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

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

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Nor has their moral education been neglected. Willie was described as very irritable by those who had previously had him in charge. He is now very much more easily governed. Natty, amiable and affectionate from the beginning, is now still more lovable and interesting, because his countenance is now more radiant with the expression of the kindly feelings that animate him, and because he is now more capable of expressing his affections.


They can now both spell almost any word of one syllable with rapidity with their hands. They can speak much better; can form some letters and words upon the blackboard; understand simple relations of numbers, and are familiar with three of our series of outline maps.


I might almost say that from the very outset of their educa-tional course, I have myself been daily astonished by the rapidity of their progress, and their facility of instruction.


CASE No. 10.


A boy of eleven years old; well formed, healthy, except slight chorea; good tempered, and cleanly in his habits; idiotic from birth, and has a sister a little older than himself, who is an idiot; He came December 13th, 1851; talked imperfectly; could not read or write, or count, or distinguish colors by sight; did not know a single letter, and could not even distinguish one picture from another. He had none of the practical every-day knowledge of childhood.


After seeing him at his home, in a cellar in New-York city, standing, with an effort at concealment, partly behind the door, devouring, rather than eating a piece of bread, with the saliva running out of his mouth, ill clothed, and not over clean, and with a nervous twitching about the face, I candidly told the gentleman who accompanied me, that I felt some reluctance at including him among the number of experimental pupils. Nevertheless, he was allowed to come, and I ought properly here to enter my acknowledgement, that I was entirely mistaken in his case. We have now no more promising pupil. We have none who have profited more by instruction already received. His whole appearance is changed. There has been a radical change in his habits of body and mind. He is very playful; very attentive in his various mental exercises, and conducts himself, under all circumstances, with propriety.


I cannot better illustrate this fact, than by giving an account of a visit his mother made him during the summer. When he was brought into the room to her, remembering how utterly helpless he had always been, and his probable condition when left after her death to the cold charities of the world, unfortunate and miserable, she threw her arms about his neck, and expressed a wish that he was dead. When she had become more calm, I let her see his improvement in all respects, in the school room and elsewhere; and when she left, she begged me, if there should ever be room, that I would receive her other unfortunate child, so much had her despair given place to hope, from what she had seen of improvement and promise in her child.


CASE No. 11.


A boy of 14 years old, very large of his age, well formed and with a fine head; he had convulsions in infancy, to which the idiocy is ascribed. In the very intelligent description given me by the family physician, he is spoken of as being both insane and idiotic; an opinion I have seen no reason to question, after my acquaintance with him.


He came May 6th, 1852; he was amiable in his disposition, very easily excited, particularly to laughter; was disposed to wander away from home, talking and laughing to himself; had a great faculty of imitation and a good memory of persons and things. He talked very indistinctly, and could not be brought to look at any thing like letters, and only the most prominent features of a picture.


He was described as having improved somewhat during the five or six years last past, as being much more calm and teachable than formerly, but that many of his faculties were an entire blank.


This case was received with much reluctance, from the manifest complication of insanity with the idiocy, and I confess I had very great misgivings as to any very marked results from our system of education. Two members of the same family had, however, been educated at that noble charitable institution, the deaf and dumb asylum of New York, and I could not refuse an application from a family thins peculiarly afflicted, at least for a fair trial of such a course of instruction, as should seem adapted to his case.


His improvement thus far has been beyond all reasonable expectation; he has become more calm and attentive; he has lost all disposition to wander. After passing through a variety of preliminary exercises, he is now in a class in drawing; is beginning in geography, giving all the names of the different states in the Union; he speaks much more distinctly; has some idea of numbers; knows all his letters and a great many words, and is now doing well in a class in Webb's First Reader.


For such gratifying results I may well feel, some degree of pride in the industry and fidelity of my assistants.

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