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Obituary: Aleen Agranowitz

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Aleen Agranowitz, a noted speech pathologist, passed away peacefully at her home in Long Beach on May 10 surrounded by her family. She was 94. She was a part-time Idyllwild resident and founder of Speech and Language Development Center, which established Morning Sky School here on the Hill in 1979.

In 1955, Dr. Agranowitz co-founded a speech clinic. Her home served as the original clinic which became the Speech and Language Development Center (SLDC) in Buena Park, Calif. She led the school as the Chief Executive Officer and served as Chief Advancement Officer until April 2010. In addition, she continued her practice as a speech pathologist.

Dr. Agranowitz was born Aleen Crittsinger on June 16, 1915, in Waterbury, Conn. She was the only child of Edith and Lewis Crittsinger and was raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Dr. Agranowitz graduated in 1938 from Worcester State Teachers College. In 1972, she graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) with a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and, in 1987, she earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of La Verne.

Her interest in language and special education problems began when she worked with adult aphasics at the Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, D.C. during her service in the U.S. Navy. Aleen was a Naval officer from 1943 through 1947.

She came West to study under Dr. J.M. Nielsen, a neurologist who was a leading authority on aphasia, and to work with brain injured WWII veterans at the Veterans Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif. When the hospital moved to Long Beach, Dr. Agranowitz was made Director of the Aphasia Clinic. She married a former patient, Aaron Agranowitz, in 1951. She resigned from the Veteran’s Hospital to raise her family in Long Beach where she ultimately began the clinic for children with special needs.

Although, the clinic began with three children with special needs, today SLDC serves over 300 children and young adults diagnosed with disabilities in the areas of language, learning and behavior. More than 70 percent of the students have a diagnosis of autism. Over 45 public school districts and Regional Centers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties refer their students to SLDC. Parents have traveled from as far away as Ireland to have their son or daughter attend SLDC.
Today, SLDC has grown into one of the largest, state certified, non-public, special education schools in California.

Especially dear to Aleen’s heart were the children, families and staff of SLDC as well as the Adult Aphasia program that she began and met with weekly for the past 30 years.

Under Dr. Agranowitz’s leadership, SLDC has operated two other programs. In addition to Morning Sky, which existed for 29 years as a residential and school program for boys 11 to 18 years here in Mountain Center, there also was Daybreak, two group homes in Placentia, Calif., which served and provided a stable home for 12 severely disabled adults for 19 years.

SLDC also has a sister school in Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico, the Instituto Angel de la Guarda, which Dr. Agranowitz and the staff of SLDC helped to found in 1968. A close connection with this school continues today. The Instituto serves more than 150 children and young adults. SLDC staff members continue to visit the Instituto and evaluate students twice each year, and provide professional development for teachers and parents.

“Aleen’s intelligence, wit and charisma were quite amazing,” said Patty Bauman, president of the SLDC Board of Directors. “Her ability to speak extemporaneously was a gift that few possess, and her memory was quite unbelievable. The skill and caring that Aleen showed as a therapist set the standard for what SLDC is today.”

Aleen is survived by her children, Sara, David and Joel; three grandchildren; and her beloved dog, Boomer. Sara Jones, along with husband E.C. and son Michael live in Long Beach; David and Santy Agranowitz with daughter Natalia and son Gabriel live in Idyllwild and Buena Park; and Joel and Janet Agranowitz live in Orange. All will miss her zest for life.

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