Life Development Institute is a college-based program for young adults, typically between 18 and 26, with an IQ from the low 80's to the 140's. These young adults typically have a history of learning, attention, mood, anxiety, OCD, PDD (specifically Aspergers and High Functioning Autism), cognitive and neurological issues in areas that affect generalized learning and functioning in general. Life Development is a non-profit 501(c)(3), private organization that offers both a high school diploma program and post-secondary programs.
The high school, Academy of Lifelong Learning, is an approved private special education school through the Arizona Department of Education and Exceptional Student Services with diploma granting authority. LDI offers three postsecondary program tracks of two years or longer for students who are high school graduates. All college courses are approved and accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The directions to get to Life Development Institute were clear and concise, and we pulled up to the office without any trouble. There were two doors, one labeled Student Entrance and one labeled Life Development Institute which led into the office.
A friendly receptionist greeted us at the door, and then promptly stepped through another door to find Rob Crawford, director of the program. As we waited, we observed the awards and certificates lining the walls, showing a lot of community involvement. A student came in while we waited and I had the chance to see a student/ instructor interaction first hand. I was impressed by the student's ability to clearly identify what he needed, determine the steps it would take to accomplish his goal and ask for help when needed. He politely engaged us in a conversation with good eye contact before returning to class to continue his studies.
After a short wait, Rob met with us and ushered us into the back office to begin our tour of the facility. School was in session when we visited and students were busy studying, researching online and working in small groups. Class sizes average 8-10 students, and each teacher keeps their students for the entire school year. Life Development Institute accepts both young adult, college-age students into their residential program and day students age 16 and up. The institute currently has 50 day and residential students. All students attend some sort of college or vocational classes in Phoenix and surrounding areas.
Life Development Institute is located in a professional park in Glendale, AZ, with the students living in an integrated apartment complex a couple blocks away. The students come voluntarily from around the country to work on independent living skills and college courses, specifically tailored to assist their special education needs and learning disabilities. Veronica Crawford met us after we watched classes for a bit, and explained the schooling process/ living combination for the students. She explained how each student is assigned a Program Mentor and Student Advisor who work together to help him/ her find all learning assistance needed. The Program Mentors are certified in their area and provide daily instruction and tutorial support to each of their assigned students. In addition, they help the more independent students find assisted learning programs in surrounding colleges, universities and vocational training facilities.
The Student Advisors assist students in weekly menu planning, cooking classes, finances, budgeting and act as a support network for the students to learn to live independently. Advisors check the apartments sporadically to make sure the students are learning independent living skills and taking care of the living quarters responsibly.
We left the main building of the Life Development Institute and headed over for a tour of the apartment living part of the program. The Student Advisor who showed us around explained how the gated community apartment complex was considered more a supportive community than just supervised living. She also talked to us about teaching the students how to shop, budget, cook for themselves/ others, prepare for job interviews, etc.
After a few hours of visiting with the Crawfords and other staff at Life Development, we decided it was time to head out. We'd had a nice visit, said our goodbyes and drove off feeling impressed at what this independent living program for college-aged students with learning disabilities could offer those they serve.