Page images

modified all-day programs, somewhat shorter than those for normal children. Where the classes involve both morning and afternoon sessions, the lunch hour is often considered a part of the school day. Both New York City and Cincinnati have modified all-day schedules, and the pupils eat their noon lunches in a group as one important aspect of training for social living. In Cincinnati a rest period of 1 hour follows the noon lunch, and the pupils come to school at 9:30 and are dismissed at 2:30. While training in acceptable eating habits is an important aspect of the curriculum, opportunities for this type of experience are not entirely limited to the noon lunch. Other classes that meet on half-day schedules serve milk, orange juice, or a light lunch during the morning or afternoon session.

The final decision as to the length of the school day will probably depend upon the individual problems of the children making up the

group. The least mature, socially and chronologically, may be best served by a half-day program. Older severely mentally retarded children may be scheduled to a full day of activity, particularly if a considerable portion of the program is devoted to group games, handwork, or non-tension-producing experiences.

Transportation of pupils.- In the larger cities the establishment of classes for severely retarded children will produce problems of pupil transportation. Educable retarded children often use public transportation services, and it has been found in some school districts that the more mature severely retarded pupil can be trained to use street railway and bus routes. Many of these children, however, need more supervision than that provided on public transportation facilities.

In many States pupil transportation is subject to legal provisions and control, and any child accepted for school enrollment is entitled to free transportation according to the distances prescribed by the school laws of those States. In such instances schools accepting severely mentally retarded children would be obligated to provide transportation for those who live beyond the distances specified by law. Since these pupils are not found in great concentration and classes will necessarily be centrally located, transportation may become a major consideration. In some parentoperated schools responsibilities for the transportation of severely retarded children have been given to parents, some of whom operate on a car-pool basis.

While many parents of severely retarded children may volunteer to contribute transportation in order to obtain public-school privileges, it is quite possible that strict interpretations of many school transportation laws would require parents operating car pools to comply with regulations pertaining to special equipment, insurance, and other school bus provisions. Then, too, there seems to be no reason why severely retarded children should not fit into the usual pattern of pupil transportation. The services extended to them should at least be comparable to those provided for all pupils and

should allow them to benefit from the modifications extended to other handicapped children.


One of the most baffling problems met in establishing new programs for severely mentally retarded children concerns the employment of qualified teachers. Presently maintained groups are taught by teachers who have been recruited from diverse backgrounds of training and experience. Some who are doing an excellent or acceptable job have succeeded chiefly because of a zeal for service. Others have had specialized training in the fields of mental retardation or nursery school work. However, if the provision of school facilities for severely retarded children is to become a generally accepted responsibility of public education, approved standards of training will need to be determined. While some relatively untrained teachers have succeeded in the classes now being maintained, it is probable that many pioneer units have been unsuccessful and of doubtful value because of lack of competent leadership.

Three types of training in addition to that usually considered basic to all types of teacher preparation seem to be essential to the qualified teacher of severely mentally retarded children.

1. Knowledge of the nature of mental deficiency, an understanding of mentally retarded children, and the methods of teaching the retarded.This is the type of information usually required of all teachers of the educable mentally retarded, although particular emphasis would necessarily need to be placed upon the problems of more severely retarded children. 2. Techniques of nursery school and kindergarten education.-Since practically all children who constitute the trainable group will function at a "pre-academic” level, most of the classroom activities will be comparable to nursery school and kindergarten activities. The adaptation of these to more physically mature children will present additional problems, but the teacher of the severely retarded who is not acquainted with training techniques for children of limited mental and social maturity will be at a severe disadvantage. 3. Knowledge of and experience in parent education programs.—This need is pointed up in a previous section (see p. 19). It constitutes one of the most essential

qualifications for teachers of severely retarded children. If programs for the education of teachers of the severely retarded are to be provided by teacher education institutions, a period of internship or practice teaching in a laboratory school for such children would necessarily be superimposed on the special training briefly described in the above paragraphs. It is possible that internships in institutional schools might be one answer to this problem at the outset, for very few classes for the severely retarded would qualify at present as laboratory units.

It is probable that some classes will be formed before well-qualified teachers are available. As a matter of fact, it is even more probable that a program for severely mentally retarded children will have to be under way and the need for trained teachers demonstrated before teacher education institutions will be justified in preparing teachers for these children. Meanwhile, teachers employed for this special type of work should be chosen with great care, and only those who have had training in the understanding of retarded children and experience with young children should be considered as temporarily qualified. Much of the training of pioneer teachers in this field may necessarily be on an in-service basis.


