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Care And Training Of Feeble-Minded Children (1887)

The superintendents of American institutions for feeble-minded persons, in their session of I878, submitted the following: “Idiocy and imbecility are conditions in which there is a want of natural or harmonious development of the mental, active, and moral powers of the individual affected, usually associated with some visible defect or infirmity of the physical organization or with functional anomalies, expressed in various forms and degrees of disordered vital action. There is frequently defect or absence of one or more of the special senses, always irregular or uncertain volition, and dulness or absence of sensibility and perception.”

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A Chapter on Idiots (1854)

The wearing uncertainty of many years succeeds the infancy. The ignorant notions of idiocy that prevailed before we knew even the little that we yet know of the brain, prevent the parents recognizing the state of the case. The old legal accounts of idiocy, and the old suppositions of what it is, are very unlike what they see. The child ought not, according to legal definition, to know his own name, but he certainly does; for when his own plate or cup is declared to be ready, be rushes to it. He ought not to be able, by law, “to know letters;” yet he can read, and even write, perhaps, although nobody can tell how he learned, for he never seemed to attend when taught. It was just as if his fingers and tongue went of themselves, while his mind was in the moon. Again, the law declared any body an idiot “who could not count twenty pence;” whereas this boy seems, in some unaccountable way, to know more about sums (of money and of every thing else) than any body in the family. He does not want to learn figures, his arithmetic is strong without them, and always instantaneously ready…

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