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Idiocy: And Its Treatment By The Physiological Method

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: 1907
Publisher: Teachers' College, Columbia University
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Part of the Casement, founded on high ground and well drained, may be used for bathing, and for taking the meals if the windows be situated so that the children can, from the tables, enjoy the view of the gardens, purposely ornamented. The dining-rooms must be numerous, small and neat; so that the children may be grouped in each as at a family table. The upper stories are devoted to sleeping apartments, infirmary, and the like. The dormitories are large, but in no instance should contain more than four to ten children with one attendant. These rooms are kept tastefully in order by the same attendant, assisted by her children. There are no means of communication from the side, story, or building occupied by the girls, to that of the boys.


The ground floor is the institution par excellence, the learning, moving, acting of the children, taking place on this floor, whose distribution must be entirely subordinate to the necessities of the treatment. When these shall be better understood, the reception-rooms and other accessories will be removed from this floor to give free scope to the general training. The partitioning of this floor must be so contrived that each room may be closed by itself, or all of them wide open, connecting as a single circular hall. This, as a whole, serves the various purposes of the general training. It may be seen at a glance that to be made serviceable in this wise, the space occupied by the school apparatus must be insignificant, compared to that left for the movements; otherwise, each room having its decorations, instruments, and character perfectly determined, according to its destination; and, as these apartments substantiate the special training, at least the greater part of it, we must describe the most important of them.


For these special purposes, the rooms must communicate freely, be closed easily, intercept the noises from one part to another, present large wall surfaces opposite to large surfaces of light; the ceilings must be lofty but even, without any relief or colors unduly attracting the attention. The floors must all be on the same level, for carriages to transport the most immovable pupils, and things generally; otherwise the floor of nearly each room be marked in a certain manner, for the different exercises to be followed in them, as we shall see.


Though it matters little which part of the institutions we describe first, we may as well begin with the delineation of one of the numerous recesses where an inattentive and ungovernable child is taken apart, now and then, to fix his attention and reduce his disordered movements to firm immobility. This is a mere nook, uniformly colored like a studio; lighted by a single window with no landscape, no accessory ornament, no furniture save two firm blocks, shaped like the sole of the feet, and destined to support, like pedestals, the child at a height from which he cannot escape, and whence he can, must, and finally will take notice of the presence of his teacher, or of a thing offered to his sight, in the absence of anything else to be seen.


Near at hand must be the large-sized room, in which involuntary exercises of the feet are taught; the self-acting swing, opposed to a spring-board, from which the feet borrow strength and elasticity; the ladder lying on the floor forcing the child, who must walk between its rounds, to raise his feet; the treadmill whose floor moves, and makes the child walk in situ; the blocks rising from the floor at regular walking distances; and parallel to them, the painted footprints on the floor; the former to make the regular walk compulsive, the latter to make it obligatory. Here, dumb-bells are only used as means of equilibrium, to give regularity and firmness to the walk. That room has an issue upon stairs, expressly built with series of various sized steps, to teach the going up and down: dumb-bells are carried there too.


The room in which are performed the exercises of personal imitation, must be exempt from noise, ornament, or attraction of any sort. Its floor must be marked here and there with straight and curved lines, and with series of footprints upon which each child is expected to stand, or fall back to in due time; these footprints affecting a straight or slightly concave line, or several such, according to the wants of the teaching; for, to imitate well, all the children must see equally the motions of the teacher. In some places are holes in the floor, used to secure blocks upon which unsteady children are forced into steadiness during the exercise, being unwilling to fall.


The development of the human voice being favored by the voice of instruments, there is a piano in the room devoted to purely vocal exercises. There, one child at a time, or many together, are trained to emit tones, short or long, high or low, single or by pairs, or in series. If this room be ornamented, its pictures must represent musical instruments, bonĂ¢ fide singers and even comical concerts. The articulation-room is more secluded, offering no distraction, not even through the unique window, which is rather high, and throws its bright light, not horizontally, but from above downwards, in order well to show the articulating movements.

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