Creating Opportunities Today; Maximizing Independence Tomorrow

Our History

The history and success of the Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre (OCTC) spans 60 years, dating back to its modest beginnings in 1951. This section provides an overview of the organization's evolution over six decades: the 50s, the 60s, the 70s & 80s, the 90s, the Millennium and the present.

The '50s

In 1950 Betty Murphy, the parent of a child with a disability, had a dream. She wanted a place that would provide rehabilitation treatment and school services for children with cerebral palsy in Ottawa. Under her leadership, a concerned and committed group of parents, friends and community members worked to make the dream a reality.

The Cerebral Palsy Society of Ottawa and District opened in a small bungalow on Breezehill Avenue with a converted garage in 1951. The Lions Club of Ottawa donated the building and provided $5,000 for furnishings.

Initially, there were nine children enrolled in the school and therapy program and 23 registered outpatients coming daily for therapy and medical clinics. There were only five staff members, consisting of a Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, schoolteacher and a driver/caretaker. Monthly, medical clinics were staffed by a team including three physicians.

In 1954, in order to carry on the work that had begun, the Cerebral Palsy Society became incorporated as a non-profit corporation known as The Cerebral Palsy Society of Ottawa and District Incorporated. It was administered by a volunteer Board of Directors, which was elected annually.

The '60s

Ten years later, the bungalow had become too small for the growing clientele. To better respond to the community's request to extend its services to children with a wider range of physical disabilities, the Society moved to St. Louis School in the Carlington area of Ottawa in 1961.

The school was able to offer expanded programs to children and youth with other disabilities such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

The corporate name was changed to the Ottawa Crippled Children's Treatment Centre to more accurately reflect the population served.

With space again at a premium in 1962, the Centre relocated to larger quarters provided by the Ottawa Board of Education at Riverview Public School in Alta Vista for the nominal fee of $1.00 per year.

The '70s & '80s

In 1973 the Centre moved to its permanent location adjacent to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in the Ottawa Health Sciences Complex on Smyth Road. In fact, OCTC was the first building to be built on the Complex, pre-dating even the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

The Centre was now able to offer integrated rehabilitation and educational services to children with physical disabilities between the ages of 2½ to 18 years, from preschool to grade 8.

The much larger dedicated space also made it possible to undertake more research and development.

The Centre continued its commitment to the education of children with physical disabilities in its new home, which was purposely built to meet both therapeutic and academic needs.

In this setting, on-site therapy sessions were more easily incorporated into the learning day. The goal of the school program was and still is to prepare each student physically, socially and academically for future integration into community schools.

The Centre's multi-disciplinary approach to client treatment programs was carried out under the leadership of Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. William McIntyre, and Developmental Pediatrician, Dr. David Doyle.

Their assessment clinics became the gateway to expanded services. The vision and dedication of these two outstanding doctors led to the formation of clinical teams including Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers, liaison teachers and technical aides.

In 1985, Rick Hansen undertook his momentous 'Man in Motion World Tour'. The two-year, 40,000km odyssey proved the unlimited potential of people with disabilities. In the process, Rick raised $24 million to support spinal cord injury research and programs. His tour included a stop at OCTC, where an enthusiastic group of children, parents, staff and members of the community greeted him.

The '90s

With the advent of the computer, the Centre became increasingly involved in the development of technological communication aids and the host for international conferences on communication disorders. The focus for local clients became the provision of appropriate equipment to increase independence both in mobility and communication.

The Centre's Clinic for Augmentative Communication (CAC), officially designated in 1987, obtained a permanent space on the Smyth site in 1991. Through means such as high-tech communication devices, picture/symbol displays and adapted computers, the CAC continues to be at the leading edge of assessment and training for clients whose speech or writing abilities are not sufficient to meet their daily needs.

Twenty-first century technology is applicable to both toys and computers. Touch windows, Intellikeys, 'discover:switch', modified controls and special batteries enable clients to use adapted equipment for education and play.

Originally known as the Seating Clinic, the Seating and Mobility service was renamed in 1995 and continues to promote integrated services to this day.

In 1998, a pilot project was introduced which offered outreach seating clinics to clients in the areas of Cornwall, Pembroke and Smith Falls. Feedback from the pilot confirmed that clients, families and community partners welcomed the opportunities to receive services in their local areas.

This outreach model continues today and contributes to building capacity locally and improving access for families living far and wide across our region.

In the summer of 1999, OCTC announced the introduction of another new logo, which was designed to be more representative of the expanded clientele of the centre.

The Millennium & the Present

In 2001-02, OCTC was chosen by the Ministry of Community, Family & Children Services (MCFCS) to be the lead agency in the integration of four separate community-based organizations into one new program. New services include child development, infant development, behaviour management and consultation, as well as a communication development program.

At this time OCTC continues to experience a steady growth in the number of referrals, its catchment area and in recognition. In the past, the service model was predominantly site- or clinic-based, but now it includes a large amount of community-based service delivery.

OCTC continues to build its community capacity through on-site OCTC staff working from new community-based client service sites. OCTC formalized its specialized role in delivering rehabilitation services to our clients through outreach-based service model (e.g., CAC, Seating, Technical Services, Integrated Rehab Teams, Special Education Liaison Teachers).

In 2006, OCTC received approximately $995,000 in additional operating funds from the Ontario Ministry of Youth & Child Services. The new resources enabled OCTC to reduce waiting times for essential and core therapy services and to increase the number of clients served by OCTC.

As a multidisciplinary organization offering clinics, therapies, school, behaviour management, child and infant development, respites, etc, OCTC must navigate a complex funding system through a variety of channels, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Community, Family and Children Services (MCFCS), the Ministry of Education (MOE), the City of Ottawa, and many more.

OCTC has expanded to six locations and is now the regional site for service delivery for treatment Renfrew Victoria Hospital and Cornwall General Hospital.

In 2010, OCTC received Ministry Funding (MCYS) in the amount of $909,000. All funding dollars were specifically designated to shorten waiting times and increase the number of children/youth and families served.

As a result, 'Project On-Board' was launched resulting in an increase of FTEs (full-time equivalents) at OCTC and other staffing opportunities both internally and externally.

Volunteers continue to help us as we strive to reach our goals. They perform various invaluable tasks and duties at OCTC. In addition, more than two dozen community and business leaders make up the Boards of Directors for both the OCTC and OCTC Foundation.

2011 proudly marks OCTC 60th Anniversary. To celebrate this historic milestone and recognize OCTC's 60 years of service and dedication to our community, a wide variety of activities took place throughout the year, culminating with the launch of Anniversary Days in the fall, a period of focused events for clients, staff and their families with the theme Inspiration. Motivation. Celebration!

One of the highlights of Anniversary Days was a special news conference at the OCTC School, where Rick Hansen took time out of his national Relay and joined OCTC staff to speak to the media about the tremendous progress made in seating and mobility for Canadians with physical disabilities since OCTC was founded in 1951 - and even in the last 25 years since Rick's visit to OCTC during his original 'Man In Motion' tour.

The news conference was part of a larger proactive media relations initiative for 2011-12 to celebrate the 60th Anniversary by reaching audiences with varying knowledge of OCTC, and to build on OCTC's notable history of success in the rehabilitation of our region's children and youth.

This history clearly demonstrates that, through the years, OCTC has experienced tremendous growth in terms of its programs, service delivery, organizational structure and population (staff and volunteers), evolving into a tremendously valuable community asset – here's to another 60 years of success!