Since its creation in 1952, The Arc has led the county in establishing special education programs and developing opportunities for advancement and inclusion in the community. From its humble beginnings to the present day, The Arc has been on the front lines of public policy - influencing schools, businesses, government leaders, and neighborhoods to make Prince George's County a livable community for everyone.

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The Power of Parents

In 1950, little was known about intellectual disability (then referred to as ‘mental retardation’) and developmental disability, or its causes. There were virtually no programs and activities to assist in the development and care of people with IDD or to support families. It was common for doctors to tell parents that the best place for their child was in an institution. But these advocates wanted more. They wanted their loved ones to lead fulfilling lives in the community and not be shuttered away in dark institutions. Emboldened by their collective desire to raise their children in the home and their refusal to accept that institutionalization was the only option, The Arc was born.

Through the decades, The Arc has advocated for the passage of state and federal legislation on behalf of people with disabilities and established a broad network of state and local chapters that range from small voluntary groups to large, professional organizations.

Old yellowing newspaper featuring an article about The Arc

Changing With the Times

Words matter. Over time, as the words ‘retardation’ and ‘retarded’ became pejorative, derogatory, and demeaning in usage, the organization evolved its terminology to reflect the desires of people with disabilities, and changed its name to ‘The Arc’. While the term still appears occasionally, it has largely been replaced and usage of ‘intellectual disability’ and ‘developmental disability’ continues to spread.

We are doing everything in our power to make sure they’re adopted more broadly and strongly believe the only ‘r-word’ that should be used when referring to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is respect.

  • A small group of parents meet at St. Luke’s Church in Bladensburg to formally establish the Prince George’s County Association for the Help of Retarded Children, now known as The Arc.

  • National Association for Retarded Children (NARC) – Naming History


  • National Association for Retarded Citizens (NARC) – Naming History


  • Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States (ARC) – Naming History

    1981 – 1992

  • With the active support of The Arc, Prince George’s County opens its first special education program at the Calvert School in Riverdale.

  • The Arc begins to sponsor County teachers to receive specialized summer training to work with children with developmental disabilities. This program was instrumental in the training of hundreds of educators during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

  • With the financial support of The Arcs in the metropolitan area, the Georgetown University Developmental Clinic, a special evaluation and diagnostic clinic, is begun.

  • The Arc becomes a full-fledged member of the United Givers Fund, now known as the United Way of the National Capital Area. The association also formally incorporates itself as the Prince George’s County Association for Retarded Children.

  • With a $5,000 grant from The Arc, the County Health Department opens its evaluation and diagnostic clinic.

  • The Arc opens its first sheltered workshop, known as The Occupational Training Center. Four decades later this program now operates as a separate corporation – Rehabilitation Opportunities, Inc.

  • Boy Scout Troop 1035, sponsored by The Arc, begins and over the years introduces hundreds of boys to scouting.

  • The Arc opens Melwood Horticultural Training Center on 6 acres of federal surplus land. Melwood goes on to be a highly successful independent corporation with an international reputation.

  • Arc advocacy efforts lead to the planning and funding authorization of the Great Oaks Center.

  • The Arc opens its first group home on Riverview Road in Fort Washington. Three former residents of the Rosewood Center get the opportunity to live in the community.

  • The Arc of Maryland successfully sues the state of Maryland over the right to education and Maryland becomes one of the first states to guarantee a free and appropriate education for all children with disabilities.

  • Arc members across the country work hard to secure the right to education resulting in the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act.

  • The Arc cosponsors the College for Living at Prince George’s Community College, providing adults with developmental disabilities a way to continue their education.

  • Five hundred Arc members from around the state converge on the Statehouse to demand expansion of community services, setting the stage for program improvements in the 1980’s.

  • The Arc coordinates the development of the President’s Committee, a coalition of Prince George’s County service providers committed to meeting the needs of individuals awaiting services.

