My name is Collette Divitto, and I was born in 1990 with Down syndrome. I grew up in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where I developed a passion for baking after taking classes in high school. I went to college at Clemson University in South Carolina, and graduated a 3-year LIFE program in only 2 years. I moved to Boston, and thought for sure I could find a paying job.
Although I went on many job interviews that seemed to go very well, I always got an email saying something like, “it was great to meet you, Collette, but at this time we feel you are not a good fit for our company.” Because I was determined not to let rejection stop me from earning a living and doing meaningful work, I decided to turn my passion for baking into a business, and founded Collettey’s Cookies. I have been creating my own recipes for cookies for fun for years!
I am a very persistent and determined person, despite any disability, and have a passion to show people how able I am and how other’s like myself can be of great value to employers and our communities.
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Running Her Own Business
My #1 goal is to continue to grow my company, and to land big accounts across the US, so I can keep employing people with disabilities and lower the unemployment rate from 81.5% to as low as I can get it! I am also working on franchising, hoping to help other families across the US and build more entrepreneurs like me.
I also started a non-profit, a 501c3, Colletteys Leadership Org. to be able to apply for grants and use that money for the workshops that I teach, like “How To Become An Entrepreneur, and Employment Readiness, and Career Path Discovery.” I love teaching and empowering others! Too many people in life have low expectations for us, and eventually, it’s easy to start believing that about yourself! I am so grateful my MOM never had low expectations for me, or my life would not be so amazing now!
What about my diagnosis? Do I really need a label – Down Syndrome? That is exactly what has held me back from opportunities. People hear a label and they assume “dis-abled”! So let’s move on from that one.
My Experience with Speech and Language Therapy
I started speech therapy when I was 3 months old. It started with oral motor skills, like eating peanut butter off a spoon and blowing cotton balls across the table. They were trying to teach me how to use my tongue to build muscle strength to help my speaking, and blowing cotton balls was to strengthen my lower muscles for better breathing to improve my speech. Another exercise was to practice eating a Cheerio and moving it from one side of my mouth to the other.
I never liked speech therapy or the fact that speaking was so difficult for me. Since I was also diagnosed with Speech Apraxia, my mind was going way faster than my speaking abilities. I often jumbled up my words and spoke way too fast, so I was not understood by most people. This was my hardest struggle when I was younger – but still today I work on my speech 5 days a week. I am a public speaker so you can imagine how much work I have done.
Speech Tips for Children with Down Syndrome
My Mom read a lot about my speaking challenges and decided to put a metronome in my room, with the click sound on low. She felt if my brain could learn a new beat or rhythm then maybe my brain and my speech could be on the same beat, and people could understand me. It actually worked and also helped with my academics. I had way less anxiety and could process things more clearly. When I speak in public now, it helps me to use my hands to follow a beat.
I would like to give parents hope. I did not speak clearly until I was around 8, and had my own language till I was 5. They wanted to teach me sign language, but my mom refused because she was afraid it would make me lazy to work on speaking since that was a lot of work for me. I also ask that parents don’t have low expectations for their children.
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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.