Advocates Unite for Action

During the late 1940s, following World War II and the realization of the Nazi regime’s efforts to kill individuals they deemed to be unfit for society, there was a reawakening of care and concern for people with disabilities.

Advocacy for community placement and special classes in public schools continued to grow, as did the populations housed in the nation’s institutions, which resulted in long waiting lists and overcrowding. Parents and family members led a loosely organized effort of disparate advocacy groups, united around their frustration over poor living conditions and the lack of services. By the end of the decade, a survey would identify 88 such groups representing more than 19,300 persons in 19 different states.

In 1947, the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD) held its annual convention, where professionals recognized the emerging parents’ movement. Both professionals and parents quickly learned that there was strength in numbers, and working together was in the best interest of the movement.

At the 1948 AAMD convention, Mr. Reuben T. Lindh of the Minneapolis Association of Parents and Friends of the Mentally Retarded, and Mrs. L.H. Riggs of the Hamilton County (Ohio) Council for Retarded Children, were given a platform devoted to parent group action.

By the end of the decade, it was determined that the most effective way the AAMD could support parents was to assist them in developing their own organization. A steering committee was established and plans were made for a national parents’ conference to be held in the months that followed.