Awakening to Life. Alexander Meshcheryakov 1974
The rearing and teaching of the deaf-blind is carried out in accordance with special guidelines and learning programmes elaborated at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps, and the work is divided into two stages for a pre-school and school period.
In the academic year of 1969-1970 special working groups for pupils over sixteen were set up. The pupils in these groups were to complete training in a specific trade suited to their particular mental and physical capacities.
In the home for deaf-blind children there is also a group of pupils following the syllabus stipulated for classes 5-10 in ordinary schools (i.e. for normal pupils aged between 12 and 17). In accordance with the findings of a teacher’s committee and on recommendation from the relevant research unit at the Institute and with special permission from the RSFSR Ministry for Social Maintenance (under whose jurisdiction the Zagorsk home falls) some of them are allowed to stay on at the home after the age of eighteen for a further period during which they can complete their secondary education and be prepared for university entrance.
Then there is a third group of pupils at the home consisting of deaf-blind children suffering from severe mental retardation, who taken on so that educability of children with multiple handicaps might be assessed.
The pre-school stage in the education of deaf-blind children is aimed at teaching children habits of personal hygiene, self-care skills, the art of speech through mime and gesture and certain elements of verbal language in the form of individual dactylic words.
The length of this stage of instruction depends upon the child’s level of development at the time when he comes to the home and the nature of the disease which robbed him of his sight, hearing and speech. Children who have been given essential basic training in their homes (some in accordance with recommendations from members of staff at the Institute) are able to start their course of instruction at the school, rather than the pre-school stage, or to complete the pre-school programme within a year or two; the other children who have not been given this basic training by their families, whose training has been neglected and who suffer from additional handicaps as well (such as motor handicaps, general physical weakness, etc.) may take four or even five years to complete the pre-school programme.
The teaching of deaf-blind children is embarked upon at the earliest possible age. In accordance with the “Regulations for a Home for Deaf-blind Children” issued on June 14, 1968, children can be enrolled at the home any time from the age of three onwards. However, with a special dispensation, one child even came to us at the age of two. The earlier a deaf-blind child’s instruction begins the greater results in his development can be achieved. When a teaching programme is drawn up for such a child, teachers need to start out not from his age but from the level of his development: if a seven or even a ten-year-old child has not reached the required level of mental and general development, his learning activities still have to follow the same programme as that of children as young as three or four.
Towards the end of the preparatory stage of education a child has to be trained to follow a time-table, possess skills of self-care and orientation in space, to be able to speak using sign language and certain elements of verbal speech (finger-spelling, to play model from plasticine and construct simple objects found in his environment from the components of a construction kit, master skills necessary for engaging in joint activity in the household (washing up, clearing up the play corner, tending indoor plants, etc.), learn to do morning exercises and special P.T. routines (step over sticks, take small jumps, climb up on to a chair, crawl under a string or rope, etc.).
During his instruction at this preparatory stage a child comes to form images of the objects around him and to learn the functions of these objects, which is the vital prerequisite for his subsequent mastering of verbal language and for his transition to the school stage of his learning programme.
In the academic year 1969-1970 there were two groups of children at the home at this preparatory stage. The first group consisted of four children: Valery S., Katya L., Oleg P., and Frol I.
The relevant details from these children’s backgrounds are as follows:
Valery S. came to the home when nearly four. His diagnosis read: deaf-mutism, neuritis of the acoustic nerves resulting from intracranial birth trauma, and cataract in both eyes; some residual sight the degree of which cannot be established. Examination of his auditory sensitivity using tonal audiometry revealed a loss of hearing in the speech range of frequencies (500-4,000 Hz) of between 85 and 95 decibels.
Before coming to the home the child had not been used to a regular time-table, he could not find his way about and was not used to looking after himself in any way: he could not use the pot, or eat properly, he threw toys away and could neither use nor understand any signs.
Valery was taught to follow a regular time-table and some of the basic self-care skills. He learnt to use a spoon properly at meals, to help his teacher when the latter was dressing or undressing him. The first few months at the home showed that he responded successfully to lessons in the basic skills of self-care.
Katya L. left her home to come to us at the age of four. Her diagnosis read: neuritis of the acoustic nerves of unknown etiology; deaf-mutism since the age of two, and a developing cataract in both eyes. Reduced hearing in the speech range of frequencies of 70-80 decibels.
