Life Development Institute provides students, families, professionals, and community members the opportunity to participate in a monthly Speaker Series event wherein presentations and workshops offer vital discussion related to topics that affect each person.  As a fully accredited school for persons who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, and other learning disabilities, LDI believes communal education enables students to engage in meaningful conversation with other professionals and community members.

Melissa Ann SantoraOn July 20, 2016, Melissa Ann Santora spoke about the impact of words and gave insights and strategies for remaining mindful and reframing language regarding disability.  Embracing these insights and strategies enables persons to maximize experiences and promote successful outcomes for youth, families, and supporters.

Melissa currently works as the Director of Administration at Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council and also as the Coordinator of Arizona Youth Leadership Forum (AZYLF) for Students and Transitioning Young Adults who have Disabilities.  In her Speaker Series, Melissa identified the meaning of common place words and the potential for destruction that they can have upon members of society.  For example, people are often heard saying that something is “lame.”  Although the connotative meaning of this word correlates to being less desired, the denotative meaning relates to an ailment that an individual may have.  Therefore, causally suggesting that the “bus being late is lame” could have a potentially negative emotional impression on someone who actually has a disability or had an accident that causes a certain ailment.  Having such “loose lips” without regard for the surrounding community may cause an unintended negative judgment about the person who said “lame” and could result in offending someone else.  This can also be true with other words such as disability, handicap, disorder, and psycho.

As such, care should be taken when speaking as words truly can affect other persons in a negative way.  To this point, Melissa offered insights and strategies that can be used to help negate the offense that can be caused.  First, persons should consider synonyms for certain words and seek to understand the meaning of these words.  Comprehending verbiage displays recognition of its value and weight within conversation.  Second, identifying how the term is helpful and harmful increases awareness and mindfulness.  Recognizing the proper place for terminology further expands one’s understanding of its appropriateness or lack thereof.  Third, determining different word options encourages the use of correct language that will not cause a negative result.  Ultimately, correct word choice offers one the ability to use meaningful words when conveying a message.  As a result, embracing these strategies will empower one to interact positively with the community and maximize opportunity because this person will be viewed as having consideration for all and respect from others.

For more information on LDI or to be notified of upcoming Speaker Series events, please visit or call (623) 773-1545.