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development is concerned, many severely retarded children seem to be capable of improvement with suitable training, and the activities of the class should be planned to provide the necessary training. Exercise to improve large-muscle coordinations should precede those designed to train eye and hand coordinations. In the beginning, activities such as walking up and down steps, bouncing a ball, stepping between spaced blocks, skipping, and other exercises employing large-muscle coordinations are important. Rhythmic activities, including the use of rhythmic instruments, involve coordinated body movements and should play an important role in the classroom program. The ability to walk without attracting undue attention or impeding the progress of others may be a very important achievement for many severely mentally retarded children.

For the development of the more involved and exacting hand-eye coordinations and the improvement of finger dexterity, using peg boards, stringing beads, assembling picture puzzles, tracing, lacing and buttoning, modeling with clay, and coloring pictures will prove valuable. Older children may be able to work with a simple loom and to engage in other constructive activities which a resourceful teacher may provide.

In developing the school program for the severely retarded child, considerable emphasis also will need to be placed upon sense-training experiences. Learning to identify colors, objects, and shapes, matching pictures and symbols, and listening to sounds should be important aspects of the program, especially in the early months and years of the training period.

The school program for the trainable retarded child is not only concerned with the development of attitudes, speech habits, and muscular efficiency; it is also concerned with the development of skills fundamental to health, safety, and community participation. Some of these learnings may necessarily be very simple and learned at a habit-forming level. The schedule of the Salem, Mass., sub-special classes which is given in detail on page 44 includes a health education period in which pupils learn the care of teeth, clothing, and habits of cleanliness, while in the Detroit pre-special A program, outlined on page 46, opportunities are provided for health inspection, care of clothing, and preparation for the serving of the mid-day milk. During their music period the Salem classes present records on both health and safety. Knowledge of the community often is obtained through field trips, and in the Detroit pre-special A groups interpretation of community happenings takes place during the "conference" period. In all well-planned programs for retarded children many opportunities are given for the development of good housekeeping habits. These may be through the maintenance of a play house or through delegating responsibility for the care of the room. Neatness, cleanliness, and orderliness may develop concomitantly from almost any type of classroom activity.

The place of so-called "academic learnings” in the class for severely retarded children has been a subject of considerable controversy. The answer may depend upon the interpretation of what constitutes academic learning. The severely retarded child may be able to understand and use considerable quantitative language. Certain number symbols and common expressions of size and proportion may be well within the range of his learning; the use of money in smaller denominations may often be understood. Whether or not knowing that a nickel will buy a candy bar and a dime a bottle of chocolate milk represents an academic learning is in itself an academic question. Likewise, while useful reading may be beyond the achievement of severely mentally retarded children, the recognition of some words and signs may be possible--and very important. Recognizing the sign that says STOP, for instance, may be successfully achieved, but whether or not this constitutes "reading” is an unimportant consideration.

Many of the experiences of children in training classes will not be too different from the reading and number readiness experiences of children in kindergartens and first grades for normal children. Nevertheless, participation in these experiences cannot imply that a child will develop ability to read, for it is quite unrealistic to assume that useful reading abilities can be developed by the severely retarded pupil. However, the teacher of the training class may necessarily venture into beginning reading work in order to explore the learning possibilities of her more advanced pupils. Children who progress sufficiently to be successful in reading should probably be moved to a group of educable mentally retarded pupils as soon as their social adjustment warrants the transfer.

For the guidance of those who wish to establish services for severely retarded children, the daily programs of two types of classes are outlined in the Appendix on pages 44-49. The first of these has been furnished by courtesy of the Salem, Mass., School Department and represents a program schedule for a group composed entirely of severely retarded children, known as the Seguin Therapy Class. The second schedule is one that is followed by two teachers of the Detroit, Mich., pre-special A classes. Since the Detroit pre-special classes include some "educable” pupils, it will be observed that the pre-special A program includes more emphasis upon the so-called academic subjects. This would be a necessary departure in a

mixed group.


One objective of all education is to provide pupils with maximum opportunities for growth and development. Therefore, the measurement and evaluation of pupil progress is as important a function of school personnel as is the provision of learning opportunities. When the school accepts the responsibility for providing training facilities for severely retarded children, it must also assume the responsibility of frequent appraisals of their progress and development. This responsibility may be greater as it applies to handicapped children than it is in the case of normal pupils.

The evaluation of pupil growth has especially important implications for severely retarded pupils who are accepted on a trial basis and for those who are improvable to the extent that they may become candidates for transfers into educable groups. Because a few children with undetermined diagnosis may be expected to be found in most classes for trainable pupils, it is essential that evaluations should be frequent as well as professionally sound. For the greater number of children who will continue indefinitely in the classes for trainable children, frequent assessments of pupil progress are important inasmuch as these evaluations will become guides for the adaptation of the daily program to meet the pupils' individual needs.

While most teachers of severely retarded children will probably keep informal anecdotal records on a continuing basis in addition to objective data for each of their pupils, a more formal evaluation of developmental progress should be made at least four times each school year. This report should include a summarization of the informal day-to-day observations and should be interpreted in terms of growth in individual and social adjustment, speech fluency, and muscular efficiency. The evaluation should be discussed with the parents, preferably in individual conferences, for parents are entitled to know about their children's progress in school-and the teacher, in turn, cannot evaluate the pupil's progress adequately unless she is acquainted with the extent to which his school achievements carry over into the home and community environment.

