A Historical Perspective


About 40 parents calling themselves “Parents for the Cerebral Palsied and Other Handicapped Children” form a group in Winston-Salem with the purpose of obtaining the specialized treatment and training needed by their physically disabled children.



The newly formed board of The Forsyth County Chapter of the League for Crippled Children has its first meeting at a local YMCA, and planning begins for creating a center for physically disabled children. The Winston-Salem Foundation offers the group the home that had belonged to Maude Bohannon Trotman and her family at 830 West 5th Street for a fee of $1 a year.




The United Fund of Winston-Salem (which is renamed the United Way in 1974) exceeds its campaign goal, and additional service organizations are invited to join. The Forsyth County Chapter of the League for Crippled Children votes unanimously to join the United Fund. The United Fund proposes a budget of $16,750 to establish a center “for day care and training for children who are afflicted with cerebral palsy and other crippling abnormalities,” and to continue the League’s practice of supplying braces, transportation to school and special therapy for crippled children in the community.


The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped opens its doors at the Bohannon House with an initial enrollment of about 17 children, thanks to community support and the leadership of its three founders – Dr. Courtland Davis, Emil Shaffner and Bill Womble. Geneva Lake Faley is hired as the first director. Within 18 months, the Center is completely redecorated, and the staff is expanded to also include a special education teacher, a physical therapist, two practical nurses and a housekeeper. The program is designed to meet the needs of each child and includes music, schoolwork, therapy, recreation and rest.


Alice Johnson becomes the second director of the center, which at the time is also serving as a resource clearinghouse, assisting with artificial limbs and orthopedic aids, vocational rehabilitation services, and transportation to and from school.


Wake Forest College and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine deed a tract of land at Graylyn as a site for a new location for The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped.


Construction on the new facility begins. A year later, the building opens, and additions in later years increase capacity to more than 100 students.


To meet the needs of children who do not qualify for admission to The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped, 11 churches in the Northwest sector of Winston-Salem join together to sponsor the Northwest Ministry Special Interest Center. One of the ministries of these churches is to serve children with moderate, severe, and profound disabilities. This ministry becomes Northwest Ministry Developmental Day Services, and later becomes The Special Children’s School.


The Special Children’s School grows to include 22 students. Children attending the school come from all socio-economic backgrounds and range in age from 3 years to 12 years. The city’s first Early Intervention Program serving infants and toddlers is added.


Family Support Network of Greater Forsyth becomes an outreach program of The Special Children’s School. FSN is originally called “Parents Together.”


Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools propose a plan for collaboration with The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped, which becomes a public school serving children ages 3 to 11 years. The United Way of Forsyth County provide the major support funding to serve children under three years of age.


An inclusion program is added at The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped and typically developing children begin to enroll.


The Children’s Center for the Physically Handicapped undergoes a name change and becomes The Children’s Center for the Physically Disabled.


The Special Children’s School forms a partnership with Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools and becomes a public school.


The Children’s Center and The Special Children’s School come together to form a new non-profit organization called The Centers for Exceptional Children with an initial mission to provide a world class educational/therapeutic experience for children with special needs. Mike Britt is named the organization’s first Executive Director. The Family Support Network of Greater Forsyth is brought under The CFEC umbrella. Horticultural Therapy and Therapeutic Horseback riding are added to the CFEC’s ancillary programs.


The Centers for Exceptional Children adopts the mission: To educate, nurture and support children with special needs to reach their highest potential intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically.


Mike Britt retires and Doris Páez, Ph.D., is named Executive Director of The Centers for Exceptional Children.





Dr. Doris Páez steps down as Executive Director. Nancy Griffith, long time board member and founding president of Friends of The CFEC, is named new Executive Director of The Centers for Exceptional Children by the CFEC Board of Directors.