our program; they spend a couple of days in a traditional environment and by the time they graduate, they’re able to move on,” said Perry, who’s worked with Wilton Public School’s special education department and is aware of the district’s new adult transition program. “I call it a soft landing,” he added.

Looking for ways to branch out into the special needs area, Trackside Executive Director Mark Ketley said he is thrilled to partner with Abilis. “It’s just the continuation of what we’re always trying to do and to use this building to better anything we can for the community,” Ketley said. “It’s great for Wilton to have this kind of program available to the population they serve, and Trackside is a perfect location for it.” The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Abilis Wilton Life Skills Center is set for Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. at Trackside, 15 Station Road.