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Watson Life Resources

Learning and Information for Families and Educators

A comprehensive, research based resource for families and educators of individuals with disabilities.


Our History

The Watson Institute is the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. David Thompson Watson. A Pittsburgh business leader and well-known international attorney—representing such notables as A. M. Byers, Andrew Carnegie, W. H. Vanderbilt, Henry Phipps and Henry Clay Frick—David Watson and his wife, Margaret, dedicated considerable time and resources for the care, education and treatment of children with disabilities. After David’s death in 1916, the Watson’s "Sunny Hill" summer estate in Sewickley, PA, became the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children.

From 1917 through 1984, the D.T. Watson Home, as it was often called, focused on the health and education of children with special needs. During this time, the D.T. Watson Home also began offering physical therapy classes at the newly-created Division of Physical Therapy. In 1927, the Division of Physical Therapy became affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine to offer courses required by the State Board. By the 1930s, Watson’s program was one of only five Pennsylvania-approved schools for physical therapy as well as one of the first top-ten accredited physical therapy schools in the country. D. T. Watson became the first rehabilitation provider in the area to offer hydrotherapy in 1932.

In the 1950s, at the height of the polio epidemic , Watson was selected as one of only four schools in the country to provide emergency care for areas without access to hospitals. Watson was also the site selected by Dr. Jonas Salk  to conduct his first clinical trials of the polio vaccine.

In 1984, the mission of the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children was modified to provide special education and rehabilitation services for children as well as adults. The new organization’s name was changed to D. T. Watson Rehabilitation Hospital.

In 1999, D.T. Watson Rehabilitation Hospital, upon the decision by  Watson’s Board of Trustees returned to its original mission: to serve children with disabilities. To reach this goal, D. T. Rehabilitation Hospital was sold to HealthSouth. The remaining organization was renamed The Watson Institute.

In 2001, The Watson Institute merged with Craig House, an approved private school with a partial hospital component. Craig House was renamed Craig Academy to better reflect the services it offered to children and adolescents throughout the region.  In 2010 a new school was built in the Friendship neighborhood of Pittsburgh and the name was changed to Friendship Academy.

Today, The Watson Institute, through its family of schools and services, helps children and youth with special needs to achieve their fullest potential in all aspects of their lives. Watson strives to provide programs that serve the needs of children with autism spectrum disorders, neurological impairments or serious emotional challenges with diagnostic, educational and therapeutic support; support to the families of these children through education, counseling, wraparound, outpatient services and respite programs; and training and technical support to educators, psychologists, therapists and others working in this field.