Our 50th Anniversary!

The Shriver Center was founded in 1970 in Waltham, Massachusetts at a time when many disabled students were excluded from attending public school. Two years later, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Chapter 766, requiring free and appropriate educational opportunities for children with disabilities. Chapter 766 became the model for the federal Education of Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990), which set the standards for inclusive special education in the United States. Research by the Shriver Center’s Dr. Murray Sidman, then-Director of the Behavioral Sciences Department at the Shriver Center, was published in a seminal 1974 paper entitled “Acquisition of Matching to Sample via Mediated Transfer.” This paper demonstrated the learning capabilities of two boys with Down syndrome with significant learning challenges, and thus supported the importance of educating children with disabilities. With heightened awareness of intellectual and developmental disabilities among the general public, educational institutions, and state and federal agencies, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center became a nationally recognized source of clinical expertise, groundbreaking research, and training and education in the field.

While many advances in the field since then have improved the lives of people with disabilities, people with disabilities continue to face many challenges, including poor health, fragmented care, family stress, low employment, a medical/clinical workforce that is often unaware of and unprepared to meet their needs, a myriad of co-occurring medical and psychiatric disorders for which refined treatments have not been developed, and social exclusion, to name a handful of ongoing issues. Thus, the Shriver Center’s work remains as important today as it was a half-century ago when it was first established.

We are celebrating our accomplishments over the past half-century and look forward to the next fifty years with excitement and optimism for improving the lives of all people with disabilities and working toward their full inclusion in community life.

Over 20 years with UMass Chan Medical School!

The Shriver Center was originally a free-standing non-profit organization that was housed on the grounds of the Fernald State School in Waltham, MA. For the first three decades of its existence, the Shriver Center had many partnerships and connections to area universities, organizations, and agencies, many of which continue today. However, the changing landscape of research and research funding made it clear that being part of a larger entity would best position the Shriver Center to capitalized on its strengths. To that end, in 2001 the Shriver Center became a part of UMass Medical School and was designated as a Center of Excellence, devoted to scholarship, research, and service to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The medical school is also well-known for its outstanding educational and service programs. The merging of these two fine institutions strengthened and unified a mission to pursue excellence in research, education and service in the disability field.

Please help us celebrate by considering making a donation to the Shriver Center to help us continue our important work to support people with disabilities. Every penny counts, and we are very grateful for every contribution we receive.

To make a general donation or to specify a specific program at the Shriver Center that you would like to support, please click this link: Support the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center

Thank you for your support!