Library Collections: Document: Full Text

New York State Asylum For Idiots, Second Annual Report Of The Trustees

Creator: n/a
Date: February 10, 1853
Source: Steve Taylor Collection

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 12:


CASE No. 7.


A boy of 13 years old; pretty well formed, but with rather a singular face; healthy; not bad tempered, but from having frequently been teased by other boys, was rather quarrelsome; he did not attempt to speak till 9 years old; idiotic from birth.


He came November 7th 1851; he could speak only a few words, and those quite indistinctly, and could not give his own name so as to be understood; he did not know a single letter; could not read or write, or count, or distinguish colors by name; he had a strong propensity to take what did not belong to him; a daily search in his pockets resulted almost invariably in finding something thus taken. He would show considerable ingenuity in secreting such articles. This propensity would have brought him, sooner or later, to close confinement, had he been left without a proper education.


We commenced in this case with teaching him to put away the letters of the alphabet in their appropriate places on the letter board, then with forming them into words, together with daily exercises in articulation, taking advantage of an idea of form which he possessed more than most of our pupils; we gave him lessons in drawing on a black board with a crayon; at first, from a want of control of the muscles of the hand, his attempts in imitating simple marks, were very clumsy, but he now writes well and rapidly, either with a copy or from print; he can draw houses and other simple objects; he speaks with much more distinctness, and is in our first class in reading, in geography and arithmetic.


The change in his moral character is no less marked; he is getting to be quite an affectionate boy, and is now regarded with very different feelings by all concerned in his care and instruction; the habit of petty thieving is almost entirely broken up.


One peculiarity in his case will strike the observation of any one, and that is, the power of utterance is far behind his real knowledge of language; he has picked up from some of the other boys the deaf and dumb alphabet, and when asked any question, his first impulse is to spell the answer on his hands.


CASES Nos. 8 AND 9.


Natty and Willie -- boys of 7 and 8 years old, taken from what is called the idiot-house, on Randall's Island, an island occupied by the alms-house department of the city of New-York, for the residence of the children supported at the city's expense.


There were no applications from the first judicial district at the opening of the asylum, and I, in company with one of the board, of trustees, visited the island. These two were selected on account of their age. Both had been regarded as idiots from birth; both were partially paralyzed; both entirely dumb, though comprehending some simple commands, and the names of a few familiar objects. The resident physician of the establishment, who was absent when I made the selection, thought it an unfortunate one, as he feared the pupils in question would never do any credit to the new State charity. They made their appearance, however, on the 14th of December, 185l, in company with another child taken from a cellar in New-York city.


I hurried them into the bathing room, to be washed, and brushed, and combed, and aproned, after their journey, before they should be seen by the teachers, for I feared the discouraging influence upon my new assistants of seeing these poor unfortunate children.


But they soon felt the genial influence of our special system of instruction adapted to their wants and deficiencies, and returned a daily recompense for the care and labor bestowed upon them, in increasing intelligence, increasing animation, and increasing desire of knowledge.


We commenced at first by teaching the names of objects about the room, then those in a wider circle. One of the first lessons was the names of different parts of a door, as the lock, the handle, the bolt, and key; then the command to open and shut it. After awhile came the study of forms and colors, and size then lessons with pictures. They were taught to notice the differences in the forms of letters, by exercises upon a letter-board. Then followed words printed on cards, as the representatives of objects. Sufficient regard, I must confess, has not been had in these cases to the physical training or to exercises in articulation, for their wondrously rapid mental development has engrossed our attention.


They were taught to spell words at command, by pointing out the letters composing them on an alphabetical card. Then came lessons upon the outline maps, designed, at first, mainly to cultivate the power of attention and a habit of rapid thinking. They learned to count, and also some of the simple relations of numbers.


Finding that their progress in articulation did not keep pace with their improvement in other respects, we were compelled to teach them the deaf mute alphabet. During all this course of instruction they have kept nearly side by side, the one excelling in one branch to be left a little in the rear by the other in some other study.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14    All Pages