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 44:


For these reasons and on account of the help we borrow from the restoration of this function for all parts of the training, we must begin the education of the sight as soon as possible. But let us confess that if the diagnosis of the infirmities of the ear is more difficult than the distinction of those of the eye, the training of the eye presents more real obstacles than that of the ear. When the function of the sight, entirely involuntary, is reduced to serving a few instincts, and restricted to the reception of a few passing reflections of light or of brilliant objects, the task is difficult. When we taught the ear, more passive sense, we had only to send the sounds into the concha and they entered, striking the tympanum, moving the nerves through the ossictila: we were acting and the passive organ was reacting. But the eye is an organ more active by its nature, inactive only in idiots by exception, and not easily coaxed to action. To make a child feel a body, we put it in his hand; to make him smell another, we bring it to his nostrils; to make him taste another, we place it in his mouth; but to make the idiot see, when he turns his eyes away, or covers them with his hands, or shuts them, or throws himself down when any object is presented to his sight, what shall we do?


No doubt the resistance to an intelligent use of the sight is not always so complete, violent, and obstinate; but even when it is of a more negative character, we find it insuperable enough in its milder forms, to bring home to us more than one discouragement.


Of all the things, if there be any, which can penetrate the glassy or tarnished eye of our pupil, it is our own look: the looks call for the look. We keep the child seated or standing, in front or close to us, alone, no noise, no company, not much of light nor of darkness; our feet ready to immobilize his feet, our knees his knees, our hands his head and arms. We search his eyes with our intense and persevering look -- he tries to escape it; throws his body and limbs in every direction, screams and shuts his eyes. All this time we must be calm and prepared, correcting eccentric attitudes and plunging our sight into his eyes when he chances to open them. How long will it take to succeed? Days, weeks, or months; it depends upon the gravity of the case, upon the help received from the general training, and from other means of fixing the attention of the eye soon to be exposed. But the main instrument in fixing the regard is the regard. When this does succeed, as soon as our look has taken hold of his, the child, instead of taking cognizance of phenomena by the touch or smell, uses concurrently, and after a while exclusively, his newly acquired power. At that time the voice and commands will be better understood, and need not be uttered so loud, since besides hearing, the child now looks at us, and understands also the meaning of our words by that of our physiognomy.


But there are many more means of fixing the sight. We need only present, as in a lump, those borrowed from private lie, from necessities requiring more or less the concourse of active sight; such as, if we displace and remove a little farther from the idiot, every day, the things ordinarily used by him and for which he was used to look with his hands. The dark room is made the theatre where light will appear at intervals; sometimes representing geometrical or other configurations at other times simple bright fields for the exhibition of silhouettes, etc. The same room serves to exhibit fire-works on a small scale, and the kaleidoscope on a large one. This latter has more treasures of combinations of colors than imagination can conceive. If made of large size, motionless or moving by turns, single or composed of two cylinders revolving in opposite directions, or one moving, the other being fixed, it produces the most wonderful attraction for the sight; the Institution has no instrument for training superior to this. Now we take again the balancing-pole. It was used to create prehension and to do away with morbid sensibility of the fingers; in the present case it will serve as a monitor to the mind, as an urgent warning of impending encounter. If it reverberates smartly at first, the better it will call the attention of the child, and make him careful to look at the pole to appreciate when it comes, in what direction, at what rate, and how its unavoidable reaction may be managed to save part at least of its hard contact. This exercise is no more a sinecure for the eye than it was for the hand. By these and other means of the kind we accomplish our object of moving the look, steadying the regard, and deducing intellectual consequences from what is seen.


When we say that these means and their analogues succeed in giving an incipiency to voluntary sight, we do not mean to convey the impression that it suffices unavoidably to touch the retina with our own sight or with wondrous lights, etc., to make the child begin to look as by miracle. No, we do not promise that; because this sudden result is the exception. More ordinarily the impression desired takes place slowly, after series of experiments properly contrasted. In the more refractory cases, the direct individual exercises of the look are to be alternated with long standings among groups of working children, whose various modes of activity attract the attention of the lower idiot, if not in six months in three years. Then the use of the sight begins to be one of the elements of a progress very limited indeed, but not less striking that beneficial. There is scarcely one child as low as that in a hundred; and lower idiocy is aggravated by extensive paralysis or some rare forms of insanity.

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