Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
CARE OF THE FEEBLE-MINDED

The care of the feeble-minded, or mentally deficient, is a different problem from the care of the insane or the epileptic. The feeble- minded person has some anatomical or physiological lack which limits his intellectual capacity. Presumably feeble-mindedness may be the result of defective heredity in a certain proportion of cases; but much mental deficiency may result also from injuries to the fetus, to the child at the time of birth, or to the child after birth. Some diseases in infancy or early childhood are believed to leave permanent injuries to the nervous system. Tredgold, on the basis of extensive surveys in England, noticed that feeble-minded persons more often have ancestors who suffered from insanity, epilepsy, and other psychopathological conditions than ancestors who themselves were mentally defective.1 Davies has summarized the results of many studies of feeble-minded persons and comes to the conclusion that Dr. William E. Fernald's opinion, that about half the persons whom he examined at Waverley were feeble-minded from causes other than heredity, is substantially correct as a general rule.2 The decision, then, as to whether or not the condition of a particular feeble-minded person can be accounted for on the basis of heredity is a problem for specific determination from the case history. The care given him may or may not be influenced by the determination of the cause of his mental condition.

There are several reasons why the public must be interested in the feeble-minded. This group in the population present special educational and custodial problems. They are not "patients" in the sense that the insane and epileptic are patients. It would be more nearly correct to refer to the feeble-minded child under the care of the state as a pupil. The aim of the care of the feeble-minded, or at least the

____________________
1
A. F. Tredgold, Mental Deficiency, 4th edition, 1929, p. 25.
2
Stanley P. Davies, Social Control of the Mentally Deficient, 1930, p. 159.

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