October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and 2020 marks two big anniversaries: 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and 75 years of NDEAM itself. Throughout this month, we have been sharing stories and information about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Wildwood's Employment Team is a major component in connecting workers with disabilities with Capital-area businesses. To help these businesses find the "right talent right now," the team has worked hard to help shift perspectives, increasing understanding and awareness while simultaneously breaking down barriers. A video [linked here] was created to enhance community outreach and show businesses what it means to hire someone with a disability and the benefits that come from having an equal and equitable workforce. The video reached over 6,000 independent viewers, was shared twice nationally as well as through statewide and local business groups, and reached hundreds of nonprofit leaders, chambers of commerce, human resource associations, TV programs, and published to the Times Union newspaper.

An interview recently shared by CBS News featured adults on the autism spectrum and their perspectives on joining the workforce; it was noted that their experience and unique skills often play a major role in the day-to-day operations of a business. A statistic within the article states: "We found about 30 large companies actively seeking employees on the autism spectrum, including Microsoft, JP Morgan and Ford, but there are still so many people with autism who are unemployed, and the numbers are growing. In the next decade, researchers at Drexel University estimate as many as 1.1 million Americans with autism will turn 18." Wildwood's Employment Team will continue to tackle these rates at a direct, local level.

For years, Capital Region business representatives have been joining Wildwood's Work Readiness Program to share insight on career paths, advice for joining and succeeding in the workforce, and more. It is because of these conversations that nearly 20 future jobseekers have a better understanding of not only how many businesses work, but the importance of doing what you love and embracing your individual skills and strengths. The conversations have continued to occur throughout the pandemic in a virtual setting, and will transition back to in-person on-site visits once it is safe to do so. 

Wildwood nominated two key partners in employment, Hannaford Supermarkets and Blaze Pizza, for the 2020 NDEAM Awards. Hosted by the Capital Region Employer Alliance (CREA) on Friday, October 23, the NDEAM Awards recognize businesses for their contributions to the disability community and the employment of people with disabilities. Seven businesses in total were recognized, with Hannaford Supermarkets winning a statewide award for their outstanding efforts in hiring and maintaining candidates with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blaze Pizza won the small business award for their contributions and partnership with Wildwood in relation to on-the-job training and job seeker referral programs. The awards ceremony can be watched in its entirety through this link, and we want give a big "thank you" to all the businesses recognized!

As NDEAM nears an end, Wildwood would also like to thank Marshall & Sterling Insurance; Schenectady County Public Library; M&T Bank; Albany Institute of History & Art; SOAKS; CVS Pharmacy; The Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS); Ravena Public Library; Niskayuna Central School District; Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP; UHY Advisors NY; Union College; The Merriam Insurance Agency; Mahoney Performance Institute; the Capital Region Chamber; and many more area businesses for their partnership and insight.

If you are interested in learning more about how Wildwood works with local businesses and connects them with potential employees, listen to the Employment Rebranding Podcast:

To learn how you can be a partner to Wildwood or special virtual guest, visit:

What's it like working in employment services? Wildwood employees share their thoughts in this article. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Dear Wildwood School Community,

As you know, on Thursday, October 22, 2020, Wildwood was advised by a local health department that one member of the school community had tested positive for COVID-19.  The decision was made to program remotely for both staff and students on Friday, October 23, 2020.

We have been in ongoing contact with the health department, and It has verified that the safety protocols that were in place and being followed by Wildwood School significantly minimized the risk of exposure.  The health department has been thorough in its investigation, and the school leadership and nursing teams have provided detailed information about our safety plan and protocols, our student population, and our deep cleaning processes.  This same process will be followed for all future COVID-19 related notifications.  

Since this was our first COVID positive case at the school, we felt it important to use today to meet with our staff, make plans for next week and share information with everyone, to ensure that we are doing our very best to protect the health and safety of our students, families and staff. Going forward, we will review each future event on a case-by-case basis, with a goal of continuing uninterrupted in-person instruction, to the greatest extent possible. We do not intend to immediately move to all remote instruction following future events--however, we will err on the side of caution if significant health and safety risks are identified.  

Plans for Next Week:   

   1)  YAP.   On Monday, October 26, 2020, students who attend the Young Adult Program at our Latham site will continue to receive remote instruction only.  No in-person instruction or therapies will take place.  YAP staff will report to work in-person and provide remote services from the Latham building.  

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, in-person educational services will resume for all  YAP students and staff.  

    2) Curry Road.  In person educational services will resume on Monday, October 26, 2020 for all students and staff at our Curry Road location, including YAP Class 20.

I know that during these unsettling times, confidence in our decision-making is crucial and we take our responsibilities very seriously.  Rest assured that Wildwood is deeply committed to the health and safety of everyone involved in our school programs.  We are confident that when we return to in-person instruction and services next week, our buildings will be safe for all.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.  Have a great weekend and please don’t hesitate to contact me at your earliest convenience with any questions you may have.


