Our Mission

Our mission

Our mission at Abilities First is to provide people who face developmental challenges and their families support to attain independence, self-determination, integrationThe practice of including people with special needs in all aspects of typical community life. Abilities First believes that if integration occurs naturally in a setting (e.g., classroom, place of work, residential neighborhood, etc.), the ratio of people with disabilities to those without should approximate what is found in the total population. That is, less than or equal to 20% people with disabilities.... More and acceptance by others through educationThe process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. We believe all children and adults can benefit from quality education., exploration and experience.

Learn more about our cause

Download our Annual Report

Our vision

All people are recognized and valued for their Abilities First.

Our values

Integrity – consistently truthful, dependable, professional and ethical
Equality – fairness in all opportunities
Dignity – deserving of respect and consideration
Distinction – pursuing excellence via world-class best practices
Diversity – encouraging inclusiveness

Our history

Abilities First was incorporated under the name Rehabilitation Programs in 1962 with a mission to serve children and adults with developmental disabilities in Dutchess County, New York State.

The organization began with a small educationThe process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. We believe all children and adults can benefit from quality education. program known as the “The Little Red Schoolhouse.” The name Rehabilitation Programs was changed to Rehab Programs in 1996, and the name Rehab Programs was change to Abilities First in 2008.

The name Abilities First was meant to signify that we value what people can do, what they can learn, and what they accomplish rather than their limitations or disabilities.

650 staff members,
serving over 1,500 people

Over the years, the organization grew into a multi-faceted operation employing 650 staff members and serving approximately 1,500 people with various kinds of developmental needs. This includes:

  • People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • People with Developmental Delays and Learning Disabilities
  • Children and Adults with AutismA developmental condition that affects social interactions, communication and repetitive behavior. A person with autism may or may not also have an intellectual disability.
  • Young children needing Early Childhood EducationThe process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. We believe all children and adults can benefit from quality education.
  • People with Physical Disabilities
  • Seniors and People experiencing forms of Dementia
  • People with Mental Health Conditions
  • People experiencing Chemical Dependency

A commitment
to inclusion

The wide range of services we offer and people we support reflects our commitment to inclusionThe philosophy and practice of including children or adults with disabilities in the same classrooms, programs, and community settings as people without disabilities. and acceptance of people with various kinds of developmental challenges.

From typically developing children who need to prepare for the academic rigors of school – to people with intellectual disabilities who need to prepare for independent living – to seniors who want to keep their independence and communities as they age, Abilities First provides the bridges and the resources.

Licenses & Accreditations


New York State EducationThe process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. We believe all children and adults can benefit from quality education. Department
New York State Department of Health
New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities
New York State Office of Child and Family Services
New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services
Council on Quality and Leadership

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