& Employment

Preparing young adults with autism for post-secondary education and training, employment, and independent living begins long before graduation. The process includes identifying how student interests and abilities relate to vocational opportunities, academic and vocational goal setting, and embedding life skills into academic learning. Vista Transition and Employment Services, available to students enrolled in The Vista School, guide students and their families every step of the way for a smooth transition and bright future in adulthood.


At 14, the legal transition age in Pennsylvania, a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) changes to a transition IEP, and we begin transition communication with parents to explain the changes and exciting experiences ahead. IEP goals must address three main areas:

  • Post-secondary Education and Training
    including exploration of options
  • Employment
    money management, work stamina, etc.
  • Independent Living
    hygiene, family participation, socialization, creating a groceries list, etc.

Throughout the school year, Vista’s occupational therapist arranges for opportunities to expose students to new tasks, conditions and environments to explore vocational interests and abilities.


Beginning in a student’s fifth-to-last year (typically age 16), our transition team conducts student observations, staff interviews, and informal community and/or on-campus vocational assessments as part of the Career Readiness Assessment. The school district also offers services as well as funding for the entire transition.

Job shadowing begins in the fourth-to-last year, with structured opportunities designed to allow students to experience a variety of tasks in community businesses or Vista departments and eventually determine preferred tasks, desired environmental conditions, and social abilities within the work setting.


Third-to last year: The hours per school year spent on transition intensifies as
students begin quarterly work-based learning assignments in community settings, with four goals:

Vista’s on-site store for students and staff, SWAP (Stocked With Amazing Potential), offers practice in skills such as product lists, money counting, stocking, customer interactions, cleaning, inventory, marketing pamphlet creation, and menu building. Off-site settings have included a variety of community businesses, such as a printing services company, the kitchen of a brewing company, retail stores, and theaters (school districts provide transport). Learn more about Employment Partnerships with Vista.

Second-to-last year: Students continue work-based learning and job shadowing, plus customized employment opportunities—developed by an employment specialist and a career developer—with existing skills, conditions for success, and individuals’ interests at the forefront. On-the-job support ensures sufficient training, as well as safety, communication, hygiene, and behavioral needs at worksites. And if a situation arises where a student is not prepared for a particular task they’re asked to do, employment specialists step in to advocate.

Vista’s partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) allows for even more pre-employment and work support—which young adults may not otherwise be eligible for.

Final school year: With OVR funding, work-based learning students now receive a stipend, allowing businesses the opportunity to work with an exceptional individual without needing to pay for the help. Customized employment services also continue during this final year.


What’s next? Sometimes it’s tough for parents to envision their son or daughter in an employed position or thriving in adulthood and are frequently surprised to see the progress they make through the transition years. At Vista, we work hard to not only set each student up for success post-graduation, but we also help connect parents to the right resources at the right time. That may include::

  • Guidance for connecting with the local county office to get assigned a case with a supports coordinator

  • Assisting with the waiver application process in the year prior to adult services beginning

  • Transitioning graduates to Vista Adult Services (depending on availability) or other adult support program