Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/551

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533
TRAINING OF MENTALLY DEFICIENT CHILDREN.

all my experience of idiocy do I recall but two: of these one, after much effort, was able only to speak his brother's name, and the other acquired three words in three years.

A teacher endowed with originality in devising means, versatility in presenting so as to avoid monotony, gentleness and unwearied patience in constant repetitions, possessed of that fine perceptiveness and devotedness to her vocation that shall enable her to note improvement imperceptible to a layman—all these valuable qualities combined with good physical condition (which alone can insure that tenderness and firmness giving power of control over herself and the child)—may, in years, raise an idiot to the plane of an idio-imbecile, enabling him to do perhaps the work of an idioi-mbecile—an aid in the care of his associates. But is it worth it—more especially when, while we are raising the idiot to this, we are shutting our doors upon hundreds of idio-imbeciles who are lapsing into idiocy for lack of these very occupations which alone can keep them from retrograding? Will not history stamp such an act as in itself most idiotic, second only to that other of carefully guarding the comparatively harmless idiot and turning loose the moral imbecile, a firebrand upon society to desolate homes or to transmit his moral leprosy to generations?

The absurdity, therefore, of placing unimprovable idiots in a training school is self-evident. Yet willful misrepresentation on the part of a sensational press, coupled with every influence that mere sentimentality can bring to bear, is daily burdening our work with an element fit only for asylums, and crowding out the improvable imbecile who can in time be so trained as to enable him, under constant care and supervision, and with proper facilities for control, to become almost self-supporting—this, too, in a life freed from anxious care, and, what is of the first importance to society at large, a life freed from temptations, from opportunities for crime, and from the power of transmitting ill. Always under guidance, always under control, this "child"—who never attains the full measure of maturity—must ever be, lest his unconquerable indolence or his lack of will power make him the slave of vice, the victim of poverty and wretchedness, or the tool of the designing and the wicked.

So much for aims and means. A word further as to methods.

These, based upon the theories of physiological education dictated by Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Rousseau, first successfully practiced with mental defectives by Itard and by Seguin, include all the means that modern thought and experience have gathered.

Kindergarten, Nature studies, object lessons, sloyd, and the many occupations included under the name of manual training, all lend a successive and continuous stimulus—the one underlying principle