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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/549

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TRAINING OF MENTALLY DEFICIENT CHILDREN.

THE TRAINING OF MENTALLY DEFICIENT CHILDREN.
By MARTIN W. BARR, M. D.,

CHIEF PHYSICIAN, PENNSYLVANIA TRAINING SCHOOL FOB FEEBLE-MINDED CHILDREN, ELWYN, PA.

A CORRECT classification is of paramount importance in the work of training the feeble-minded.

We must have some clear, positive standard by which we are to discern and separate the unimprovable from the trainable, lest we deceive the public by false hopes and accept those for whom we can do nothing. Again, the necessity for much individual work—the varied capacity of those to be trained, and the impossibility of bringing all up to one common plane—necessitate the arrangement of grades in which very different means of development may be employed to attain very different ends.

Guided by these needs, therefore, we have adopted a nomenclature dictated by experience as essential to the practical work of training, and which is also in accord with the anatomico-physiological demonstrations of scientific investigation.

This gives, broadly, two classes—the imbecile, trainable, and the idiot, unimprovable—which, modified, stand thus:

1. The imbecile—trainable in three grades: low, middle, and high.
2. The moral imbecile—found in all these grades; trainable only under rigid custodial care.
3. The idio-imbecile—improvable as regards cleanly living, and trainable in a very limited degree.
4. The idiot—except in rare cases and by expensive methods, absolutely unimprovable.

The imbecile, the only trainable class, divides into low, middle, and high grade. The first of these may be brought to give, always under direction, fairly good service for farm or house, if training be begun early, before apathy or indolence becomes a settled habit. He rarely if ever learns to read, and very soon reaches his mental limit. The imbecile of middle grade is capable of making great progress in primary-school work. I might say in about four years, especially if he has had previous training in the kindergarten, he will attain some proficiency in reading, writing, and number work, together with such a knowledge of form, color, and practice in freehand drawing as shall materially aid him in learning a trade; indeed, mental development for him is best attained through simple handicrafts having their initiative in the kindergarten.

The high grade shows children but slightly mentally deficient, who progress slowly as far as the ordinary grammar-school grade,