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.

Annual Report

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 advancement@cotting.org.

See the Archives

Cotting History Project

cover of the Cotting History Book

In 1893, two pioneering orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Augustus Thorndike and Dr. Edward Bradford, saw the need to educate children whose physical challenge...


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.