Once upon a time a family wanted to send their two children to preschool together. Because their son had a disability, no one would accept them both. So they started their own school so that children with special needs and typically developing children could learn, grow, and thrive together.

Open Door began in 1975 with just nine children.

Since then…

  • We have grown to three schools in central Austin (two in East Austin and one in Clarksville)
  • We have increased our capacity to over 210 children every day.
  • We have expanded our mission to emphasize socioeconomic and cultural diversity of our families.
  • We have added infants and young toddlers to our mix.
  • We have built a strong reputation in the community based on our commitment to high quality early childhood education for all children and our attention to social and emotional development.
  • We have successfully worked with many children who have been unsuccessful at other programs.
  • We were the first program in Austin to be awarded accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is the gold standard in the field. All three of our campuses are currently accredited under this standard.
  • We have established a social work program to help connect families to community resources and to bridge school and home.
  • We have provided myriad training opportunities for students in the field so we can broaden our reach.

Our goal is for all of our children and families to live happily ever after.



What do you encounter when you enter an Open Door classroom? You see children and teachers engaged, following their imaginations, exploring the universe. You hear children “using their words.” You may notice children with obvious disabilities (Down syndrome, cerebral palsy) or less obvious ones (autism, speech delays) or none at all. You find children of different ethnicities and from varied socio-economic backgrounds. You may observe the child of a doctor or professor playing with a child from a foster home. You see our mission in action.

We operate three preschools, serving children from 2 months to kindergarten-age, each with about 70 children. Open Door-East and Open Door at M Station are in East Austin; Open Door-Central is in Clarksville. Although each site has its own personality, all share a commitment to quality and inclusion and follow the same principles:

  • Children develop at their own pace and learn in different ways. We use the Teaching Strategies Gold to track developmental progress (cognitive, social, emotional, gross motor, fine motor) and recognize the uniqueness of each child.
  • Social and emotional development is the bedrock of all success, in and out of school.
  • Children learn as they play and play as they learn.
  • Positive guidance is the most effective form of discipline.
  • Children learn (and should be taught) social responsibility from a very young age.
  • Worksheets and “one size fits all” activities have no place in our classrooms.
  • Children need to explore their creativity through art, music, dance, and words.
  • Nature is a great teacher.
  • Children are to be respected and listened to.
  • Parents are our partners.
  • We rely on the expertise and resources of the larger community. In turn, we are a community resource.
  • Open Door is about building community.