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As with many similar agencies founded in the 1950s and 60s, ACDS was born from the vision of a few families who were looking for services for their children, in a time when there were no services. These parents had newborns with Down syndrome. Probably their doctors, families and friends were advising them to send their babies to an institution such as Willowbrook. They said “No” and started off in a new direction.Their babies were not welcome in their neighborhood schools. No government support was available. Universal education was not yet the law. But they persisted. And that persistence, 45 years later, led to the ACDS we have today.Today we have a preschool serving children with a variety of disabilities, developmental and physical. We serve over 270 children. We have on-site Daycare for another 75.

We serve over 100 children at home annually who are too young to come to school.We serve over 300 children and families through 5Plus and our camp in Garrison, NY. ACDS now has seven residences and an apartment serving 49 adults residentially.

ACDS Personal Stories

In 2010 we opened an Adult Day Habilitation program which now has 22 participants and our Medicaid Service Coordinators reach 160 more young adults. Many of them have been with ACDS since birth.Was this the vision of those original families? No. They would be amazed! But we hope they would also be pleased and proud. And I think they would ask us: “What is your vision now, in 2011?” And a very fair question it is.

As with our founding families, our vision is to respond to the needs of the communities we serve. We have grown and trained our staff to meet the explosive growth of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Next school year we will provide Orientation and Mobility services to two blind students. We just graduated two beautiful young girls with Rett syndrome, which five years ago we collectively knew nothing about.But the future is even more challenging, made so by the loud screams for smaller government and leaner budgets. After all, 90% of our funding comes from government. The vision of our future will be shaped by the times we live in.New residential development for adults has stopped. Medicaid which, directly or indirectly, funds all our programs, is being totally revamped by New York State to cap future growth. But we say “So what?” The obstacles of our founding families were more formidable than this.So ACDS has and will continue to grow. We have grown by an average of 9% a year for eight years. That growth must continue, because families and babies need us.We bought one new building in 2010 and ultimately we need our own school building, maybe by 2019 when our last lease renewal will expire. We will continue to expand our reach, our knowledge, and our commitment to serve.

Do we know what ACDS will look like 45 years from now, in 2056? Of course not! But if we all push forward together and listen to those who call out for our services, we will certainly be grander and will surprise ourselves when we see what our vision has become. Hopefully those who follow us in 2056 will celebrate our work today!!

Michael M. Smith - September 2011

If you have a personal story about ACDS that you would like to share, please contact

Laurie Schaefer

With your support, we can continue to assist children and adults with Down syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities and their families.
Your contribution can make a difference to a child and family, just like those families in the stories above.

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