Wilford LeForestier

Wildwood School, Director of Education


Wildwood Schools will be moving to remote instruction for all students tomorrow - Friday, October 23 - due to a positive COVID-19 test within the school community.

Further information about this will be sent to all school families and staff this evening.

A determination about instruction for next week will be made and communicated to all families and staff tomorrow. Please contact school administration with questions. 

Read today's 10/23 update from Wildwood School:

By Kate Napolitano, MA, LCSW, Social Relationships & Sexuality Educator at Wildwood


Welcome to another edition of Love Letters from Wildwood! In this column, we talk about all things love, sex and relationships, often with a special eye towards current events and/or the world of disability. This edition of Love Letters will be about Informed Consent: what it is, why it’s not just about medical stuff, and why I think it’s a good idea for all of us. If you already feel you’re an expert on informed consent as related to sex and social relationships, that’s wonderful! But know this article strives to describe it for those who may not have given much thought to it before.

If you’re interested in learning even more about Informed Consent after reading this, consider coming to our online Informed Consent educational workshop, happening Wednesday, October 28, at 10am. Registration is free, and more information can be found at the end of this article.

Some of you may know “informed consent” as a phrase hospitals and doctors use, based around the big clipboards of paperwork they get you to sign before surgeries or medical treatments. Broadly speaking, applied to almost anything, “informed consent” means:

Informed = Learning as much CORRECT information about something as you can, including the possible good things and possible risks about it, before you...
Consent = say yes to it. And when you say yes, you’ve taken some time to think about the risks and benefits, and whether you still want to move forward.

I love the concept of informed consent. I think it should apply to everything, especially sex, love and relationships. I mean, why say yes to anything without really thinking about what you might get?

Lou Deepe has been appointed as Wildwood’s next Executive Director, effective January 1, 2021.

Deepe sat down to talk about his career in disability and human services, his vision for the future, and the importance of maintaining Wildwood’s culture as the agency moves forward. Watch the full interview to learn more about his history, and to see his perspective on transitioning to the new role:

Deepe started his career in human services in 1993, when a friend suggested a job at an ARC group home. With no previous experience knowing or supporting an individual with disabilities, he says it was initially a bit “overwhelming.” Since then, however, his family experienced – as many have – the joys and challenges that come with having a family member diagnosed with autism.

After starting as a Residential Direct Support Professional (DSP), over the many years in the field Deepe worked in a variety of positions, including as a job coach and teacher’s assistant, and in Community Habilitation and Respite Services, giving him a unique perspective on working inside the family home to support an individual. Eventually, Lou made the transition into an administrative position. He began working with Wildwood in 2008, in a Day Services administrative role, before moving on to being the Chief Operating Officer (COO) four years ago.

“I loved having a direct, positive impact on peoples’ lives when I was in those direct support roles,” says Deepe. “As I moved into more of a leadership role, I realized that I could have a different kind of impact on peoples’ lives. It was maybe…more indirect, but it had even more profound implications for their overall quality of life.” Creating a positive impact on staff was another fulfilling aspect found within having an administrative role –Deepe champions the workforce, boards, and community partners for their roles at Wildwood.

Stepping into the new position will come with challenges, namely those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Deepe says a primary short-term goal is to continue safely navigating the pandemic, and focus on the fiscal challenges that lie ahead. Long-term goals include fostering the culture of respect, integrity, creativity, and holism at Wildwood,  investing in diversity, and a measurement of impact.

Wildwood has a longstanding reputation for having accessible, responsive Executive Directors. Like Mary Ann Allen and Ginny Rossuck before him, Deepe would like to continue the tradition of being available to staff, individuals, families and the community. Virtual “meet and greets” will be held in the future, and Deepe has plans to get out and meet people face-to-face as soon as the safety regulations allow. He believes that these conversations will help inform decision making, and provide valuable insight to the Executive Management team.

Longevity and the continuation of support are important factors in Deepe’s decision to stay in the human services field and at Wildwood. Building relationships with individuals and their families over the course of many years helps strengthen knowledge and understanding, creating those positive impacts he speaks of. “Whenever you can have a positive impact for someone, that keeps you coming back. That gets you through the hard times. That is what keeps people here [at Wildwood] for 20, 30, 40 years.”

As he looks forward to the future and his transition into the Executive Director/CEO position, Deepe would like people to know that, “in Wildwood, you have a committed, full partner. We will be there every step. We will be relentless in our advocacy for you, our support of you, and we will listen. We are not an organization that thinks we know everything – you know everything. You know what you need, you know what you want, your families know what you need and want. Tell us, and our job is to make that happen.”


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