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Courtesy, Houston, Tex., Public Schools Care of clothing is an important part of the training program.
If the class is to serve the needs of all these children, it must necessarily offer a rather wide variety of classroom experiences. For those pupils who are accepted on a trial basis, it will be important to include activities that will provide for maximum stimulation and growth in the development of adequate speech, acceptable personal habits, self-control, group adjustments, sensory discriminations, and coordination. The final evaluation of the pupil in regard to his training potentials may depend upon his improvement in these areas of achievement.
For the pupil who, as an adult, may be expected to adjust to modified or sheltered conditions, the training program will need to be channeled into more specific learnings. Experiences in group and family living, knowledge of the community, recognition of necessary symbols and signs, the practical application of muscular coordinations, the development of recreational interests, and the acquisition of satisfactory work habits and attitudes will be of great importance.
The possibility that some children may demonstrate unusual improvement makes it necessary to stimulate readiness and provide for beginning instruction in reading and number work in a limited number of instances. Therefore, while the classroom program for severely retarded children will be built around habit formation and social training, it must be broad enough to meet the needs of the unusual pupil who is capable of improvement and eventual transfer to a class for educable children.
The goals to which training programs must be directed include:
1. Adequate habits of personal behavior.—The pupil should be able to control his behavior according to acceptable standards. Habits of cleanliness, health, and eating should not be offensive when he is observed by others. He should be able to remove and put on his clothing.
2. Efficient communicative skills.—The pupil must be responsive to ordinary conversation and able to communicate his needs and interests to others.
3. Useful coordinations.—The development of coordinations will include a normal walking gait, the maintenance of a healthful posture, and the ability to perform common tasks with his hands.
4. Acceptable habits of work.—The pupil must learn to enjoy useful and satisfying occupations. Being helpful to others and willing to perform common tasks will be essential if he is to achieve any degree of independence and economic usefulness. In addition, he must develop ability to see a very simple project through to completion. Pride in the achievement of simple tasks is as essential to the adequate adjustment of the severely retarded child as is the satisfaction growing out of greater achievement enjoyed by more capable children.
5. Adjustment to social situations.-The severely retarded child cannot perform as an isolate if he is to achieve any degree of competence for social living. He must learn to respect the rights and property of others, become able to tolerate the behavior of other pupils, and be willing to participate in simple group activities. Whether his participation is to be limited to the family group and the immediate neighborhood or to a larger world in which he will be employed in a useful occupation, his adjustment will be inadequate unless he can learn to enjoy social participation.
6. Willingness to follow directions.-The severely retarded child will be constantly under the supervision of others who are capable of guiding his activities. Unlike his more normal peers who can accept responsibilities for independent action, he will be subject to much direction. Responsiveness to direction necessarily must be one of his most valuable attributes. Therefore, the program must put
particular emphasis upon this type of training. There may be other goals to be reached in the training program for severely retarded children, but the foregoing are basic to the development of characteristics needed by these children if they are to adjust to family and community life. Unless progress toward achievement in each of these areas can be observed, it is probable that the pupil should be recommended for permanent care and placement in a suitable institutional school.
APPROACHING THE CLASSROOM SITUATION
Considerable stress upon "training” as distinct from "education” in both professional and parent-association literature pertaining to more severely retarded children. What is meant is that the personal and social behavior, speech, and muscular efficiency of the very retarded child may be conditioned by experiences that do not involve insight nor the knowledge gained from mastery of basic academic skills. The training program primarily is one involving habit formation.
In reading some of the current literature, it is easy to obtain the im. plication that being "trainable” is synonymous with being "uneducable.'
It may be quite unreal to interpret education without recognizing its training aspects. It is doubtful if a true dichotomy exists, for much of the education of normally intelligent children includes training in personal habits, social behavior, and even in specific skills. Whether training the normal child in certain manipulative skills differs greatly from training the severely retarded child in the use of acceptable eating habits might be subject to some question. It has also been suggested that the achievements of severely retarded children might be described best in terms of "conditioning.” From a practical point of view the choice of terminology seems relatively unimportant.
It is essential to recognize that much of the personal and social progress made by severely retarded boys and girls must be on a habit-formation basis. Furthermore, good habits of work and social participation will be formed most effectively under conditions in which the pupils feel a bond of friendship and trust between themselves and their teacher and in which they are inspired to imitate the teacher. In this respect they will differ to no great extent from children of average intelligence.
