WAUSAU — As they reach adulthood, young people with disabilities also reach a crossroads.

As children, they may have relied on their parents for support. As adults, should that continue? If not, how can they access social opportunities outside their immediate families?

In the end, every family makes their own choices. Some adults with special needs continue to live with their parents. Some move out on their own, while others find supported living situations, or move in with a roommate who is willing to help out.

Day programs create a way for developmentally disabled adults to spend time in the community away from their families. But until now, there have been few resources for adults with special needs ti find ways to live fulfilling, rich lives with the right mix of support.

That will change in January, when Adaptive Communities, a nonprofit social activity for special needs adults, opens its doors.

Katie Normand, founder and director of Adaptive Communities, Inc.

Founder and Director Katie Normand spent years working in special education at local schools. Norman said she saw firsthand the difference special education can make in the lives of children with special needs, but soon realized that there were few outlets for a social life once the children left school.

“I realized there was really nothing for these kids once they were out of the school system,” Normand said. “We need something like this here.”

Adaptive Communities, which will open Jan 9 in a portion of a space formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video on 17th Avenue in Wausau, will offer activities and learning experiences for up to 50 adults with special needs.

Trained staff will work with members and help them better integrate to the Wausau community. Among the activities planned: fitness classes, cooking classes that emphasize independent life skills, classes on how to manage money, outings to coffee shops, shopping trips to farmers markets, and gardening adventures, Norman said.

“Our goal is to make our hometown feel like everyone’s hometown, working together to adapt to all,” Normand said. “Teaching life skills, experiencing new hobbies, community activities along with a fun hang out for adults with special needs. A place loved ones feel comfortable having their family members go, a place that is theirs.

Essentially, enhancing quality of life is our motto.”

In November, Normand will begin the hiring process, looking for between 5-6 full time and 2-3 part time employees to staff the center. Training will begin in December.

Then, the center will start taking applications on its website for members age 18 and older. Once members are approved, the center will work with members to arrive at a schedule of activities that works for each individual.

Right now, the nonprofit organization is accepting donations on its website and through the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.

“We want people who don’t usually get out to do just that, establish relationships and not just “float” through life,” Normand said. “We want people to leave each day with a smile.”