  • The Arc achieves the passage of the first of three major community service expansion bills, HB 1496. Followed by HB 1035 in 1983 and SB 738 in 1985, hundreds of Marylanders with developmental disabilities have the opportunity to move into homes in the community.

  • Sixteen new residents move into homes operated by The Arc as the residential program grows to serve a total of 50 residents. The Arc begins its Annual Awards Program.

  • The Arc begins its highly successful Employment Services Program by placing thirteen individuals in seven different companies. Prince George’s County Government begins to provide supplemental funding for supported employment. The Medicaid Waiver Program begins in Maryland and becomes the primary mechanism to close the Henryton Center and downsize the Great Oaks and Rosewood Centers.

  • The Arc opens Capital Concepts to provide vocational opportunities to 40 people who have recently moved out of the Great Oaks Center. The Arc initiated its Individual and Family Support Services Program to assist individuals, or their family, in maintaining their own home. The Arc Education Committee publishes its first report on integrated education and begins a multi year effort to increase integrated education in the Prince George’s County Schools.

  • Parent-to-Parent begins a program that reaches out to families of school age children and links parents up for peer support. Capital Concepts 11 opens its door to 20 individuals with profound disabilities. The Arc moves its headquarters from Bowie to Largo Park.

  • With United Way support, The Arc begins a childcare initiative with sitter recruitment and training and an effort to encourage generic providers to serve children with disabilities. Residential Services Monitoring Program wins a statewide award for creative volunteer-based oversight.

  • The Arc leads the charge to kill the Governor’s attempt to assess fees on families of adults receiving state-funded services. The Arc opens its respite home for children. County high school students compete for scholarships through The Arc/ Riggs Bank essay contest.

  • With Arc support across the country, the Americans with Disabilities Act becomes law. The Governor’s Transitioning Initiative begins assuring supported employment opportunities are available for special education graduates. A seven-year Arc effort on Medicaid reform pays off with the passage of Community Supported Living Arrangements’ legislation.

  • The Association changes its name once again to “The Arc”, deleting the word “retarded” from its name as a result of input from self-advocates. The Infants and Toddlers Case Management Program expands to meet needs of children (and their families) ages birth to 3. The Arc joins hands with CALMRA to mentor a new residential services agency.

  • A contingent of Arc Prince Georgians celebrates the anniversary of ADA at the White House with President Clinton. The Arc develops a Strategic Plan for the Year 2000.

  • Great Oaks closes its doors. Prince George’s County hosts The Arc State Convention.

  • The Arc begins a statewide campaign to unlock the waiting list. Bridges, The Arc’s Adult Medical Day Program, moves to a new, larger home in Largo.

  • The Arc prepares an expansion of the services offered in the Bridges at Largo, to include weekend program.

  • Thanks to increased funding, The Arc’s Support Services is able to assist additional Individuals and families. The Respite House in Ft. Washington gets a face-lift and new playhouse in the backyard.

  • Residential Services Division reorganizes into Northern and Southern teams and incorporates CSLA Services. The Arc opens two new vocational centers allowing individuals to work in smaller groups and settings.

  • The Arc celebrates its 50th year! Over 500 Arc members, friends and supporters gather to share memories of all the years.

  • The Laurel Vocational Center opens its doors. The Office Skills Training Center utilizes state of the art equipment, curriculum and assistive technology to train people with disabilities to successfully work in an office.

  • Recreation and fitness are emphasized as “Out on the Town”, a social club combining dinner and community outings, is initiated and opportunities open for sports and fitness activities.

  • The Arc teams up with Prince George’s Community College to provide training opportunities for direct care staff.

  • The Residential Support Group is officially established. My Health-My Decision promotes active involvement in healthcare decisions.

  • The Arc creates a partnership with the Bowie YMCA to offer inclusive childcare.

  • The Arc Prince George’s County serves more than 600 individuals with disabilities through a variety of programs, services and supports.