Ruth Birch, Founder
Grafton began providing services for students with special needs in 1958. Our school began with three children in the kitchen of Ruth Birch, a parent who was unable to find educational services for her son who had a learning disability.
The school soon outgrew Mrs. Birch’s kitchen and moved into a church in Berryville, Virginia, with students boarding in homes in the community. In a few years, a larger space was required, and the Board of Directors purchased Questover, a large Clarke County, Virginia, home that became both the school and residential living area for all Grafton students. Residential and school buildings were added to this site in 1982.
In the 1970s, Grafton truly began to define its role in the field of treating disabilities. Early in the decade, Grafton developed the first residential educational program in Virginia for individuals with autism. It was during this time that public school systems began providing more services and programs for individuals with disabilities. Consequently, Grafton became a contract service provider for individuals with ever greater cognitive and behavioral challenges.
The 1980s marked a decade of great change and expansion for Grafton. New services and group homes were developed in Virginia’s Clarke and Frederick Counties and in the city of Winchester. Milestones included the opening of the Virginia Autism Resource Center (VARC) established by Grafton and funded in part by the Commonwealth of Virginia; the formation of the first educational residential unit in Virginia designed for students with the diagnoses of mental retardation and emotional disorders; the provision of services to adults who require intensive levels of support; and the establishment of a new service region for children and adults in Richmond.
The 1990s was a decade of innovation and further service development. To help individuals live, learn and grow in their own communities, Grafton began delivering individualized services in homes and schools. An Independent Living Program was established to help young adults move into adulthood with the skills they need to live independent lives. Grafton also developed an additional service region with educational and residential sites. In all our local service regions, family, friends, schools and community service providers work in concert to build a circle of support for individuals with disabilities, fostering solid personal relationships in familiar surroundings.
The 90s saw the expansion of Grafton’s outreach and technical assistance services to allow communities to benefit from Grafton’s expertise to provide the services and support required by the citizens in local communities. We believe that more and more children, youth and adults will be served successfully in their home communities in the future and that Grafton’s most significant contribution will be its expertise shared through outreach programs.
Continuing a Tradition of Innovation
Grafton continues to look for better ways of serving people with disabilities, their families and communities. We are exploring new service models and continue to develop customized services in response to an individual’s needs.
The Grafton community is proud of what we have done and how far we have come since 1958 and Mrs. Birch’s class for three students in her kitchen. As our history has shown, we are an organization that consistently changes in response to the needs of people with disabilities, their families and communities. We eagerly look forward to a future in which we will find new and better ways of accomplishing our goal of helping people with disabilities meet their own goals for independence, productivity and inclusion.