Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Idiocy: And Its Treatment By The Physiological Method

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

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 41:


The first teachings of music are not the product of any profound system, but the result of long, steady cultivation of habit. The child who does not care for, or does not even hear music, is treated as if he loved it; and as there is plenty of it about the house, let him be struck by it. Only, as he is not sensible to it in ordinary conditions, we must create the conditions most favorable to prepare his senses for hearing. To that effect, when tunes are to be played, we put the intellectually deaf child near the piano, and if necessary at first, we let him support his hands, even his chest, against the instru1nent, which most weak or lazy children are willing to do sooner than to stand upright. When he is just settled in this posture the piano sends forth its strongest vibrations, then its sweetest tones, then comes a long silence, followed again by vibrations. This takes place in the midst of group teaching, with the incitement of the other children auditing and singing themselves. Contrarily, the next experiment for perceiving the sounds of music shall be made an individual exercise; the child kept in isolation, even in darkness, and music played at a distance, whence it comes unencumbered by the noise or movements of other children, will penetrate sooner or later into the blank organ. Surprise sounds, too, are tried occasionally to start up an unexpected sense of hearing.


As soon as the child shows signs of sensibility to music, these various experiments must be made pleasant enough to transform the simple function of hearing into the capacities of auditing and listening. One, auditing is developed by giving continuity to the tunes as if they were discoveries; the other, listening is created by breaking the continuity of the tune at its most interesting accent-point where in language we place the mark of interrogation; leaving the ear of the child hearing yet, and listening, as if thirsting for more.


But above all, and for our present object, the teaching of music must be soon blended in that of speech, and first of voice. The voice which sings emits vowels; these vowels may be intoned by imitation to the diapason of the speech, and after a while supported by consonants. This transformation is brought on insensibly in the course of the musical training, and shall be more technically improved hereafter.


If we now look back, we can see that we began to use music to please, to attract instinctive attention, to give a passive vibration to the muscles and nerves preparatory to and during exercises. We have used music to give perspicuity and continuity to audition, and to support the organs of voice in learning to speak. Finally we shall find it intermingled with most of the exercises and habits of life of our pupils, as a happy, healthy stimulus. It was the most pleasing and unmeaning of our agents; it has become the most useful, it has adapted itself to our deepest purposes.


When idiots cry we must remember that they are still children, some of them little infants. Many of them do not speak, they scarcely move, they have no other language than cries, no other gymnastic than the diaphragmatic spring-board upon which they exercise their vital organs in respiring and screaming. If we knew more, we should appreciate these voices, all significant of the wants, the love, the excitement of life reduced to its last limits of inwardness. Consulting our own sensations, we could remember how the chest requires expansion, and how often we have yawned with loud sigh after protracted silence and immobility; we ought sometimes to revert to our own physiological necessities when we are on the verge of impatience about physiological manifestations from children that we do not understand. The truth is about their cries, that besides their value as chest gymnastics, they are their sole alarm in danger or want, their sole means of social communication. But more, these cries are voices after all, they are the only beginning upon which we may be able to found the teaching of the speech; altering the cry into a medium voice, supporting that voice on successive consonants, and so on, preparing the materials of true speech out of the animal voice.


Before commencing to extract the speech out of the instinctive language of cries, we must take a good survey of the organs from the lips inwards; be sure that there are none of the physical or pathological defects mentioned above which must have been removed if existing by this time. We may say the same of the moral capacities of the child to which another part of this book is reserved; they demand all our attention previous to entering into the training of the speech. What we want is good-will on the part of the teacher and pupils, and a willed understanding between them. Such, with confidence and winning kindness, are the physical and moral elements to be insured before trying to teach a mute, or half-mute idiot to speak.


Our language being the representation by a combination of sounds and articulations, of all the human impressions and spontaneities, it is manifest that the idiot must find it the act the most impossible and antipathetic to his nature; because it requires what he lacks most, the synergy of several faculties with several organs.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  59  60  61  62  63  64  65  66  67  68  69  70  71  72  73  74  75  76  77  78  79  80    All Pages