V. The Reawakening 1950 to 1980 E. The Continuing Parents' Movement
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"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
–Nelson Mandela


The grassroots efforts of the early parents' movement, most notably the Association for Retarded Children, were successful in achieving far-reaching change for persons with disabilities and their families. These parents, acting out of a sense of urgency, challenged public attitudes about their children and educated their legislators about the unfair treatment that their children received in housing, education, and employment.


Many of the early issues of the movement, however, became state and federal functions. Parents were distanced from the front-line of organizing and advocating on behalf of their children. By the 1980s, younger parents were reaping the benefits of these earlier legislative successes and an established system of laws and services that protected their children with disabilities.

For many younger parents of children with disabilities, the choice has not been to join existing organizations, but rather to become educated and advocate on behalf of their children. With many basic services in place, the role of the parent has shifted from fighting for basic rights to ensuring that their local communities honor existing rights and provide the individual services required. Older parents are being encouraged to recognize that as their sons and daughters become adults, they are entitled to make their own decisions and live as independently as possible.