Residential Transition Program

The Discover Independence Program

Vista Life is known for our Discover Independence Program, a college-like experience where diverse young adults 18 and older can learn to develop meaningful relationships, safely navigate their local community, establish a vocational direction, and ultimately achieve personal long-term success.

The Discover Curriculum

Discover Independence is an experiential learning, community-based program with core curriculum building skills in four main areas. 

1. Life Skills. This means achieving essential skills including:

  • Time management
  • Household management
  • Food management
  • Money management
  • Medication
  • Self-care
  • Community integration 

In short: Through supported, individual effort, students learn to perform the essential functions of independence.

2. Cognitive and Social Behavior. With a student-centered focus, Vista staff work with students individually and in group settings to demonstrate effective conversation and social skills, discuss healthy relationships, and help navigate daily life events. These skills become the building blocks for developing deep, meaningful relationships and friendships.

3. Community Involvement. We often say the community is our classroom. Access to public transportation such as a local shuttle and a train connecting to the Metro North Station provides daily opportunities for transportation training. Having accessible transportation also connects our students to their friends, jobs, shopping, healthcare providers, community events, and neighbors.

4. Vocational Training. We understand the importance of vocational direction and support our students as they develop skills necessary for employment. Having established over 66 community employment partners, our students have opportunities for job assessment and hands-on training. Students also establish routines for preparing for a shift of work. Personal hygiene, appropriate attire, meal preparation, and navigating local public transportation as just a few aspects of vocational preparation.

Student Life

Students in the dormitory live together, dine together, share group living spaces such as bathrooms, and experience what it means to have a roommate. Program Counselors are their touchstone and work with individuals as they embark on daily tasks, activities, schedules, and responsibilities as students transition to adulthood and independent living.

Many students get involved in Vista Life recreational activities (such as trips to museums, local festivals, and theaters) and clubs (including bowling, Crossfit, movie going, wellness, mindfulness, and others).

The Discover Independence Program has people with varying levels of autonomy who require individual levels of support. We work with each person and their family to develop a personalized plan for participation in the program, with specific milestones to benchmark progress along the way. Upon graduation, a Vista “student” becomes a Vista “member,” indicating that they are welcome to remain in the Vista community.

This program is designed for people with disabilities who want their life education to continue, with life skills that are constantly improving and more engagement and participation in daily activities. Students experience dormitory living at our Westbrook campus, often for a 2-5 year period. Once they have reached key milestones for independence they transition to apartment-based living with a roommate.

After students have demonstrated readiness for residential/dorm life, they experience “transition living” – a trial period of independent apartment-based living with a roommate. It allows each person to demonstrate their ability to balance self-care, coping skills, transportation, employment, and daily life.

Graduation takes place annually at The Kate – the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, CT. It is a special ceremony attended by many members of the Vista Life and greater-shoreline communities, family members, and often local leaders. Each graduate is formally welcomed into the circle of Vista Life graduates and presented a certificate to acknowledge their achievement. Graduation is also a celebration of new members entering the Vista shoreline community as their new home. 

If you are interested in learning more about our Discover Program, please fill out our Admissions Inquiry Form:  

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