The little girl had not been taught to keep to a regular time-table. She had no self-care skills. She could hold a spoon and with a little help from her teacher was able to use it for eating. If she took a dislike to any food, she used to throw it all out of her plate on to the table and the floor. She actively resisted the people who dressed and undressed her. She had not been toilet-trained.
Frol L came to the home at the age of six and a half. His diagnosis read: congenital damage to the central nervous system, deaf-mutism, underdevelopment and atrophy of the optic nerve in the right eye, leucoma of the cornea in the left eye; some degree of residual vision, that could not be established. Hearing loss in the speech range of 70 decibels.
At home everything had been done for the boy by adults. When he came to us he had not been able to find his way about at all despite his residual vision. He had not acquired any skills of self-care whatsoever. He did not know how to play, used to throw his toys about, understood no signs and had no recourse to them himself.
At the home work was undertaken straight away to teach the boy to find his way about, to acquire skills of self-care, normal habits of everyday behaviour and play, and to learn to make signs.
After the first five months of his first year at the home certain advances in the child’s development were to be observed. The boy had learnt to undress almost independently (all that was required from the teacher by this stage was the initial stimulus for him to start on the task) and could complete certain operations by himself when it came to dressing as well (for instance, when the teacher started putting on his stockings he would pull them up the rest of the way). He learnt to hang the clothes he had taken off over the back of his chair (whereas at first he had just thrown them on the floor). He would attempt to straighten out his bedclothes when it was time to get ready for bed. With regard to playing the boy had only grasped the external aspect of the activity: for instance, he used to lay a doll in the toy cot and place all the blankets, pillows and sheets on top of her. He had not vet grasped that toys were real objects in miniature. So far the boy had been unable to take in exercises designed to promote sensorimotor development and refused to participate.
Oleg P. joined the home at the age of six. His diagnosis read: loss of speech and hearing after meningoencephalitis at the age of one year and seven months; cataract in both eyes. The child had gone blind at one year and eleven months but when he had been operated on at the age of three (right eye) and then four (left eye) his sight had been partially restored. His hearing loss was 75 decibels.
It was Oleg’s mother who began to teach him self-care skills. When he came to the home he was able to eat with a spoon, dress and undress himself with only very little help, and play with toys: he could rock a doll and push a toy car along. He made no attempt to communicate through signs: when he needed something he would take an adult by the hand and lead him or her over to the relevant object.
In the space of three months at the home he had learnt to order his day by a regular time-table, to go to the lavatory on his own and use the toilet properly, to wash his hands and face with soap, to wipe his hands and face after a meal with a napkin, to dress and undress, fasten and unfasten buttons.
The boy was also given special learning exercises, such as sorting objects according to shape and size, assembling and taking apart towers and matrvoshka dolls. In those early months he also learnt to understand certain signs such as eat, sleep, lavatory, dress, undress, although he did not make use of them on his own as yet.
Oleg made good progress in learning to play in the toy corner. With a certain amount of help from his teacher, he could dress and undress a doll, put it to bed and “feed” it, using toy crockery and furniture. All these activities were accompanied by corresponding signs, of which the boy was beginning to understand an increasing number.
Their first months at the home had revealed these children’s capacity for development.
The learning programme for this group of children incorporated the following points:
1. Further Habituation to Their Daily Time-table.
2. Orientation Skills. The children were to be helped to form a correct conception of the arrangement of objects in their room, the corridor, the bathroom, the cloak-room and the dining room; to learn to make their own way to the dining room and lavatory; to learn to distinguish between their own and others’ clothes; to get to know their own place in the dining room and at the work-table.
3. Formation and Refinement of Self-Care Skills. The children (Valery S. and Katya L.) were to be taught to use the pot on their own, to cooperate with the adult dressing and undressing them, to wash their hands on their own, to feed correctly and to clear their plates and cutlery from the table after a meal (Oleg P. and Frol I.).
4. Learning to Play. The children were to be taught to correlate toys and real objects and to learn what to do with toys.
5. Development of Communication. The children were to be taught to understand and denote through signs activities forming part of the day-to-day time-table (eating, sleeping, dressing, undressing, going, washing, and using the toilet), to be taught signs in the course of their games (doll, toy furniture, toy crockery, etc.), to understand request signs such as Bring-me-the-ball, doll, cup, spoon, etc., to develop active use of signs in learning games (such as “What doll is missing?”), to refer to their teachers and other children by the initials of their first names (finger-spelt initials that is).
