History of Developmental Services

Even from the earliest days, physical activity was an important aspect in the care of an institution's residents. In keeping with the medical model of care that was prevalent well into the mid-1900s, residents were considered to be patients in need of treatment. Physical activity was important, not as recreation, but as an opportunity for rehabilitation.

Dr. Alexander Beaton, the superintendent at the Orillia institution from 1877 to 1910, was an early advocate for physical activity. He developed and taught the residents a series of physical exercises. One exercise involved climbing ladders.

Work was also encouraged as a form of therapy. Manual labour was viewed as a proper outlet for the energies of people with a developmental disability.

Physical activity was taken to a new level with the Oxford Regional Centre (originally called the Ontario Hospital School, Woodstock). The institution (or facility, as they came to be called) itself was opened in 1905 and in 1916, a recreation hall was built. On September 4, 1923, the facility hosted a "Fitness Day" for the residents. This event seems to have marked the beginning of a shift towards organized sports and fitness activities at the facilities.

Over time, the medical profession began to better understand how physical activities can improve a person's perceptual and motor skills, health and quality of life. After the Second World War, rehabilitation programs that had been developed for wounded war veterans were extended to help people with disabilities, including people with a developmental disability.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a push from the growing community living movement to integrate people with a developmental disability into municipal and community recreation programs. More and more, as research showed the benefits of physical opportunities on the health and well-being of residents, recreational programs became integral to the operation of a facility.

In fact, by the 1970s, the world-wide expansion of the Special Olympics found its way into Ontario's facilities. Before long, some residents in Ontario's facilities were competing in events such as swimming, bowling and track and field in locations throughout Ontario.


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