The Montgomery Spastic Children's Association, Inc., later to be renamed Children's Center, was born in 1948. Seaborn Kennamer, Dr. T.C. Marrs, Ralph Heible, and Dr. Hugh MacGuire were among the first to recognize and act upon the need for services for children with handicaps. On December 10, 1948, a meeting was held at Oak Park Pavilion with representatives from Crippled Children's Services, Spastic Aid in Birmingham, persons from the local Board of Education, as well as many parents attending. By 1949, the Montgomery Spastic Children's Association was incorporated and a kindergarten program was being operated at Pineview Manor.
Unlike the educational programs today, the Montgomery Spastic Children's Association was not a free service. Tuition of $30 per month was charged per child. Fund raising made up the difference between cost and income, and no child was ever turned away for the inability to pay. Still, by the annual meeting in December 1949, the Association was deep in debt to Pineview Manor.
In 1950, a delegation met at the capitol to explain the need for funding. Only one of the legislatures was against the program. But there was great disagreement over the source of funding. Finally though, the Alabama Legislature granted the Montgomery Spastic Children's School to be paid $36,000 per year from the local Board of Education to be used for Physical and Speech Therapy, Teachers, and transportation.
In November of 1950 the first major "fund drive" was a success, providing enough income to pay the back debt to Pineview Manor and giving enough confidence to hire the first kindergarten teacher. At this time, the local school boards of education did not deem it necessary to educate kindergarten students with handicaps. A Teacher was provided for nine months each year, at $100 per month, until 1955 when the Statewide Special Education Bill was passed. The teacher was Miss Mildred Sheppard.
In 1951, a new building was secured in Oak Park and an assistant was hired for Miss Sheppard. Juanita Tomblin became the very first Administrator and Mrs. Mason (Dixie) Lanier also became the first nurse. Soon after though, Miss Sheppard resigned to start a private school for handicapped children, and so Mrs. Ann Insphar was hired as the new teacher. The third teacher was Mrs. D.A. (Cava) Cherry, who was also a teacher at Auburn University in Special Education during summer months. The School was operated year round and it was difficult to find summer school teachers. Most of the teachers were trained at Auburn University under Mrs. Cherry, gaining their Master's Degree in Special Education.
In 1952 an additional building was purchased, allowing for more classrooms to place the constantly growing student population. A new school bus was purchased through the P.T.A. funds. Each parent was required to join P.T.A. and attend monthly parent-teacher conferences.
Eventually, in 1953, the School decided to join the United Appeal. Unfortunately, the first year, they couldn't cover their operating costs. But with faith and determination in the program, they pressed forward. 1954 saw great rewards from the decisions made in 1952 and 1953. In 1955, a massage and dental clinic were added into the program. Between 1957 and 1958, grant funding was secured to start the Diagnostic and Guidance Clinic, directed by Dr. Hugh McCullough. From 1959-1960, the school program continued to grow, children were progressing, and the public were showing their support faithfully!
In 1960, $200.000 were raised in a "new building' fund. The land was purchased in 1961 at Yancey Park on Madison Terrace. The ground-breaking ceremony was held in August with around 250 supporters. On September 1, 1962, the new building was completed, dedicated, and opened. The H.O. Davis building (now the Children's Center Annex) was modeled to increase the scope of the Pre-Vocational Training program. The Montgomery Spastic Children's School was then renamed to be the Children's Center of Montgomery to represent the work done for all types of handicapped children.
Today, 62 years later, the Children's Center School, still located on Madison Terrace, provides services for severely disabled students in Montgomery County, Alabama. It is a very unique school, serving students in grades K-12. Most of the students are multiply disabled, non-verbal and in wheelchairs. Other disabilities represented are severe mental retardation, autism and traumatic brain injury. Medical fragility is an issue that must be addressed each day as teachers and staff work with students. Communication, mobility and motor skills, self-help skills and pre-vocational skills are major components of instruction at Children's Center.
The Montgomery Public Schools preschool department, the adaptive physical education teachers, and the physical and occupational therapists are all based at the Children's Center. Children's Center also has 6 full-time nurses on staff, providing daily care for gastronomy tube feedings, suctioning, administration of daily medication, care of tracheotomies and colonostomies, as well as managing personalized health plans for seizures and various other medical conditions.