Vera Elizabeth Crosbie Perlin was born in St. John's, Newfoundland on November 28th, 1902, the daughter of Sir John and Lady Mathcie Ann Crosbie. She attended Holloway School in St. John's and private schools in Toronto, Ontario. On September 11th, 1926, she married Albert Perlin, a prominent business man, journalist and historian. They had three children, a daughter, Ann Elizabeth, and two sons, John and George.
Mrs. Perlin was a dedicated, independent woman, and exceptional wife and a mother who realized very early in her married life, the important role parents play in the education of their children.
Her outgoing personality combined with her varied interests outside of the home lead to an involvement in the many areas of the community, particularly in the field of education. She helped establish Newfoundland's first Home and School Association and later presided over the Council of Home and School Association (regional). She also served on the Advisory Board of the United Church Orphanage.
In her work with the orphanage she encountered many children with a developmental disability and became concerned that no provision was made for their education. This problem was discussed many times with her husband and quoting from a text entitled Friends of God, she would often say these children also need to learn. They should not have to stay at home because learning is difficult for them. Mrs. Perlin firmly believed that children with a developmental disability should go to school to be nurtured, by dedicated teachers who would help them achieve their potential.
John Perlin suggests that his mother's interest in children with a developmental disability and her determination to see them in school became a reality as a result of her position on the board of the United Church Orphanage.
With the advent of confederation, the number of children being sent to orphanages dropped considerably. This resulted in the United Church Orphanage becoming a receiver home for foster children, many of whom were wards of the government. Mrs. Perlin realized that the majority of these children were unable to cope with their special needs. This, she knew, was a serious problem which had to be addressed.
Determined to realize her vision of a school, in 1954, Mrs. Perlin persuaded the United Church Orphanage to found the first day class in the basement of their building on Hamilton Avenue, located in St. John's, NL. Believing that these children needed to be cared for by loving teachers, Mrs. Perlin persuaded Miss. Mollie Dingle, M.B.E to take on the responsibility of the first class.
Mrs. Perlin received many of her ideas for instructing children with a developmental disability through visits to schools in Great Britain, and in later years, her teachers were sent there for further training. In early years, Miss A.M Fuller of Wales, an expert in the education of individuals with a development disability, was invited to come to Newfoundland for a six month period to provide assistance to the local movement.
Mrs. Perlin spent many hours organizing classes and formed eleven branches of the association outside St. John's, as well as expanding and adding additional classes within the city.
With the increase in the number of classes, more space was needed. In December 1957, Mrs. Perlin purchased a house on Patrick Street for $17,000. She persuaded her husband and his business associates to undertake the fundraising to finance the purchase.
Through her belief of the self help principle, parents became deeply involved in the renovation of the Patrick Street building. The program demands continued to grow and with Mrs. Perlin's leadership in 1966, a multi purpose building was constructed on Pennywell Road. The building was initially named The Vera Perlin School and is known today as The Perlin Centre.
Mrs. Perlin's efforts led to the formation of the Newfoundland Association for the Help of Retarded Children which is now known as the Newfoundland Association for Community Living. She believed it was absolutely essential for parents to become involved in all phases of the organization and that parents and teachers working together could make a success of the educational programs.
A milestone was reached in 1959 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. The Newfoundland Government recognized the efforts of Mrs. Perlin and her associates and gave a yearly grant of $10,000 to help continue the work of the Association. This grant continued until the government in 1971, assumed the responsibility of educating children with developmental disabilities. With this change, the association established classes for preschoolers and an activity centre for adults 18 years of age and older at the Pennywell Road School.
The Vera Perlin Society from Mrs. Perlin's time to present day has fully co-operated with parents/guardians in its delivery of services to citizens who have a developmental disability. At the present time, in its dual role of advocate and provider of services, the Society in keeping with Mrs. Perlin's ideals establishes:
>> That all individuals with a developmental disability have the right to fully participate in the schools and community in which they live.
>> That students and adults with a development disability, when given opportunities and supportive services, can learn and work side by side with their non-disabled peers.
As part of its mission statement, the Society seeks to work with other affiliated agencies in fostering the development and happiness of individuals with a developmental disability in our community.
Today, the Vera Perlin Society provides services in areas of:
>> Career Development