Sewall Child Development Center has a rich, 73-year history of providing services to the Denver community. Established in 1944, Denver physician Dr. Henry Sewall deeded his Capitol Hill home to help children and adults with physical disabilities. The original site of his home at 13th and Vine Streets remained Sewall’s primary location for more than 72 years.
In its earliest years, “Sewall House” provided rehabilitative services to those impacted by polio, cerebral palsy, and other disabling conditions. Later, Sewall House also became the location of Denver’s very first Easter Seals chapter.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Sewall’s home was replaced by a state-of-the-art clinic facility after the Sewall Ladies Auxiliary embarked on the organization’s first Capital Campaign. Launched in 1963, the re-named “Sewall Rehabilitation Center” provided physical therapy and rehab services to children and adults.
In 1970, Sewall was selected to create one of the nation’s original Head Start programs for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Because of the program’s success, federal funding was granted for the Sewall Early Education and Development (SEED) project – a federal demonstration project to assist children with physical and developmental disabilities. To launch the project, Sewall established a cutting-edge service delivery model: Teams of educators and therapists joined together to holistically address all developmental areas, and to provide therapeutic services within the natural setting of the preschool classroom. This transdisciplinary approach, considered revolutionary in the early 1970s, continues as a hallmark of Sewall’s service delivery today.
The SEED project’s success in promoting each child’s individual development, coupled with the movement to “mainstream” children with special needs, guided Sewall’s evolution. In response to changing community need, Sewall began building on its services for young children. Today, Sewall Child Development Center is dedicated to meeting the needs of all children by providing early childhood education and transdisciplinary support in inclusive environments.
In the 1980s, the clinical mission shifted to become Denver’s first inclusionary early education program as Federal laws (such as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Act) were developed to support access. In 2014, the Sewall community celebrated 70 years of service. The Denver Public School Board approved a partner non-profit organization of Sewall, REACH Charter Elementary School. In 2015, REACH began operating at 940 Fillmore Street, offering fully inclusive education to students preschool to Second Grade. Third grade began in 2016; Fourth and Fifth grades will begin in the 2017 and 2018 school years, respectively. In 2016, Sewall headquarters joined REACH operations on Fillmore Street.