The training of severely mentally retarded children involves much more than providing an educational program. The development of recreational interests, opportunities for psycho-therapeutic services and medical treatment, and the needs of many parents for guidance and counseling that goes far beyond the training of most teachers should enter into the planning of a comprehensive community program for the severely retarded child. Those services ordinarily must be sought outside the school, and the necessary assistance will usually be contributed by other community agencies. Since the public-school class will be the focal point of service and constitute a center for the participation of both the children and their parents, it will be important for the school and the teacher to establish cooperative relationships with the appropriate agencies.

Existing classes have made considerable use of the assistance of other community services. The Salem, Mass., special education department has cooperated with the recreation department of that city in establishing a recreational program and a summer day camp for sub-special class children. A number of parent-sponsored groups have obtained the assistance of scout leaders and other group-work agencies in providing recreational activities. In Chicago, several classes for the severely retarded are actually housed in a community center. The public schools will need to seek the assistance of similar community service groups if an adequate over-all program for severely retarded children is to be maintained.

In communities in which such services are available, it may be important also to establish cooperative relationships between the school and family guidance agencies. There will be many problems among the parents, hinging upon the presence or acceptance of their mentally retarded children, which will require the services of case workers or psychiatrists who are specialists in family guidance techniques. It will be important for teachers to recognize these situations and to guide parents to the services that can assist them most effectively.

Inasmuch as some trainable pupils are handicapped by conditions of brain injury and handicaps that may respond to medical treatment or psychotherapy, the school will need to establish an effective working relationship with family physicians, medical specialists, and local clinics that provide neurological and psychiatric assistance. In many school districts such problems will be channeled through the school health services. However, the teacher will necessarily need to be aware of the needs of her pupils and the resources that are available to them.

Guidance and placement services have long been an important aspect of the total program of public education. For the physically handicapped and the educable mentally retarded, these functions are provided by State vocational rehabilitation services. If provisions for more severely retarded children are to be established, a continuing program for the guidance of out-of-school youth would seem to be an essential need.

It must be recognized that only a very limited number of the children accepted in training classes will be able to participate in useful industrial or community services. Because of factors within the home or inadequate social development some of them may eventually require placement in institutional schools, while many others will be occupied with home duties. It is apparent, however, that parent associations have been able to maintain successfully a few severely retarded children in sheltered workshops and to place a smaller number in private employment. The bulletins of the New York Association for the Help of Retarded Children describe that organization's cooperation with the local Goodwill Industries and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the State of New York, as well as its job placement activities through an Association committee. 22 important projects in the total program for severely retarded children even though the proportion of those who may be served will be rather small. The schools will need to cooperate with agencies maintaining sheltered workshops and placement services if their programs are to be thoroughly effective and ultimately worth while.

These are

32 See Our Children's Voice, Aug. Sept. 1950 and Jan.-Feb. 1951; also, Richmond, Naomi S. Vocational Training in Sheltered Workshops. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, October 1951. pp. 344-348.

Many Schools Have Provided for

Severely Retarded Children

It would be a mistake to assume that the more severely retarded child has been entirely rejected or ignored in public-school special education prog. rams. In many school systems providing for educable retarded pupils, considerable leeway is made for those falling somewhat below the usually accepted level for special class placement. In one State in which about 6,000 are enrolled in special classes for educable mentally retarded pupils, it is estimated that about 5 percent fall below the level of 50 IQ. This percentage is rather high in view of the relatively small number of children who measure below an IQ of 50. It is probable that in other States and local communities similar relaxations in entrance standards have been made and that a small but significant percentage of the nearly 90,000 mentally retarded pupils enrolled in special education programs in 1948 fell below the usual IQ standards descriptive of the "educable" group. However, it is equally probable that a large proportion of these children are admitted to presently maintained special classes "on trial” and that many of them are eventually excused from public school attendance and recommended for institutional school placement. Nevertheless, it should be recognized that most school psychologists and special education administrators are extremely reluctant to make arbitrary judgments on the basis of measurements that indicate moderate deficiencies in observable intelligence. Hence, when standards for special class placement are expressed in terms of IQ's from 50 to 75, it is not uncommon to find in the special classes children who may range from IQ's of 40 to 79.

Separate "sub-special” classes for lower grade mentally retarded children have been maintained in some school districts for many years. Examples of these school-initiated facilities are found in New York City and Detroit. The classes now operating in Houston, Tex., and many other school districts are also entirely school-sponsored, but are of more recent origin than those maintained in New York and Detroit.

New York City.--In New York City classes for children in the 40 to 50 IQ range have been a part of the special education program for a long time. At present there are more than 30 such groups. These classes are units of regular elementary schools and operate on a full-day schedule. However, since the noon lunch is considered a part of the training program, the afternoon dismissal hour is set for

« PreviousContinue »