SLDC alumni share post-graduation experiences

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The Speech and Language Development Center celebrated its 60th anniversary with its junior high and transition programs last month; however, its alumni attest though their time at SLDC has ended, the skills and tools they’ve learned during their time there have lasted long past graduation day.

“SLDC is very unique, and they’re a lot like family,” said Sergio, class of 2006 graduate. “They’re very kind and they really dig in deep to solve what each individual needs.”

The Speech and Language Development Center celebrated its 60th anniversary with its junior high and transition programs last month; however, its alumni attest though their time at SLDC has ended, the skills and tools they’ve learned during their time there have lasted long past graduation day.

“SLDC is very unique, and they’re a lot like family,” said Sergio, class of 2006 graduate. “They’re very kind and they really dig in deep to solve what each individual needs.”

Sergio enrolled in SLDC because of a speech impediment. The center’s speech therapists not only worked one-on-one with Sergio in developing his speech but also sought help from other therapists to classify his condition.

“At SLDC, I developed what my passion is,” Sergio said. “Instead of what I’m not able to do, I focused on what I’m able to do.”

Sergio participated in the center’s job training program where he and other students visited local businesses and did the same work as their employees. He trained and was eventually hired at Michaels, where he worked for eight years.

After taking classes at Cypress College, Sergio now lives in Mission Viejo where he works for a dog walking company and a company that cleans the tile floors in restaurants and hospitals.

In his spare time, Sergio volunteers at SLDC during fundraisers, events, and alumni activities.

“Anyone who really wants to see and get behind the scenes of what SLDC is like, the only thing I can say is come down and visit and see what it’s really about,” Sergio said. “It’s hard to explain to people what it’s about. I can only explain so much, but when you go to SLDC and you see what goes on with the teachers and staff and directors, it’s a totally different feeling.”

In addition to helping older students transition into society, SLDC has programs geared toward early intervention of autism and other disabilities.

“A lot of parents wait to intervene,” said Cole, one of SLDC’s former early intervention students. “They might get an autism diagnosis at age 2 or before that but they wait to do anything until the kid is ready to go to school.”

Cole was enrolled at SLDC from age two to age six, where he worked with speech and language therapists and attended occupational therapy.

“[The therapy] was in the form of games so I remember them being really really fun, but I was learning not only what to say but how to speak,” Cole said. “[The staff] definitely oriented it on how to be fun for a kid instead of an experience they have to go through.”

Thanks to SLDC’s early intervention, Cole was able to attend high school, graduate, and transfer to a university.

“While I was a baby, [the center’s staff] were saying that when [children] are young, they’re the most impressionable and things can change early on to help them later down the line,” Cole said. “That early intervention program is what my parents have attributed to me being more successful.”

Cole recently finished his first year at the University of Montana, where he is majoring in resource conservation. After college, he hopes to either join the military or work with the U.S. government and help farmers run their farms in environmentally friendly ways.

“Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of tools to be independent,” Cole said. “I’ve been around disabled people most of my life and I know how difficult it is to stay on track and go to school and get a job and things like that and I’m very fortunate to have the tools to be able to do that. I can go into an interview, nail it, and then get a call a few days later that I got the job.”

For more information about the Speech and Language Development Center, visit their website www.sldc.net.

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