About the Cotting History Project
This page was designed to be a resource for former, current and prospective students and their families who want to learn more about the history of Cotting School, and for scholars and friends of the school who want to research the history of special education in America.
In 1893, two pioneering orthopedic surgeons from Children’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Augustus Thorndike and Dr. Edward Bradford, saw the need to educate children whose physical challenges prevented them from attending school. As an experiment, they founded The Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children in Boston. Modeled after 19th-century European institutions, the school was America’s first for children with physical disabilities. The School, originally built in Boston, featured an outdoor classroom. Later renamed Cotting School, it’s currently located in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Today Cotting School serves children with a broad spectrum of learning and communication disabilities, physical challenges, and complex medical conditions.
- Concerned that children with physical disabilities were not receiving an education in the public sch... Read More
- In 1900, a committee of the Board was instructed to negotiate the purchase of a lot of land on St. B... Read More
- Under the leadership of Board President Francis Cotting, the School opened a new building at 241 St.... Read More
- In 1912, Cotting School built an outdoor classroom. It was believed that fresh air daily provided a ... Read More
- The School completed a major addition to the new building that included a new high school, expanded ... Read More
- Since its founding as the Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children in 1893, Cotting Scho... Watch Video
- This is an excerpt from the film, Challenge for Tomorrow. It was produced in the 1950s for Cotting S... Watch Video
- By this time, the School had grown to serve 120 students from 36 communities, including Reading, Bra... Read More
- While training in Boston, Muhammad Ali visited the Cotting School.... Read More
- After two years of lobbying, student Mary Fitzgerald persuaded the Board of Trustees, including Char... Read More
- This is a collection of excerpts from the film, Count on Yourself. It was produced in 1974 for Cotti... Watch Video
- By 1984 the St. Botolph Street building was in need of repairs that were prohibitively expensive. Ev... Read More
All annual reports from 1894 to the present are available HERE in digital format. Early reports give an in-depth view of services provided, the challenges of starting the first school in America and the vision of the founders. Together they offer a rich history of the evolution and revolution of special education services and attitudes toward children with special needs at Cotting School and across America.
Note on Cotting School Yearbooks:
We have all of our Yearbooks archived, going back to 1972! If you'd like to request an old yearbook as a PDF, please email email@example.com.
Cotting School has been blessed with visionary Trustees. These leaders of Boston-area business, investment, legal and educational communities donated their time, talents and treasures to the school. Founders Drs. Bradford and Thorndike served 34 and 48 years respectively. Francis Joy Cotting served from 1897 until his death in 1914. His nephew, Charles E. Cotting served from 1922 to 1984.