Operation House Call (OHC)

Operation House Call (OHC) teaches young medical professionals essential skills to enhance the health care of persons with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Offered by The Arc of Massachusetts, OHC turns to families, parents and individual self-advocates as educators in a health care field that seldom focuses on more than making a diagnosis. It is a rare and important training opportunity. Through OHC, students begin to build confidence and interest in working with individuals with I/DD, including autism, and their families.

At the Boston University School of Medicine OHC is a requirement for all third year medical students in their pediatric rotation; it has been a popular and valued course since 1991, initiated by two professors of medicine, including a pediatric neurologist whose brother has autism. In 2011, The Arc of Mass began OHC at Tufts Medical School and the Simmons School of Health Sciences. In the Fall of 2015, OHC began a program at Yale School of Nursing.

The Arc is grateful to our network of volunteer families. They provide the opportunity for students to have experiential learning through home visits. In Massachusetts, OHC now has 265 (and growing) volunteer families teaching over 1,200 medical professionals every year. OHC is expanding geographically and The Arc is working on legislation to support the need for this important work with our medical community.



Students Trained Each Year


Volunteer Families


Major Medical and Nursing Schools


Team Members



An orientation class taught by a Parent Instructor, which includes a half hour of co-teaching with an individual with I/DD.


A course website with articles, community resources, videos, and a private online discussion forum for each class of students.


A two hour home visit to a volunteer host family with a student partner.


Required use of the forum for the student to share his or her home visit learning.


Feedback from their host family for each student after the home visit, and support and further resources from the teaching team in the shared class forum.



All of the participating schools provide funding toward Operation House Call (OHC). But The Arc of Massachusetts requires other support to maintain a viable, effective program - including the generosity of donors like you.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to Operation House Call, please visit our donation page or send a check to The Arc of Massachusetts at 217 South Street, Waltham, MA 02453. Please include explicit reference to Operation House Call in your donation.


“Operation House Call was a wholly positive experience, one that I hope other aspiring health care professionals will get to have. I believe that this initiative is invaluable because it allows us to see people as more than statistics, clinical facts and diagnoses and instead get to know them as human beings. My visit helped me to clear up any misconceptions I had and to better understand how I can help provide services. I felt welcomed in my host family and honored to hear such personal and intimate details of their lives. I will be sure to use this experience moving forward in my education and practice.”

Thank you very much for making OHC available to us at YSN. It was one of my favorite and one of the most valuable experiences of my (academic) year.”

"I feel that I learned so much... (My family) gave me a lot of things to think about regarding how I can be a better provider and care for children who have intellectual/developmental disabilities. I am so grateful to them for opening up their hearts and home to us and I have been inspired to learn about and gain more experience in working with children who have IDDs."

“Such a dedicated and compassionate family like this deserves an equally dedicated team of physicians to do everything possible.”

“Operation House Call has been one of the most rewarding parts of this year…It was a great reminder of why I decided to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.”

“Operation House Call has been one of the best experiences of my time at YSN. The training at the school was eye-opening, particularly our co-teacher. It was engaging and was good preparation before we went to visit the different homes. Meeting with (my host family) was an education experience and I will come back to that time and conversation in my practice. Thank you for putting this together and allowing us to participate.”


In Operation House Call, no two volunteer families are the same, yet each family shares an important perspective and expertise about support for their loved one. All speak about their experience of health care: what has been helpful, or what has been difficult. Students learn how to learn from families in their future practice.

Young professionals gain knowledge about daily lives, modern support, the challenges, the resources and advocacy essential to best practice in health care partnership. Students practice building rapport and gaining information above and beyond purely “medical” concerns. And because the learning is done outside of a medical setting, each student has a chance to focus on these things without the stress of acute care responsibilities.

At the core of this program is the belief that families are the best teachers. Its learning objectives are relevant to all persons who have autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the families and persons who support them.

We always need host family volunteers who have children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities; it is a two hour time commitment 1-2 times a year for families within 30 minutes drive of Boston. For more information, email Kim Walsh.



Maura Sullivan
OHC Program Director & OHC Parent Instructor
(781) 891-6270 x113

Kim Walsh
OHC Family Coordinator & OHC Parent Instructor

Julie Coppenrath
OHC Co-teacher Coordinator


Susanna Peyton RN MSN
CT OHC Program Advisor & OHC Parent Instructor

Carolyn Cappiello RN
CT OHC Program Co-Director & OHC Parent Instructor

Andrea Finnegan
CT OHC Program Co-Director & OHC Parent Instructor

Michelle Rivelli MD
CT OHC Parent Instructor

Kristina DaCosta
CT OHC Parent Instructor

CT Families: become part of OHC in CT! Contact Carolyn Cappiello at cappiello@arcmass.org to find out more.

Comments are closed