About Helena Trafford Devereux
Helena Devereux was born in Philadelphia on Feb. 2, 1885. Miss Devereux graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1904 and from the Philadelphia Normal School in 1906 where she trained to become a teacher. Upon graduation, she began teaching in one of Philadelphia’s most underprivileged communities, at the George Washington School in South Philadelphia.
At a time when very little was known or understood about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Helena Devereux took an interest in children with special needs. She recognized that the public school system was ill-equipped to teach children with intellectual challenges. Her intuitive ideas in developing individualized educational programs for children with special needs were far beyond her time.
Soon, her class became the de-facto special education classroom. In 1911, Miss Devereux was offered the job of Director of Special Education by the Philadelphia Board of Education, a new position designed to supervise the creation of a special education department. Despite being offered a handsome salary for the time, she turned it down, believing she could have a greater impact branching off on her own. In 1912, she began teaching children with special needs out of her own home, in Devon, Pa. Over the course of her lifetime, the organization continued to grow, earning nonprofit status and operating centers in locations across the country.
Helena Devereux spent her life devoted to the individuals she served and the organization she founded. She died Nov. 17, 1975, at her home in Devon at the age of 90.