Some school systems may wish to devise a form for the teacher's evaluation of pupil progress. The Detroit pre-special A teachers use a form upon which progress in physical coordination, writing, number, and reading readiness is recorded. In addition, a rating scale is provided for the evaluation of sociability, participation in class activities, consideration for others, tenacity of purpose, trustworthiness, and reaction to authority. 13

The evaluation of pupil growth must be supplemented by objective measurements at certain intervals. For those whose diagnosis is uncertain or who are making unusually poor or rapid progress, the services of a psychologist should be available at any time. Certainly pupils admitted on a trial basis should be reexamined by the end of their first year of attendance. For the pupil whose evaluation of school progress bears out the original diagnosis of trainability, objective measurements may occur less frequently. It is the policy in some school systems to retest educable mentally retarded special-class pupils at 2- or 3-year intervals. There seems to be little reason to set up a different policy for severely retarded children who are adjusting well to the training class.

Insofar as objective measurements are concerned, there are a number of available instruments for determining intellectual capacity and social maturity. It is important only to recognize that both types of tests must be

Is The progress form and rating scale used by the Detroit schools are reproduced on pages 49-51 of the Appendix.

well-standardized instruments that are individually administered by a competent examiner. The observations of the examiner in relation to the performance of the pupil should have as many important implications in the total evaluation of progress as the comparison of test achievements. Decisions as to the continued enrollment of pupils in the training class or in regard to readiness for the educable group must necessarily be made upon the composite judgment of the teacher and psychologist. But it must be reemphasized that no decision can be valid unless all aspects of the pupil's performance

in the classroom, at home, in the community, and on test items—are taken into account.



In much of the literature on the education of the retarded considerable emphasis is placed upon the need for parental education. The Fact Finding Report of the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, 14 in discussing children with physical and psychological limitations, states:

It becomes clear that the attitude of the child's family and of the community to his disability are of extreme importance in his adjustment. Both the child and his family react in large measure according to community expectations. The child, his family, and the community need reorientation and education simultaneously. Thus, services directed toward establishing healthy parental and community attitudes and toward the social and emotional adjustment of the disabled

individual deserve serious consideration. ... A noted authority on special education remarked in a recent address that what is desirable in special education is parent participation as well as parent education. Frequently, parents have much to contribute to the understanding of the mentally retarded pupil's problems. The task of educating and training the severely retarded child must be shared by the teacher and the parent. Laycock and Stevenson 15 have pointed out that one step in parent-teacher cooperation is for the teacher to recognize that he does not know all the answers but that he is "searching, together with the parent” for the right answer. In dealing with the severely mentally retarded child, the teacher will need to approach parents with great humility, for many of them can give valuable information relative to the fears, the humiliations, and frustrations that have contributed to the pupil's lack of developmental progress.

Nevertheless, it would be inadvisable to assume that the teacher or other professional personnel has no responsibility for counseling parents of severely retarded children. Many parents, beset by feelings of guilt, shame, or even hostility toward their children, need counseling in regard to their own feelings about their retarded children. In some instances parents may refuse to recognize the existence of the problem. Statements found in the Fact Finding Report of the Midcentury White House Conference support this position. 16

!* Chuldren and Youth at the Midcentury- Official Conference Proceedings, prepared by the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth; published by Health' Publications Institute, Inc., Raleigh, V.C. Copyright 1951 by Health Publications Institute, Inc.

1) Laycock, Samuel R., and Stevenson, George S. Parents' Problems with Exceptional Children 49th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1950.

p. 133.

An incapacitated or chronically sick child has a deep effect on any parent, often imposing a strain on the parent-child relationship. Acceptance of the disability on a realistic basis by both the parents and the child can be, and often is, achieved. Then the relationship between the parents and the disabled child can be entirely healthy.

Unfortunately parents do not always respond rationally to the painful fact of having a chronically sick or markedly limited child. Frequently they feel personally injured and attacked by fate, or as though having a defective child revealed a shameful weakness in themselves; in either case they are inclined to reject the child. Other parents seek to avoid the facts; they go from one physician to another, and from there to quacks, in search of support in their evasion, succeeding only in postponing proper treatment.

There is hardly a mother who does not respond with deep feelings of guilt to a child's congenital defect. ... Some can hardly disguise their resentment, and act it out in punishing attitudes. . . . Others, in their attempt to cope with these tendencies, lean over backwards, sacrificing their lives completely ... to the detriment of both the patient and other members of the family.

Studies show that parents with such attitudes toward their physically or mentally limited children are either poorly informed about disease and the needs of children, or that they are emotionally unstable and immature, and stand sorely in need of help.

The importance of dealing with the problems of parents of mentally re. tarded children is also well stated by Dr. S. L. Sheimo of the University of California Medical School who recently wrote. 17

It seems important . . . not to underestimate the intense repressed forces which become mobilized in parents who have mentally defective and/or handicapped children. At such times, to center one's attention on the defective child rather than toward the parental conflict might be attempting to deal with the least relevant factor in the total situation.

The teacher of severely mentally retarded children probably can achieve the best results in working with parents who are harrowed by doubts of their children's abilities and of their own competence by demonstrating to them that their children are capable of progress and adjustment. Perhaps the most effective results will be achieved by allowing parents to participate in planning activities for the class and to observe the group in action at frequent intervals. Naturally the child's progress in school should be reflected in improved behavior and participation in the home. However, parents who have lived close to the problem and who have become emotionally involved in it sometimes may not be aware of the slow changes that take place unless the teacher can help them recognize the evidences of growth and

16 A Healthy Personality for Every Child. Op. cit., p. 183.

17 Sheimo, S. L. Problems in Helping Parents of Mentally Defective and Handicapped Children, American Journal of Mental Deficiency, July 195), p. ti.

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