6. Sensorimotor Development. The children were to be taught to pile up the rings of a sorting pyramid on the central rod, to sort sticks and cubes into different boxes and to thread beads on to a string. They were also to carry out special exercises in order to prepare them for learning to communicate using Braille and manual alphabet; to learn to imitate finger configurations, to group together cards on to which are stuck cardboard circles representing the various Braille letters, to model simple objects. They were to develop their movements in special exercises and action games.
The second group of children at the preparatory stage in their education programme were three little girls – Rita L., Lena G. and Elena B.
Rita L. came to the home aged two years and eight months. Her diagnosis read: congenital deaf-mutism, congenital cataract in both eyes, residual vision insofar as sensitivity to light was retained. Loss of hearing in the speech range of frequencies of 80-85 decibels.
When Rita arrived, she had no self-care skills at all. During her first eight months, she learnt how to eat on her own, to use the pot, to dress and undress, to hang up her clothes tidily, to wash herself using soap, to dry herself with a towel and to hang it up in the appropriate place afterwards, etc. Rita learnt to play with toys: she learnt how to put a doll to bed, to dress, undress and feed it, to take part in role-playing games with the other girls in her group, although admittedly she usually played the passive role of “child” who had things done to her. In the course of special learning exercises she learnt to assemble and take apart sorting pyramids or matryoshka dolls, to group together various objects according to their size or shape. With the help of her teacher she could also do morning exercises.
Lena G. joined us at the age of almost two. Her diagnosis read: congenital deaf-mutism, congenital cataract in both eyes. At the age of three and a half the right eye was operated on and partial sight restored; the degree of vision could not be ascertained, however. Hearing loss was 80-85 decibels.
In the first few weeks at the home for deaf-blind children Lena was broken of the habit of being constantly carried around by adults. It took almost four months to toilet-train her. During her first year Lena learnt to find her way about within a familiar setting, and mastered the basic self-care skills: eating with a spoon, drinking from a cup, dressing and undressing. At the end of her second year Lena could find her way about easily within the rooms of the home and in the garden.
She had also learnt by then to look after herself in all respects: to undress and dress herself, to hang up her clothes tidily (she had also learnt to differentiate among her various garments and to put them away). She had learnt to eat independently, to use a napkin, to wash herself with soap, to dry herself with a towel and to use the toilet.
She enjoyed being taught how to use various toys and other learning materials, she took part in such work with obvious interest. Gradually she became more painstaking at lessons. She learnt to take apart and assemble sorting pyramids; to distinguish between toys of various shapes (cubes and balls) and group them together accordingly; to play with dolls (wrap them up, put them to bed, feed them and push them around in a pram or toy car); to enjoy ball games – to roll balls from wherever she might be sitting to the wall, to throw a ball to her teacher; to knead and roll out plasticine; to tear and fold in half pieces of paper; to play with simple puzzles (placing shapes in their appropriate holes); to climb up wall ribs, jump from a chair to the floor, crawl under a rope, and to perform simple physical exercises.
She also enjoyed action games such as “Catch me!” and “Train.” In addition to these action games and exercises much time and attention were devoted to developing the child’s means of communication: she was given her first instruction in sign language. By the end of the second year Lena had mastered about thirty signs, denoting regular activities in her daily routine, skills of self-care, and individual toys. She made active use of these in her communication with people around her.
In learning games such as “Dressing Dolly,” “Putting Dolly to Bed,” and “Feeding Dolly” Lena’s new skills and signs to denote them were consolidated.
At the very end of her second year she started to show an interest in dactylic speech. She “inspected” the hands of other pupils and adults, when they were conversing using finger-spelling. Sometimes she would try to make a finger movement similar to one she had “observed” into the palm of another child. Lena realised that moving fingers over the palm of another person constituted “conversation.” First attempts were then made to show her the initial letters of her teachers’ names and those of her favourite toys (doll, ball).
By the end of the second year Lena was able to fingerspell the initial letters of her teachers’ names and of the words ball and doll.
In the third year of the preparatory stage Lena learnt additional skills of self-care and refined those already acquired: she learnt to straighten out and tuck in her bedclothes, to brush her teeth, to distinguish between her right and left shoes as she got dressed and also between the back and front of a pair of tights, to tie up her shoe laces and to help teachers dress the younger children.
Specially organised opportunities for Lena and her fellow pupils to “observe” adults in the home going about their work, animal life (rabbits), changes in the weather and to undertake household tasks within their grasp (helping wash dolls’ clothes, dusting the furniture in the room shared by the three girls, helping to change bed linen on bath-days) encouraged her to take a greater interest in the life around her and to extend her sign vocabulary.
