Mission, Vision & History
Fraser serves children and adults with more than 60 types of mental and physical disabilities, and is Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism services. Fraser School provides childcare and early childhood education for young children with typical needs and special needs. Fraser offers an array of housing and in-home support options for people with disabilities in the Twin Cities area. Our programs are nationally recognized for their high quality, innovation, and individualized, family-centered approach.
To make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of children, adults and families with special needs. We accomplish this by providing education, healthcare and housing services.
A world where all people have equal opportunity and choice to realize their dreams to live, work, learn and play as members of our community.
History of Fraser
- 1935 - Louise Whitbeck Fraser opens the "Home Study School" for children with disabilities in her home at 5019 38th Avenue South in Minneapolis.
- 1939 - With an enrollment of 15 children, Mrs. Fraser moves her school to 17 East Elmwood Avenue, but because of neighborhood opposition, loss of lease, or both, the school is forced out and moved back into her home.
- 1949 - After years of neighborhood opposition, several location changes, and a lack of support from public officials, Mrs. Fraser and some enthusiastic parents raise money to purchase a three-room building and playground space at 63rd Street & Penn Avenue in Richfield. The school opens in that building in the fall.
- 1955 - The Home Study School incorporates and creates its first Board of Directors.
- 1960 - The School is enlarged and remodeled.
- 1963 - Vicky Solomonson, granddaughter of Hubert H. Humphrey, enrolls at the school, and the Humphrey family becomes personally involved.
- 1965 - The school is renamed the Louise Whitbeck Fraser School in honor of its founder.
- 1967 - A new, much larger facility is built at 2400 West 64th Street in Richfield.
- 1971 - The new facility is expanded.
- 1976 - Louise Whitbeck Fraser passes away at the age of 81.
- 1978 - Fraser begins offering residential services for adults with developmental disabilities in a group-home setting.
- 1984 - The organization changes its name to Louise Whitbeck Fraser Community Services, Inc.
- 1988 - Fraser builds its first apartment complex for adults with special needs who can live independently with minimal support.
- 1990 - Fraser formalizes its Rehabilitation Services and officially becomes a provider in the state of Minnesota.
- 1994 - Fraser opens Fraser Child & Family Center, a specialized clinic providing mental health, autism, neuropsychology services and referrals for children, adolescents and families.
- 2001 - The organization changes its name to Fraser.
- 2004 - Fraser sponsors Fraser Academy, an elementary charter school. This public, K-5 program (a separate organization from Fraser) provides an inclusive environment with individualized learning programs to meet the unique needs of each student.
- 2006 - Fraser expands Home & Community Support Services to provide in-home waiver services, personal care assistant (PCA), home-based respite and flexible case management.
- 2012 - Fraser begins offering Transition Services and Employment Readiness for teens and adults with autism and executive function issues.
Music therapy pioneer
In the 1930s, Louise Whitbeck Fraser was a pioneer in using music to teach children with developmental disabilities. She found that playing music increased attention spans and encouraged the ability to focus on tasks. Mrs. Fraser built her educational curriculum around the belief that music could provide the basis for all learning.
Today, music therapy
continues to be an integral part of Fraser educational and rehabilitation programs. Through music therapy, children learn skills for life, including: academic, social, emotional, communication and physical skills. Children work toward individual developmental goals in an encouraging environment that builds self-esteem as skills grow.
Louise Whitbeck Fraser
Louise Whitbeck was born in 1894 in Grand Forks, N.D. She earned a teaching certificate and was quickly noted to have a special gift. She was often assigned to work with the students who needed the most help.
Louise married Wesley Fraser and they had their first daughter, Mary Louise in 1918, and their second daughter, Jean, in 1920. At the age of 6 weeks, Jean contracted spinal meningitis and was later diagnosed with mental retardation as a result of the illness. A few years later, Louise and Wesley had a son named Bobby. A heartbreaking accident occurred when Bobby was just 3 years old, and he passed away. Their second son, Wesley Jr., was born in 1926.
In 1928, Wesley Fraser, Sr., a prohibition agent, was tragically shot to death during his final investigation.
Despite these tragedies, Louise persevered, and in 1931 moved her three children to the Twin Cities. Louise took Jean to the University of Minnesota where she learned that Jean had profound hearing impairment. Her daughter's challenging behavior was due to her inability to hear, not mental retardation.
Louise decided to teach Jean at home while waiting for an opening in a program for deaf children. Since Jean was able to hear high and low tones, Mrs. Fraser found music to be a teaching tool that would hold her attention. Jean responded well to the music and learned concepts quickly. News of Mrs. Fraser's success spread throughout the special needs community and other families pleaded with her to teach their children too.
In 1935, Mrs. Fraser opened a school in her home for children with disabilities. With the encouragement and support of many grateful parents, she pioneered special education in Minnesota and gained national acclaim for her innovative teaching methods and the remarkable achievements of her students. Music therapy became the cornerstone of her teaching program.
In 1976, Mrs. Fraser died at the age of 81 and a tremendous sense of loss was felt throughout the community. Mrs. Fraser devoted herself to improving the lives of as many children as she could. She provided help and hope to many families who otherwise might have had none.
Portions of this page were created with information from the HENNEPIN COUNTY HISTORY: Quarterly Publication of Hennepin County Historical Society
, Winter '85/86, Volume 44, Number 4, Tom Balcom.
For a simple, visual version of the Louise Whitbeck Fraser story (read by WCCO-TV anchor Jason DeRusha at the 2013 Fraser Annual Benefit), view the video below: