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Parents were effective in focusing attention on the needs of persons with disabilities. In many states, money was poured into building new and larger state institutions to meet the increasing demand for services. No longer seen as a menace, the person with mental retardation was now viewed as an ''eternal child," and a patient in need of medical treatment.

These perceptions were reflected in new buildings that were designed to take advantage of discoveries in medicine and operational efficiency. Arthur Hopwood, then President of the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD), embraced the medical model. In 1954, he stated that "medicine, not education, will find the answers." Dr. Hopwood also advised that money for research should take priority over money for services.

Although parents were aware of the abuse that had occurred in institutions, and the need for better education for their sons and daughters, the prevailing attitude was to reform the existing system. Institutions were appropriate, many believed, if only they could be updated and properly staffed.


The large and committed organizations of parents marked the end of a long, tragic era when persons with disabilities were hidden away from view in shame and fear even by their own families. Although the parents' movement was successful in having more money put into public institutions, many parents still faced long waiting lists and overcrowded conditions.

Other parents simply did not want to place their children in large institutions. But parents did want services, preferably in their own communities. With no services available locally, many parents started their own services in homes, church basements, vacant buildings, and newly built schools. These services included education, sheltered work, daytime activity centers, recreation, camps, and various residential models.

1950s Institution
1950s Institution