Lena learnt new signs quickly and made active use of them in her communication with others.
Towards the end of her third year at the home Lena had learnt close on ninety signs, that denoted not only activities in the daily routine, skills that the routine required of her, but also various natural phenomena (snow, rain), expressions of emotion (crying, laughing, anger). She learnt how to convey to other people through signs, both requests and accounts of what she had seen and experienced.
In the course of her learning games Lena learnt to differentiate various sets of objects by shape and size. By feeling them over she could pick out a single object from a whole group of others.
In classification games involving toy articles she learnt to put articles away according to their designation (linen in the linen cupboard, crockery in the sideboard, etc.). She learnt to construct objects out of wooden rods and cubes from models or from memory, or by imitating the actions of her teacher.
She learnt to roll out plasticine into long sausages, to join the ends of these together to make rings, to mould plasticine using circular movements to make balls and then to make indentations in the latter (producing apple shapes, for instance).
The range of action games, in which she could take part, also grew and she learnt to cope with more complex rules and to respond to the signals given her by her teacher.
She could climb well and nimbly through a hoop, under a rope, step or jump over various obstacles, jump up and down on the spot on either one or two legs.
In the second half of Lena’s third year the teachers began to replace certain signs with dactylic words, and give instructions to the girl partly in dactylic words and partly in signs (for the phrase go walk she would use a finger word and a sign; for the phrase give ball she would use a sign and a finger word).
By the end of the third year Lena could spell out the whole of her name in dactylic letters, also the names of the other girls in her group, those of her teachers and moreover the words doll, ball, tea, give, soup. She understood and responded to instructions conveyed to her in finger-spelling (go for a walk, come and eat, give ball, give doll).
Lena often asked of her own accord if someone would show her in manual letters the name of this or that article.
During the summer holidays Lena was at home with her family and no one worked with the girl which resulted in her forgetting almost all these manual words. However, her interest in the work continued unabated. During the next academic year she continued to work at her finger-spelling with a lively interest. She quickly re-learnt the dactylic words which she had known before.
She mastered new dactylic words as well, and learnt to spell them out independently (pudding, soup, tea, milk, bread, coffee, walk, go, give chair). Some of her requests she also learnt to express in dactylic letters: give ball, give doll, give chair, give soap.
Elena B. came to the home at the age of four. Her condition was diagnosed as follows: after-effects of a birth trauma (interruption of cerebral circulation); deaf-mutism, congenital cataract in both eyes, a convergent squint. Hearing loss in the speech range of frequencies of 70-75 decibels. At the age of eleven months Elena underwent an operation on her right eye which was successful, and partial sight was restored. The left eye was operated on when Elena was aged two and a half. The second operation was not a success and, according to the mother, it was after that that the squint appeared and the girl’s sight deteriorated. It was not possible to check the degree of vision, but the residual sight still possessed by the girl helps her find her way about, and at a distance of between ten and twenty centimetres from her face to distinguish objects and gestures. Before the age of two the mother had already started to teach Elena skills of self-care. At the age of three the child was sent to an ordinary kindergarten. The teachers at the kindergarten used to give Elena individual sessions and continued to develop self-care skills. They taught her to follow a regular timetable, to eat by herself, to use a pot, to wash her hands, to help an adult when he or she was undressing or dressing a younger child. Efforts were made to involve the little girl in group communal work. While performing her monitorial duties Elena laid the table putting out spoons, plates and bread and later after the meal cleared the tables.
In the kindergarten Elena was taught to play: to wrap up a doll in a blanket, rock it to sleep, make the doll’s bed. When the little girl came home from the kindergarten in the evening her mother tried to involve her in her own household chores. If the mother was doing the washing, she would set up a small chair nearby for her daughter, pour some warm water into a bowl and let Elena wash her doll’s clothes, which she would then hang up on a washing line using clothes pegs.
For her communication with her mother and the other children in the kindergarten Elena invented certain signs. When she wanted to eat, she would point a finger into her open mouth. She conveyed the idea drink by moving her lower jaw up and down. If Elena pulled her pants down that showed she wanted to go to the lavatory. Washing hands, face or hair she would convey by hand movements representing these procedures; the idea of going she conveyed by swinging her hands backwards and forwards as she would do when walking along, the idea of going somewhere she conveyed by waving her hand in the required direction, that of sitting by patting the seat of a chair or settee with her hand.
