The agency evolved in response to the social policies of the 70’s and 80’s, when thousands of people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities left institutions and returned to their local communities. Once there, however, they found that neighborhoods were ill-equipped to provide the specialized services they needed. Beginning in 1980, the founding professionals stepped in to fill that service void. This uniquely qualified group of colleagues had experience providing community-based programs for adults and children with behavioral challenges and learning needs. In fact, their programs in Vermont received national recognition for service excellence from the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor.
At first, we offered technical assistance and consultation. However, our tenure as exclusively a consulting agency was short-lived. We soon answered the appeals of parent groups and governmental agencies to become a direct service provider. The chronicle of the agency’s work within Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland from 1985 forward reflects the changing demands and interests of those we support, who first sought individualized residential services, and then meaningful participation in the work, leisure, and civic activities of their communities. Their success, and our diverse activities, breadth of experience and reputation for quality have made us a leader in the effort to support people with disabilities in the community.
Our belief in listening to the voice of those we serve was again called upon in the 1990’s when parents and advocacy groups brought to the nations attention that an alarming number of children were being diagnosed with autism, a once rare disorder. In response, the Institute joined the effort to provide services to these children and families, bringing to bear a long standing history of working with both adults and children on the autism spectrum. As a result, our service system grew to include a vast number of programs for youth including birth to three, early intervention, elementary, secondary and high school education in addition to our adult service options.