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As early as 1933, the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Council for the Retarded Child was established. In 1936, the Children's Benevolent League was organized and later became the Washington Association for Retarded Children. A few years later, the Welfare League for Retarded Children was started in New York. By 1950, a total of 88 such groups with a membership of 19,300 persons had been established in 19 states.

At first, parents came together a few at a time, usually in someone's home. In both New York and New Jersey, parents looked for support by placing advertisements in the local newspaper: "Are there any other parents out there who have a retarded child? Would you be interested in meeting and talking about this with another parent?"

These groups were the result of a growing concern of parents for their children, many of whom lived in large state institutions. The initial goal of these organizations was to provide support for parents of children with disabilities.


While the United States was enjoying an economic boom following the Great Depression and World War II – increased leisure time, a restored tax base, greater educational opportunities and an increase in college admissions due to the GI Bill, and new job opportunities-parents of children with disabilities began to organize at a local and national level. People were able to turn their attention to matters other than economic survival.

Although conditions were improving for most people in our country, including persons with disabilities, public institutions were overcrowded and understaffed. Parents of children with disabilities began to form their own support and advocacy groups because few supports and services were available in the community.