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 46:


The notion of Distance takes its rank here, but only in its elementary form. When we want a child to appreciate spaces, we separate things of the same kind - books, for instance; we place them at different distances from each other, and we make the child do the same; first by imitation, next by command. When distances are to be measured in a room, from point to point, from person to person, or things, the child being the fixed branch of the compass of measurement, the distant object or point is the moving extremity of the same instrument. When this abstract instrument of measure works well at short distances, in a medium where the points of repair are familiar, such as the window, the mantel-piece, etc., we transport it into the open air, taking for our points of repair, the nearest trees, houses, fences, etc.


Of all the properties perceivable by the sight, those of the Plane are the most difficult to acquire, but the most necessary in education and practical life. On a knowledge of the properties of the plane depends our successful walk or fall, the erection of any structure, the relative situation of the lines forming drawing and writing, the delineation of all representations of objects by carving, cutting, modelling, casting, and endless varieties of modes of expressing a meaning by lines on surfaces; those lines idealize matter. It will not be, therefore, a loss of time, if we take great trouble in giving the idiot as clear an idea as we can of the plane in its relations to human work.


When a child cannot understand a plane, such as the floor or a table, we know it because he will try to put up things -- ten-pins, for instance, in a variety of oblique attitudes, more or less distant from the vertical. This error is to be corrected by letting down a succession of plummets falling vertically on the floor or table, between which the child soon finds the vertical for the pins. Planes, level or undulated, are to be made by the hand, spade, spoon, or roller, on sand, to the great delight of the children. The plane for writing or drawing is studied by putting wafers on various points of a circumscribed plane, and letting the child do the same on another; marking and remarking exactly the centre, the corners, and other prominent points of the surface. We come nearer to the idea of the plane by touching with our index finger, every prominent point of a limited plane, such as a slate; the child doing like us. When he begins to succeed in this sight exercise, we put a pencil in his hand, we take one in ours, and we begin to draw slowly and distinctly a well marked line from one point of the slate to another -- say from the top to the bottom. This he does also, with many peculiarities of weakness and deviation. He has acquired the virtual capacity to draw lines, but he has not yet the synergy. In this respect, the difference between idiots is immense. One can lift a weight of fifty pounds who cannot hold and direct a pen; another can work all the day in the field without great fatigue, who can scarcely read nor trace a faint line on the blackboard without showing unmistakable signs of exhaustion. We have seen a child, otherwise active, spend several minutes in tracing down a vertical line with chalk; the line was scarcely visible, though he was helping his right hand with his left with all his might; both hands became so exhausted that they were pearled with perspiration.


The depreciation of force, not by the straining quality of the work accomplished, but by the intensity of will employed, shown in these cases, cannot be considered as peculiar to idiots, but only as extreme in some. A teacher of Freedman in Tennessee, writes to our esteemed friend, the Rev. Samuel May, of one of her pupils, a very intelligent colored blacksmith, that three evenings after he began to learn his letters, he could read correctly three pages in a "Wilson's Reader;" "but," says she, "the sweat ran off his face as if he were working over his anvil." This is enough to show conclusively that we must not calculate the abnormal by the normal innervation; and that we are to measure the strength of idiots in particular, not by our standard of fatigue, but by the special condition of waste of their synergy.


To recommend this almost maternal attention for bur children we have left them very nearly drawing, that is to say, knowing how to do it, trying to do it, and yet unable by want of nervous power. We are now in presence of a nervous difficulty, which can be assimilated to some extent to the deficiency of contractibility which hindered our first exercises of prehension. As we then strengthened the muscles, we must now strengthen the nerves; and as in the hand these two sets of organs are exceptionally numerous and delicately blended, if we can submit the hand to a series of exercises in which the muscles will be called into play subordinately, but enough to corroborate the nervous action of drafting, we shall succeed in giving to that function the power of exercising fluently and without faintness the meaning of the mind and the order of the will.

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