Dr. Kiyo Kitahara
"Within every living child
exists its most precious bud of self-identity.
To search this out and foster it with loving care;
that is the essence of education of the autistic child."
- Dr. Kiyo Kitahara (1925-1989)
Glimpse into the Life of Dr. Kiyo Kitahara
In 1925 Kiyo
Kitahara was born in Nikko, Japan, where nature was abundant
with beautiful water and majestic mountains.
Kiyo was born to a gentle mother and a father who earned
his living as an engineer at a copper refinery, but whose first love was
composing Haiku poetry. Kiyo
helped with her brothers and sisters from an early age, since her mother
was often sick.
the age of fifteen, she began to work at the nearby elementary school.
One year later, she passed the national
eligibility test and became a teacher. This
was considered an extraordinary achievement because of her young age. (left:
Kitahara at the age of 16, right: Kitahara with her students in Nikko,
Kiyo's passion for teaching soared, especially when she had students who
could not succeed in the classes. She
went to the students' homes to teach whenever there was a need, since she
felt so responsible for them. She
blamed herself if some of her little students failed to learn.
Because there was no special education,
her classes also included handicapped students, whom she taught and cared
for without discrimination.
At the age of twenty-six Kiyo came to Tokyo planning to
study art, as she dreamed of becoming an artist. Instead,
she taught at an elementary school during the day and went to a university
to study law at night. She
absorbed what she learned with great zeal.
Kiyo then married Katsuhei Kitahara and became the wife of
a factory owner, raising three children.
In 1964, Kiyo Kitahara and her husband decided to close
the factory and establish a kindergarten, because they knew there was a
great need and because she was eager to teach children again.
As principal, Kiyo found a boy with very strange behaviors
among the children who applied for the kindergarten.
She knew nothing about his problem, but
why refuse his entry? She
saw that his eyes were as clear as the sky and she wanted to help him.
This was the beginning of her encounter
with "autistic" children, as she later learned they were called.
Her struggle to help this child began
by trial and error. She
brought him home out of sympathy for his mother, who had spent many
sleepless nights. Kiyo
spent days and nights with him trying to understand him and learning how
to help him. As
news of her acceptance of "problem" children spread, other
children were brought to her by their weary mothers.
She never refused them, and loved,
cared for and taught them as diligently as she did the typical children.
Out of her struggle, her love, hope and
confidence, she created an educational method for autistic children, later
named Daily Life Therapy.
Her method, Daily Life Therapy, was recognized by Bowling
Green State University, Ohio and Kiyo Kitahara was awarded an Honorary
Doctorate of Pedagogy degree in 1980. She
lectured and gave presentations at national conferences.
As her reputation spread, many parents
of autistic children in the United States wished to send their children to
1984, she started the International Class, where under her guidance, young
devoted teachers taught and cared for children from overseas, from the
Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Yugoslavia as
well as the United States.
With the enthusiastic support of parents, as well as
professionals, and the authorization of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
Dr. Kitahara opened the Boston Higashi School in 1987, in Lexington,
passion was paramount. In
spite of her ailing body, she crossed the Pacific Ocean many times a year.
Higashi children thrived.
She asked for no rest. She
sought no comfort for herself.
Dr. Kitahara's dream continues
through the hard work of her trusted executives, administrators and
Back to Top