The Ability Project

Kate, Edward and Matt Hurson at Chapel Haven. Edward graduated in June 2011 and returned to the family home in Maryland.

Chapel Haven is a remarkable school founded about 35 years ago in New Haven, Connecticut (www.chapelhaven.org). Much of the vision for the Ability Program described in this web site originated at Chapel Haven.

Chapel Haven is located on a land parcel of about 2 acres about 2 miles from the center of New Haven. The school is a convenient walk to nearby shopping and employment. Chapel Haven’s mission includes providing post-secondary education to individuals with a variety of disabilities, including autism. A second Chapel Haven program was recently established in Arizona (Chapel Haven West) which exclusively serves individuals with autism. Among the admissions criteria is the determination that a student is likely to be able to live independently after graduation with not more than 10 hours of social worker support per week.

The computer lab at Chapel Haven

Chapel Haven’s small campus includes a dormitory building with approximately 20 two bedroom apartments. The education program includes two years with an optional third year. Curriculum is focused on life skills, including cooking, house-keeping, public transportation, job skills, etc.

The unique  element of Chapel Haven making  it a model for the Ability Project is not the education program – rather it is what happens after graduation from the school.  Approximately 7 out of every 10 graduates decide to permanently reside within walking distance of the school. They live in nearby apartments, condos and houses that families are secured, frequently with a referral from Chapel Haven. These graduates are refered to as “Community Members” and now number in the hundreds, with some in their mid-50′s.

Chapel Haven’s newly constructed facility containing administrative, classroom, computer lab, fitness center, dining facility and social hall

Over the decades, Chapel Haven has developed into a remarkable community and social center for the Community Members as they age from young graduates into middle- aged adults. Chapel Haven serves as the center of social activity and interaction for these active and engaged developmentally disabled adults. For example, the Community Members visit the social hall for movie and pizza nights on the weekends and take advantage of the numerous weekend (fee-based) programs coordinated by the school. They have developed life-long friendships and appear truly at ease among their peers.