By Sandra Zunino
A beacon of hope for children with special needs, it took determination, a vision, a partnership and a lot of hard work to get The Learning & Development Resource Center at 8614 Ocean Gateway in Easton underway.
Housing the headquarters for the National Autism Association (NAA) of Maryland-Eastern Shore and Sound Foundations for Learning, the center promises to be a one-stop-shop for families of developmentally disabled children.
President of the NAA – Maryland-Eastern Shore Jaime Langdon recognized the need for such a facility when her own daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2006. At that time, it was difficult for Jamie to find resources to help cope with her daughter’s needs. “I became very resourceful and started working and almost paving a way for other families to find opportunities for help,” she recalls.
Jamie started an autism support group that she ran out of her home. She spent hours researching resources and grants that would provide therapy and equipment for her daughter and readily shared that information. “There were resources out there,” she says, “but it was difficult to find them.”
NAA asked Jamie to head the Maryland Chapter and she received non-profit status last April. With a growing autistic community, she realized she needed to expand and sought a facility large enough to house her dream. “We would like to offer therapy, support, diagnosis and education,” says Jamie. “All those things under one roof.”
Fortunately, the owner of the building was impressed with Jamie’s vision and was willing to work with her. At the same time, Jamie was contacted by Darren McCarthy, who wanted to launch Sound Foundations for Learning, an organization that provides educational services for children with special needs.
Educational therapists at Sound Foundations review assessment materials and perform further assessment, then define the learning challenges. “We deliver an individualized program to address specific needs on a one-on-one basis,” explains Darren.
Darren worked at a similar center in San Diego and recognized a niche in this area. “We’re trying to fill a need with modern and progressive means and the most advanced services we know about,” says Darren. “We’ve formally trained with therapists around the world and we bring that kind of knowledge to the Eastern Shore.”
The center will also offer a database of resources as well as pamphlets and other information for parents. Eventually Jamie would like the center to offer pediatric occupational therapy and speech therapy. She spends many hours on fundraising campaigns and writing grants to earn money for equipment. “With the center offering all those modalities, we want to help all special needs children, not just those with autism,” she says.
Jamie says she was devastated when she first learned of her daughter’s autism diagnosis. “I got horrible videos to watch,” she says. “There was no way that was going to be the life she would be condemned to.”
Through her experience, Jamie says she wants to give parents of autistic children hope for the future. “It doesn’t have to be grim,” she says. “My daughter has intensive needs and I’m realistic to that, but I can still help her be the best person she can be and at the same time help other children and their families.”
For more information about The Learning & Development Resource Center, visit www.ldrcenter.com or call 410-820-9005.