In many ways, Matthew is like any other 18-year-old young man. He loves music, movies, and Harry Potter (so much so he has mastered impressions of all the characters. Seriously, you should see it!) Like most young adults, he has a strong desire to fit in, feel accepted, and be just like everyone else.
Matthew also has an incredible brain. He never forgets someone he meets, and he could probably tell you what day he met them on, what they were wearing, and/or what the weather was that day. As a kid we noticed that he could perfectly recite infomercials, Shrek, and Sponge Bob. That ability is still strong today regarding music, movies and so on. There isn’t much that he ever forgets. He also has an ability to pick up on small details that most of us miss.
At 5 years old he was officially diagnosed with Autism. Over the years his struggles and challenges due to this diagnosis would present itself in seemingly endless ways. He has difficulties forming relationships, picking up on body language and social cues. We have also seen it in his sensitivity to external stimuli: too much noise, light, extreme movement or any other significant change in routine cause anxiety which leads to panic and at time outbursts.
Since he’s been in high school it’s become more evident that he struggles with executive thinking skills. He struggles to complete many tasks that require 4 or more steps, unless it is something he is very familiar with the task at hand, without requiring direct support. You wouldn’t believe how many tasks require 4 or more steps. It is something that most take for granted.
Many of us dream of going off to college, becoming doctors or lawyers, owning our own business, and having nice things. Matthew, on the other hand, dreams of being able to have his own apartment someday, to have a job, and maybe even have a girlfriend. Things that are easy for most of us to acquire are obstacles for Matthew to navigate. To date, Matthew has worked on functional and life skills through school and with outside providers but has not been successful at mastering the skills to make it possible for him to gain the autonomy he deserves. I like any parent want these things for my son and I never gave up believing that there had to be SOMETHING of a program out there to help him gain the skills he needs to be independent and to live a normal young man’s dreams.
In looking to see what was available for him and other young adults like him, I found Vista Life Innovations in Connecticut. Their Discovery Program is for 18-20-year old’s who need the extra help. This program was specifically started to help fill the education gap within public school and is exactly what is needed for young adults like my son who now need help bringing together what they do know while filling the gaps of what they don’t so that they may fulfill a life of independence. Vista would help support and train him on household activities, use of public transportation, food preparation and planning, money management, community integration and much more. Through this program he will grow in self-awareness, self-esteem, coping skills and most important: autonomy.
This is where I need your help. This program tuition is 81K where he would be provided a year-round, precise and intensive education where he will be provided training and practical skills to lead a functional life of independence. Living there and with others like him he would be acquiring the skills to live the most independent life upon completion of the program. Unfortunately, Vista is not eligible for any federal funding or any typical school loans simply because they are not considered a school of higher education.
I, like any parent, desire to see my son thrive in his life. Matthew also needs to be somewhere that he feels he belongs. I need the help of others to make this dream possible for my son. This, in my nurse mind, is equivalent to a life saving treatment and if I didn’t believe, with my entire heart and soul that this is what he needs, I wouldn’t ask for your help.
Thank you in advance for your generosity.
Check out this video to see where Matt's heart is.
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