The mission of Life Development Institute is to provide non-traditional, college-capable students a practical and inclusive bridge to improve college/career readiness and success, build cultural competence and develop personal leadership skills.
The compelling drive to find one’s own way in the world is no less strong in those with learning and neurodiversity issues than in any other young adult. Few other “journeys” are more important, or more difficult than those of seeking successful adulthood. For many, the need to prove themselves remains strong throughout life. The LDI is a beacon of hope for older adolescents and adults who struggle with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, Autism spectrum disorders and other related conditions.
Together with a competent and dedicated staff of caring professionals, the program strives to achieve its Mission. The LDI staff and its administrators are devoted to actively work with and support parents who are eager for a place where their adult-child can thrive and succeed. Families look to LDI for hope and support, as seemingly there are few other viable resources for their children. LDI strives to ease the difficult transition for the parent from being their adult-child’s advocate to being a parent who can empower their offspring to become more independent.
This Mission Statement serves as a reminder of the sacred trust placed with the LDI by the parents of LDI students. In addition, let it be a charge answered by the LDI and its staff of the common family prayer — “let my child’s life count for something.”
The condition of learning disabilities (LD) was not fully understood until the early 1980′s. It was thought that this condition occurred only in childhood, and few people recognized that this could be a life-long debilitating condition that affected millions of people. By 1982, research had clearly established LD as a neurological condition that persists throughout the lifespan of an individual. It took many years to reach the level of public awareness that it and other related conditions such as ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and other related conditions receive today.
In the late 1970s, the co-founders of LDI, Dorothy and Rob Crawford, were determined to develop a national employment agency for adults with learning disabilities. With the assistance of Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Education, seed money was made available to state agencies for local entities to field test pilot programs. In 1982, an establishment grant (seed money funds) was awarded to LDI by the RSA/AZ Department of Economic Security Department to develop a model employment program for adults with LD.
Operating from the home of Rob Crawford, the small grant for a “survival skills” program became a reality — special strategies developed by Rob Crawford for job development and independent living skills made this possible. The premise of the programmatic approach sought to treat those in the program as “whole” human beings, not human beings with “holes” in them. The philosophy of the model developed was to acknowledge that personal victories were as big a reward as winning any award from competitions. Redefining the concept of winning to include that winning is making your first true friend, earning a paycheck, or speaking up for yourself. Winning is whatever makes you feel like you’ve done something to be a winner.
Within one year, the program was firmly established and began to expand to include residential services, vocational training and job opportunities for young men and women in the Phoenix area which previously did not exist for them. As a result of the rapid growth of the program, a daring and risky undertaking began to take shape — the purchase of an apartment complex that would allow LDI to fully develop a comprehensive campus and program. This would not have been possible without the sacrifice and personal financial commitment made by Dorothy Crawford. Ultimately, with the help of several other committed people, she convinced a group of outside investors to form a general partnership. A small local bank agreed to finance the balance of the apartment complex project.
That same program expanded over the years from day programs limited to Arizona Vocational Rehabilitation clients to a variety of multi-faceted programs with both public and private funding. A great deal of the LDI early successes relied upon developing collaborative linkages with other public agencies and the post-secondary education system. This allowed the organization to draw upon the best practices in the field and put them immediately into operation to help where it could make the greatest impact. With the expansion of programs and services, LDI was able to reach out to students around the U.S. and the world, and has served thousands of students to date.
Since its inception in 1982, LDI program efforts first centered on working with a multitude of state and local agencies to provide short-term, rapid turnover services for clients with LD and related emotional/behavioral disorders. At one point, there were over 300 individuals served per year representing nine different program linkages served by a full time staff of 55 persons. The partnership between Dorothy and Rob Crawford was successful in competing and winning two major federally funded grants to develop school-to-work model demonstration programs. Creative community linkage relationships enhanced effective collaborative partnerships with a variety of state agencies, adult literacy programs, vocational/technical programs, and local colleges. The program and founders were the recipients of numerous local and national awards recognizing contributions to individuals with LD and promoting literacy in the community. These included a Presidential Points of Light award in 1992 from President Bush (41st President) and a special citation from Fife Symington, the Governor of Arizona.
Now in its 29th year, and under the leadership of Rob and Veronica Crawford, LDI has solidified the current program model and in2009, became a privately-held corporation.
On a personal level, Rob and Veronica Crawford have three adult children with the same conditions as many of the individuals LDI serves. They are able to see themselves sitting across the desk with other parents who are desperate for a place where their child can thrive and succeed. Parents look to LDI for hope and support, because they have found so few resources for their adult-children in other places. Rob and Veronica know first-hand their frustrations and can empathize with them, trying hard to ease the difficult transition from being their adult-child’s advocate to being a parent who can allow their offspring to become more independent.