ORGANIZING CLASSROOM EXPERIENCES
The first problem that will be faced most frequently by the teacher of severely mentally retarded children will concern the pupil's attitude toward himself. Because of overprotection, rejection, or lack of experience in group situations, the child will often come to school as an unhappy or asocial individual. He may be lacking in self-esteem and confidence, completely egocentric in his attitudes, or extremely fearful. The primary objective of all classroom experiences during the initial period of schooling may necessarily be to build up the pupil's sense of security by developing feelings of acceptance, first toward himself and then toward others. Unless there can be developed self-esteem and personal confidence, the pupil's progress may be both limited and warped.
Much of the learning of the severely retarded pupil will grow out of play experiences, and while these activities are usually considered of most importance for their social implications, they will contribute also to the pupil's individual adjustment. Learning the rules of the game is especially important to the severely retarded child, and since he will live in a world in which he will be subject to considerable authority, learning to follow or obey directions in the initial stages of school experience may be more essential for him than democratic participation. Nevertheless, willingness to respect authority should not be brought into conflict with independence of action, and in those activities in which he is competent to perform independently, the severely retarded child must learn to enjoy the exercise of his own judgment and initiative. Wingertszahn, in an address before the American Association on Mental Deficiency in 1951, explained that the severely retarded pupil develops gradually increasing interests in tasks that he can complete successfully, first in attending to his own personal needs and later in serving others. She mentioned such specific acrivities as going to the lavatory, washing for lunch, eating, serving, acting as host or hostess, assembling lunchroom trays, etc. In these and similar simple tasks the severely retarded child can be taught to exercise conditioned judgment and to accept personal responsibility. Through successful achievement he may gain considerable self-respect and confidence in his own ability to perform.
The resourceful teacher may also be successful in developing in her pupils at a very simple level a certain degree of ability to plan their daily schedules and to exercise choices of learning experiences. Such activities may be restricted in comparison with the planning of less severely retarded pupils, but it is probable that this aspect of the daily program should not be entirely neglected.
The second general type of learning that will be essential to the life adjustment of severely mentally retarded boys and girls concerns their participation with other individuals and in group situations. Many children who become members of classes for the severely retarded will have had few prior contacts with other children or adults outside of the family constellation. Because of their unusual developmental immaturity, some of those who have had social experiences will be functioning at an extremely inadequate level of interpersonal and group behavior. And yet, in spite of these handicapping conditions, much of the severely retarded child's prognosis for successful life adjustment will depend upon his ability to acquire skills in satisfactory social relationships and to conform to approved social behavior. Much of the emphasis of his school training program must, therefore, revolve about socializing activities. Among the objectives in the social training of the severely retarded pupil will be:
Development of respect for the rights and property of other members of the group
Willingness and ability to accept the role of a "follower” These characteristics will develop as the result of experiences in wellplanned group projects, play and recreational activities, and the sharing of classroom materials and responsibilities. Most children will need to participate, first, in small group situations and later, if possible, in activities involving larger groups of children.
If the severely mentally retarded child is to achieve any satisfactory degree of social competence, he must necessarily develop the ability to communicate in an understandable manner. A large number of the pupils who will be assigned to training classes will be defective in speech, as well as intellectual development. Making speech more understandable and increasing the vocabulary of the pupil will constitute important aspects of teaching severely retarded children.
The services of a speech correctionist should be made available to children who have involved problems of inadequate speech and who require clinical services. Gens 12 considers that speech specialists can contribute in a twofold manner to the welfare of mentally deficient children, first, by contributing remedial measures that can improve the speech efficiency of pupils, and, second, in improving the developmental status of children who have been incorrectly diagnosed. It is important to recognize, however, that speechcorrection services for the severely mentally retarded pupil must be provided by a specialist who is adequately trained in the understanding of mentally retarded pupils.
The classroom teacher will set the stage for many opportunities for speech improvement, although the advice and counsel of the specialist in speech frequently should determine her procedures with individual pupils. The use of conversation in group situations, of dramatization, and the assignment of duties such as greeting and introducing visitors, answering the telephone, and delivering oral messages may be employed along with many other activities.
Many severely mentally retarded children are handicapped in the efficient use of the extremities as well as in posture. Defects in physical development are not uncommon. Their gait may be shuffling or awkward, posture may be slouching; movements may be arhythmic; finger dexterity and eyehand coordinations may be inferior. Nevertheless, insofar as muscular
11 Gens, George W. The Speech Pathologist Looks at the Mentally Deficient Child. Training School Bulletin, 48: 19-27, April 1951.