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The 1950s: Day Programs to Prevent Institutionalization

In the 1950s, parents and activists worked towards building community rehabilitation programs and day activity centers as an alternative to their sons and daughters staying at home or living in institutions.

The programs were supposed to provide work and socialization time. They were a place of safety and support that allowed adults to stay out of institutions. For many parents, then and now, the reliability of a consistent day program was a source of comfort.

The "safety net" was in place.

Woman at a table
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden

Sheltered Workshops and Day Activity Programs Begin

The President's Committee on Mental Retardation summed up the development of sheltered workshops and day activity programs in the 1950s.

During the early years of the National Association for Retarded Children, much of the effort of many local associations was directed toward conducting demonstration educational programs for school age children with disabilities. With the successful demonstration of educating these children, the public schools began to assume this responsibility for education.

As a result, an interesting situation was created. Many local associations which were organized to provide educational services found that their major purpose was accomplished. Consequently, many associations turned their attention toward other problems the above school age group with disabilities, the pre-school age group, and those with profound disabilities of all ages. Because of this situation, community provisions for the post-school age groups gained in popularity (PCMR 1972).

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