In 1921, a group of Italian-language parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh established an orphanage in Oakmont, Pennsylvania called St. Anthony Village. Originally, the orphanage served children primarily of Italian descent. The Village provided not only a home but also academic education and faith training for the children in its care.
By 1950, the trends for caring for dependent children began to change. Social Security benefits, monetary assistance programs, and foster care began to supplant the use of orphanages and enrollment began to drop. With guidance from the then Bishop of Pittsburgh Most Reverend John Francis Deardon, the Board of Directors and pastors of the Italian parishes broadened the mission of St. Anthony Village from caring for dependent children to educating children with intellectual disabilities. Thus, in 1953, St. Anthony Village changed its name to St. Anthony School for Exceptional Children and its mission shifted to educating children with developmental disabilities.
By the mid-1980s, educational trends changed again from segregated schooling for exceptional children to mainstreaming. In 1986, the program opened a satellite program, which was housed in St. Thomas More School in Bethel Park. Building on both the St. Thomas More satellite model and national trends for educating students with disabilities alongside typical students, a new model of service delivery was developed.
In 1992, St. Anthony School for Exceptional Children became St. Anthony School Programs running an inclusive program spanning nine elementary schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Today the program includes students with a wider-range of Intellectual Disabilities/Autism and addresses the educational needs of students elementary through secondary and older students through a post-secondary program located on a college campus.
In 2013, St. Anthony School Programs celebrated 60 years of educating children with Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other Intellectual Disabilities. Today, we operate out of eight inclusive sites throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh.