Invalid Children's Aid Nationwide (I CAN) is a national registered charity (number 210031) for children with speech and language difficulties. The charity began as the Invalid Children's Aid Association (ICAA) on 26 November 1888, founded by Allen Dowdeswell Graham, a clergyman, to help poor children who were either seriously ill or handicapped. In 1888, he wrote 'Poverty is bad enough, God knows, but the poor handicapped exist in a living hell. It's up to us to do something about it'. Allen Graham organised a group of home visit volunteers who took food, bedding and medicine to children and their families, and helped arrange admissions into hospitals and convalescent homes, holidays, apprenticeships, and the loan of spinal carriages, wheel chairs and perambulators. Royal patronage began in 1891 and continued throughout the 20th century.
As the Association grew, volunteers were gradually replaced by professional social workers and 'Homes of Recovery' were set up, where the treatment of children with tuberculosis and rheumatic heart disease was first pioneered. The first of these residential establishments was Holt Sanatorium opened in 1906 and Parkstone Home for boys was opened in 1909. In 1935, the ICAA helped publicise the need for immunisation against diptheria by holding a conference in London. The ICAA worked closely with the London County Council in providing Care Committee Secretaries to the Schools for Physically Handicapped Children, and acting as an agent for the tuberculosis 'TB Contact Scheme' from 1925. During 1939 to 1945, the Association was involved in the special arrangements for the evacuation of physically handicapped children to homes or selected foster homes.
The National Health Service Act 1948 introduced financial support for medical care and appliances required by the Association's social workers, enabling greater concentration on providing casework support to help alleviate the stress experienced by families with handicapped children. The Act also led to the transferral of the Association's Heart Hospital, which had been opened in 1926 to the Health Authorities and the gradual replacement of convalescence by short term holidays.
In the 1950s the Association's motto was 'To every child a chance' and aims were:
"1. To collect and put at the disposal of parents and others, all information with regard to the care of invalid and crippled children, and the facilities which exist for their treatment.
2. To co-operate with doctors, hospital almoners and others by reporting on those aspects of the child's social background which are relevant to the understanding and treatment of the illness.
3. To assist parents to carry out the doctor's advice with regard to treatment by :-
a) Arranging convalescence where necessary.
b) Helping them to understand, and where possible rectify, any adverse social conditions that may exist.
4. To help in the re-establishment of the child in normal life.
5. To visit the seriously invalided child."
With improvements in health care, the Association also began to concentrate on the educational problems arising from specific disabilities or chronic illness. In 1961 the Association organised an International Conference of Dyslexia and in 1964 the Word Blind Centre, Coram's Fields, was opened to study dyslexia and other reading difficulties. This led to the formation of the British Dyslexia Association.
By 1981 the ICAA was maintaining five residential schools for children with special educational needs. It also ran a central information service, which provided free advice, and hired publications and films, and centres run by social workers in London and Surrey offering support to families with handicapped children. Social work services were run partly through grant aid from local authorities, and included Keith Grove Centre, Hammersmith which was opened in 1967, and Grenfell House Social Work Centre in 1981.
In 1983 a Curriculum Development centre was opened for the research of teaching materials for children with speech and language disorders. The ICAA also expanded its area of work to include the Midlands and the North East with the opening of Carshalton Family Advice and Support Centre and regional offices.
In 1986 the ICAA was renamed as I CAN. In the late 1990s I CAN delivered a range of direct and partnership services to help children by pioneering work in special schools, nurseries and centres within local schools and by providing training and information for parents, teachers and therapists. In 1999 there were 25,000 children with severe and complex speech and language impairment, with only 14 specialised schools available in the country, I CAN managing three of these at Dawn House School, John Horniman School and Meath School. In these schools I CAN employed teachers, speech and language therapists, educational psychologists, care staff and social workers. In the financial year April 2000 to March 2001 the charity's gross income was £6,151,000, and expenditure was £7,035,000. I CAN has been involved in national projects such as 'Changing lives', an initiative launched in 1999, aimed at changing 'early years' provision to support 1,200 children in 2002.
Schools managed by ICAA and I CAN:
Meath School, Surrey, established 1945, for junior boys with severe asthma and other respiratory disorders, later from 1982 for pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties.
Pilgrims School, East Sussex, established in 1955, for senior boys with severe asthma and eczemia (the only specialised school for these conditions in England and Wales).
John Horniman School, West Sussex, established in 1958, for children with severe communication disorders including hearing impairment.
Dawn House School, Nottinghamshire, established in 1974, for children with hearing impairment.
Edith Edwards House School, Surrey, established in 1956, for children with severe communication disorders and behavioural difficulties.
1891 Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary)
1953 Elizabeth II
Before 1957 Duchess of Portland
1957 Princess Margaret