After spending a year in this ordinary kindergarten Elena joined our school. Elena found no difficulty in adapting to our household routine. She quickly learned to find her way about her room, the floor and later the whole building and the garden.
Work then began on refining those skills of self-care she already possessed and developing her capacity for play, and she started special exercises for promoting her sensorimotor development and extending her means of communication.
By the beginning of her second year in the home Elena’s self-care skills had perfected considerably as had her behaviour patterns. At meal times she sat properly at table, used a spoon, knife, fork and napkin, ate cleanly, and at the end of a meal would make a sign to say “Thank you” without needing to be reminded. Elena had learnt to brush her teeth, use the toilet Properly, dress and undress herself quickly (without putting her tights, pants or vest on back to front), and tell her left shoe from her right.
The main objective in teaching work with Elena at that time was to develop the range of her means of communication. The one-word signs (such as eat, drink, wash) which she had mastered before coming to the home, were not enough to enable her to communicate with other people. All the objects connected with the actions the girl carried out in self-care procedures and in her daily routine, the toys, actions required in games she now learnt to denote with new signs. In her first few weeks Elena learnt to understand most of these signs. The next step was for the teacher to guide Elena’s hands to reproduce the signs, and then Elena began to repeat some of them independently, and soon started using them to communicate with others. After spending a mere two months in the home Elena had learnt more than thirty signs. By the end of the first academic year the little girl’s vocabulary consisted of ninety signs and included not merely individual words but also sign sentences. Elena could also use signs to convey short accounts of events in which she had played a part. In the middle of her first year Elena could follow instructions for learning tasks designed to build up her verbal dactylic speech. Certain actions and familiar objects were referred to by the initial letters of the words denoting them. After Elena had been given frequent opportunities to observe manual conversations between older pupils she started to imitate the “conversations”: she tried to make small movements with her fingers on the palms of the other children. Gradually certain signs came to be replaced with dactylic words. By the end of the first year of instruction Elena could independently finger-spell her own name and also the name of her teacher and several other words, such as tea and give (these involve the same vowel sound in Russian – chai, dai). She understood the dactylic words for pudding, soup, tea, ball, water, chair, table, doll (all consisting of either one or two syllables in Russian. – Trans.). Elena was also competent at joining in such games as “Mothers and Daughters,” “Nurses and Doctors,” “Hairdressers.”
Work programmes to foster the development of such children are aimed at refining existing skills of self-care, inculcating habits of polite and clean behaviour, at educating through work (such as tidying the play corner, dusting, participation in group work to tidy up the room), at developing play activities (through games such as “Who Is Absent? “, “Dolly’s Bath,” “Shops”); the children are also taught to model in plasticine and to work with paper (cutting and gluing). They do physical exercises to improve their walking, running, jumping and climbing skills, and take part in action games such as hide-and-seek, rolling a ball through a hoop and racing over a specific distance to a known target such as a flag.
Children’s means of communication are developed both as they go about seeing to their own daily needs, in games, at walks and as they are being taught manual work skills. In addition special study sessions are provided during which the children carry out commands from their teacher transmitted to them in finger-spelling: Give chair, Give doll, etc. Dactylic words are also used to describe actions that have been performed or have taken place: “Doll fell,” “Lena sat.” The children are also taught to name objects such as their garments, parts of the body, household articles, pieces of furniture, things outside in the garden or street.
During the school period deaf-blind pupils master verbal language, study the subjects of the general curriculum, and acquire the work skills in one or another of the home’s workshops.
At this stage instruction is based on the materials and teaching programmes for speech development, object lessons, mathematics, practical work sessions and physical training elaborated at the Institute.
Materials in these teaching programmes are designed for children who have completed the preparatory stage in the home for deaf-blind children or at home. The programme covers a nine-year period, during which it is anticipated that pupils will come to master verbal language, cover the general knowledge programme of an ordinary primary school and develop the necessary physical and work skills enabling them to make the subsequent transition to an apprenticeship in one of the trades open to them.
Study sessions for these children take place not only in the morning but also in the afternoon after the children’s daily walk and in the evening. Many of the lessons, particularly object lessons, are conducted in the form of excursions and outings.
There now follows a short resume of the basic materials used in speech development, arithmetic and object lessons.
Mastering means of communication is a vital factor in the tuition of a deaf-blind child. Signs are the first special means of communication he learns. He uses them to denote objects, their functions, actions and elements of behaviour. Learning to use signs is a vital step in the child’s speech development.
