Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/773

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
749
MENTAL DEFECTIVES AND SOCIAL WELFARE.

readily be seen, as also how entirely incompatible with union must be work further apart in reality than is the training of an imbecile and a normal child.

For the idiot, who not only can not be trained, but who in many cases is unimprovable even in the simplest matters of self-help, nothing is needed but that care and attention found in every well-regulated nursery of delicate children, the sine qua non being regular hours, simple nourishing food, frequent baths, and tender mothering. As many are paralyzed, blind, lame, or epileptic, it is desirable that the dormitories, well ventilated, be on the same floor with the living rooms and of easy access to bathrooms and playgrounds. Covered and carefully guarded porches should afford the much-needed fresh air and outdoor life in all weathers. These, with cheerful, sunny playrooms, provided with simple toys and furnished with bright decorations varying with the season, will contribute the maximum of pleasure for this life of perpetual infancy. Low vitality, general poverty of the whole physical make-up, the prevalence of phthisis and epilepsy and kindred diseases require he daily inspection of a physician, while the comfort and well-being of the whole, both workers and children, are insured by a capable and sympatheic house mother.

The character of attendants is of the first importance, as these are they who live with the children; it should combine that firmness, tenderness, and balance that constitute an even temperament, capable of recognizing and meeting an occasion without loss of self-control. The duties involve not only the care of the idiots, but the training and direction of idio-imbeciles as aids, and this dealing with natures often wholly animal, requires a certain refinement and dignity of character—at least an entire absence of coarseness—while a knowledge of the simpler manual arts, and if possible of drawing and music, will do much to soften and brighten these darkened natures. As these qualities are valuable as well as rare, the remuneration should be in proportion: certainly sufficient to induce permanency and to compensate for such isolation. A life of constant wear and tear demands also regular periods of rest, and the corps therefore should be sufficiently large to give relief hours daily as well as vacations.

The idio-imbecile, but one remove from his weaker brother, to whose wants he may be trained to minister, finds here his fitting place, and the domestic service of these asylums may be largely drawn from this class and also from that of the low-grade imbecile. Working as an aid, never alone, always under direction, he finds in a monotonous round of the simplest daily avocations his life happiness, his only safety from lapsing into idiocy, and therefore his true home.

The relief to the home, the actual benefit to the State in this housing and care of the idiot and idio-imbecile can never be fully