LDI is an organization of high moral purpose. Its services and focus on the future are driven by students and their needs, recognition of global market changes and its impact on the LDI students, and ultimately making a positive difference in the lives of each student and their families.
Rob Crawford, M.Ed. | CEO
Rob is the co-founder of the Life Development Institute starting it out of his home in 1982 as a day program for adults with LD needing job training and independent
living skills. He has been the driving…read more
Veronica Lieb (Crawford), M.A. | President
Veronica is the President and HR — Generalist of Life Development Institute. She holds a BA in Psychology, MA in Human Resources Development and is a Board Certified Senior Disability Analyst. For her thesis in graduate…read more
Justin Coller | Manager of Marketing
Justin Coller – Manager of Marketing brings 5 years of prior experience in banking, management, and consumer relations. He is currently pursuing further education in Business Marketing at the University of Phoenix…read more
Estelle Esposito | Manager of Administrative Services & Admissions
Estelle and her husband decided to leave the fast pace and cold weather of New York City to smell the clean air, experience the serenity of the desert and return to more meaningful career paths…read more
Shirley Schroeder | Director of Finance
Shirley is the Director of Finance at Life Development Institute and has been with us since January 2001. She has over 20 years of accounting that includes 7 years as a Controller for a major home…read more
Ellen Dayan, M.S., CPRP | Program Director
Ellen Dayan – Program Director, comes to LDI with a great deal of experience working with children and adults who have a vast array of abilities. Some of the many places that she has worked and volunteered include the…read more
Monecia Cox, MBA | Student Advisor
Monecia is a student advisor who works very closely with the students. She has worked with people who possess a variety of disability-related issues for over 10 years, and enjoys doing so. She was previously a mental health case manager…read more
Matt Curran, B.S. | Student Advisor
Matt graduated from The University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. Prior to joining LDI, Matt worked for a Fortune 500 company for twenty-three years in a sales position before transitioning to Education…read more
Toni Rodriguez, MAHR, MPA | Job Development Specialist
Toni Rodriguez, Job Development Specialist brings 8 years’ experience in the fields of criminal justice, behavioral health case management and education. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Criminology…read more
Shawn Stendel | Client Care Associate
Shawn Stendel is the Client Care Associate at LDI. She is a graduate of International Institute of America with a Business Diploma. She brings 8 years of clerical experience to LDI through working in a senior…read more
Katrina Lankford | Residential Supervisor
Katrina Lankford has been with LDI since 2006. She began volunteering and later was hired as a Residential Coordinator. In 2012, Katrina was promoted to Residential Supervisor…read more
Mia Coudret, BA | Resource Support Specialist
Mia Coudret, Resource Support Specialist, brings with her prior experience of working with college students in a residential setting and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northern Arizona University. She utilizes her training and teaching skills in the classroom…read more
Kari McKay, MA | Student Advisor
Kari McKay is a student advisor who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from ASU and her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University. Her previous work experience includes both the criminal and juvenile court…read more
Eboni Harris, B.S. | Residential Coordinator
Eboni was born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to Arizona from South bend Indiana in 2006. She graduated from Brookline College with her Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and has since received her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice…read more
Kathleen Kearns, MS | Residential Mentor
Kathleen Kearns – Transition Living Mentor, brings over 30 years of experience in recreation services, social work, teaching and counseling with children of all ages and abilities. From community centers, group homes, juvenile corrections…read more
DeAnna Andrews, B.S. | Residential Mentor
DeAnna Andrews B.S.-is a part-time, PM Residential Mentor who brings over 10 years of experience in various fields such as behavioral health and Criminal Justice. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice…read more
Students arrive at LDI with a wide spectrum of issue, goals, and objectives. The LDI staff work with students to identify and understand both their personal assets andlimitations-not just in the realm of disabilities, but as human beings. This approach assists in students understanding how to develop the self-awarenessneeded to face the challenges of the adult world.
LDI can help students that are 17 years of age and older through several levels in their transition to independent and self-supported living – from earning their high school diplomas, starting college, to achieving careers through employment that is compatible with their unique capabilities.
LDI works with students who have been diagnosed with a variety of conditions commonly termed “hidden disabilities” – i.e., Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, high functioning autism, Mood Disorders, Anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
LDI recognizes and considers the fact that there are frequently secondary diagnoses with these conditions, and will discuss these conditions as possible eligibility entrance considerations. All students receiving treatment from a psychiatrist must be willing to be medication compliant. LDI does offer medication support, but the willingness on the part of the student to take medications as prescribed, is an entrance criterion.
Many LDI students have driver’s licenses and may bring their cars the first trimester or any time thereafter. Some of students come in with college credits, some right out of high school, and a few have graduated from college with Associate or Bachelor degrees. There are some students who choose not to attend a college or technical training and are strictly focused on employment. LDI has a very diverse population, just like one would find in the workforce or any adult community.
For more information about our school and programs, or to apply call us today!