Our Story

child in wheelchair laughs with man

A history of meeting the needs in the community.

In 1902, Mary Irwin Laughlin established the Memorial Home for Crippled Children in order to care for a six-year-old boy whose legs had been severed in a train accident.Today, the organization she created to care for one child in need has grown into one of the nation’s leading pediatric rehabilitation organizations. We are proud of our ever-changing, always meaningful history.

1902: Mary Irwin Laughlin establishes the Memorial Home for Crippled Children.

in 1902 Mary Irwin Laughlin establishes the Memorial Home for Crippled Children

1919: 75% of our patients were recovering from polio.

in 1919 75% of our patients were recovering from polio

1960s: Our expertise grew to encompass a wide array of disabilities.

in the 1960s Our expertise grew to encompass a wide array of disabilities.

1968: We became the nation’s first comprehensive rehabilitation center for children to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation or Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

in 1968 We became the nation’s first comprehensive rehabilitation center for children to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation or Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

1980s: In response to an aging population, we created adult inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services.

1981: We changed our name to The Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh.

1988: Staff wrote the first edition of the textbook, Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation: Children and Adolescents. Ten years later, the second edition of this book was published.

1988: Designed and published Custom Trunk Support; long-term impact is still seen today in the design of wheelchairs, long sitters and standers.

1991: The original DynaVox, an augmentative communication device, was placed on the market, with the assistance of our staff, who worked collaboratively with the engineer to develop the first dynamic display.

1998: Our adult services transferred to UPMC, allowing us to reaffirm our original mission—to promote the well being of children, young people and their families

1998: We changed our name to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh

1998: The Children’s Institute and The Children’s Home jointly created Child’s Way, a therapeutic day care program for medically fragile children under the age of three, which was the only one of its kind in the tri-state area.

2000: The Day School and Carlow University began one of the first university teacher preparation classes to be taught in an authentic learning environment.  Students at the university actually attend classes in the classrooms of The Day School. 

2002: Developed GymBop® , a conceptual model integrating the educational specialties of music and adapted physical education with the related services of occupational, physical and speech/language therapies.

2003: The Day School became the first school in Pennsylvania to earn accreditation by the National Commission on Accreditation of Special Education Services.

2003: Began offering Vital Stim™ and later established a pediatric protocol that currently is being used throughout the field of pediatric speech language pathology.


2004: Introduced the Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy program, only the second of its kind in the eastern half of the United States.

2004: Project STAR received the Adoption Excellence Award for support for adoptive families from US Department of Health and Human Services. 

2005 and 2006: Project STAR earned the Angels in Adoption Award from The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

2006: Our Hospital partnered with Children’s Hospital to introduce the Pediatric Cardiac Recovery Program, an innovative collaboration that provides long-term rehabilitation for children who undergo cardiac surgery.

2007: The Day School, Carlow University, and the Centre Ann Sullivan Del Peru (CASP) collaborated to sponsor a leadership level internship for the Executive Director of CASP to spend four months in The Day School.


2007: Project STAR introduced the first annual “Growing Families Through Adoption” matching event.

2007: Completed renovation of the 220,000 square foot Squirrel Hill facility. 


2008: The Hospital expanded its CARF accreditation to include outpatient, along with inpatient that had been continuously accredited for 40 years.


2008 Project STAR, Diakon Lutheran Social Services and Bethanna collaborated in an initiative to match older youth with permanent families through a grant from the Statewide Adoption Services (SWAN).

2008: The Day School launched a partnership with Foyle View School in Northern Ireland, using video conferencing to benefit student learning as well as staff professional development.


2008: We sponsored the launch of “Lose the Training Wheels,” a bike camp designed for children with special needs.

2009: We were selected to partner with The Heinz Endowments and community volunteers to oversee the “Women for a Healthy Environment” initiative.

2011:  The Hospital expanded its accreditation to include its Brain Injury Specialty Program, along with inpatient and outpatient accreditation.  

2011: We dedicated the 10,000 square foot Nimick Family Therapeutic Garden.


2011: The Hospital opened a second unit for individuals with Prader-Will Syndrome.


2012: We dedicated the Project STAR Family Visitation Center located on the Squirrel Hill campus. 


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