When a close relative of my husband was injured in a fall in 1954, and the family told he was brain damaged, they were devastated. They were grateful when they discovered that our community had a facility to help him. At that time, the Barber Center was only 2 years old, the same age as our loved one. The Barber Center and our young man grew together. He received more than classroom instructions. He was treated with respect and dignity. He stayed in the program until he went through job training and job placement. His life is better because of the Barber Center. At the time of his injury there were no other facilities in our community, and very few in the country like the Barber Center.
The Barber National Institute, located in Erie, PA., was formerly known as the Barber Center. It is a community-based facility for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Erie, Pennsylvania. An Erie educator, Dr. Gertrude A Barber, who in 1952 was an administrator for the Erie School District, saw a need for a program for developmental disabilities, and decided to do something about it. From very humble beginnings in a one-room classroom setting, the center has grown into its new name, which denotes its phenomenal growth – the Barber National Institute. They provide a multiple faceted program that includes education, services and support to individuals and families. There are satellite programs in several cities in Pennsylvania, including Girard, Corry, Warren, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The center has a impressive range of programs that include early intervention for infants and toddlers, an inclusion pre-school, an Autism curriculum, an approved Private School, job training and placement, residential group homes, life-sharing and supported living programs, in-home services, physical and behavior therapy programs, a creative arts program and a retirement center.
The center is recognized for many innovations in program development and delivery and has been invited to provide training to educators and professionals from all over the world. The main campus, located on the shore of Lake Erie, has state of the art equipment specifically designed for those with various disabilities. The pool alone is amazing. I had a chance to visit the pool area when one of my grandchildren took swimming lessons there, which are open to the public. The floor is movable, and can be raised to make the pool inches deep. This allows clients in wheel chairs to be wheeled into the water. The floor is then adjusted to the level comfortable for the group that is participating. The pool is also warmer than usual pools so that it is more comfortable to young toddlers, or those with disabilities. The campus is also equipped with a sound proof space with state of the art equipment for hard of hearing clients enabling them to maximize their hearing abilities. There is a beautiful playground on site with accessible equipment for all children, especially those with disabilities.
The mission statement of the Barber National Institute is “Making dreams come true.” They do that and more- they allow all children and adults who are disabled in any way to feel that they are not different; that they are worthwhile individuals deserving love, dignity, and respect.
The facts in this article came from the institute website. You will find much more information on the facility at the site and can also make donations.