The next stage in teaching a deaf-blind child to communicate is developing verbal speech. Word speech in its manual form is the superstructure built up on the basis of sign-speech; it takes shape and emerges within sign-speech as a variant of the latter, and then proceeds to develop as an independent dominant speech form.
This development proceeds as follows. Signs denoting familiar objects encountered frequently in the course of the daily routine are gradually replaced by words in finger spelling. For the child these designations are also signs, merely signs with a different configuration. It is indicated to him through a sign that a given object can be denoted in another way. Later he denotes the object shown to him with what is for him a new sign, without even suspecting that he already masters a word consisting of letters, just as a child with normal sight and hearing, on learning to speak in his third year of life, does not know that he is using words made up of letters.
Learning verbal language starts not with letters but with words, and not simply with words as such but with words as part of connected meaningful text. The sense context for the child’s first words are signs. The child’s first dactylic words are incorporated into a story that is transmitted by means of mime. Only after a child has mastered several dozen words denoting concrete objects can it come to grips with the dactylic alphabet, which in practical terms it has already learnt. Once it has mastered finger-spelling it can be taught any word, provided the correlation between the object and the corresponding sign is made clear.
Learning by heart the letters of the dactylic alphabet is a tremendously important step forward, because in so doing the child is learning to perceive dactylic letters conveyed by the hand of his teacher.
After learning the dactylic alphabet by heart, the child is acquainted with Braille signs for the letters. Each Braille letter is associated in the child’s mind with the manual designation of that letter, with which he is already familiar.
The child needs to achieve a perfect manual “articulation” and get a faultless grasp of Braille letters made up of dots. To work towards this end a special vocabulary of two or three dozen words is selected, words denoting objects with which the child is familiar. This vocabulary is subsequently used as a means to mastering the most important feature of verbal language – namely, grammatical structures.
It is important to note here that the child masters grammatical structures through his practical language work; he does not make a study of grammar as such. It is in a similar way that a child with normal sight and hearing comes to master speech, for at the age of two or three he uses language correctly but naturally has no knowledge of grammar.
In order that the child master the grammatical structures of word language the written word must be exploited – namely reading and writing. At first the teacher teaches the pupil to read and write texts consisting of simple non-expanded sentences describing actions involving objects. Then the texts are made more complex by the introduction of simple expanded sentences. Words and word-groups, all grammatical categories in logical connected text describing an event familiar to the child, are mastered by him as they are absorbed into his system of image-and-action reflection of the particular event concerned. In the course of this process it is essential that each new word and each new grammatical category is complemented by an immediate image of the concept designated by the word or grammatical category in question.
To promote faultless mastery of language a system of parallel texts has been evolved: texts presented to the pupils by their teacher in the course of their class-work and “spontaneous” texts composed by the pupils on their own.
New words and grammatical categories are gradually introduced into the class texts presented to pupils by the teacher. When composing his own text describing an event familiar to him the pupil makes use of the new forms provided earlier in the class text and consolidates his knowledge of them by using them in his own material.
Reading is a vitally important factor in deaf-blind children’s instruction. The gradual initiation of a child into the art of reading Braille literature, the imparting of a love for books and fostering the habit of reading both fiction and popular science books are all conditions for his subsequent attainment of a high level of development in the process of self-education, and “the sky’s the limit.”
While pupils are working towards this mastery of elements of narrative speech, work is also in progress to develop their conversational speech (in dactylic form), first as hortatory sentences and later more complex ones.
The low level of a child’s initial mastery of verbal speech must not be allowed to limit his communication, because that in its turn would inevitably hold back his overall development. It is essential, particularly in the early period of his tuition, that communication via signs be extensively used.
Oral (vocal) speech is riot a medium of teaching for deaf-blind children, it is a subject of study for them. Work at vocalisation is conducted at individual lessons. The level of a pupil’s articulatory skills should not constitute an obstacle impeding his mastery of verbal language.
In the teaching of deaf-blind children object lessons constitute one of the main methods for transmitting to them knowledge about the world around them. Objects are studied in a specially designed sequence, the correlations and interrelations within which must be comprehensible to the child. At object lessons, which coincide with lessons for speech development, pupils come to master new phenomena of language and develop their skills in verbal communication.
Knowledge acquired during object lessons is then consolidated through reading and working at class texts. Pupils write compositions on their own which are then corrected and amplified by their teacher. Class texts are either compiled by the teacher or selected from readers and presented to pupils in a form accessible to them. These class texts are compiled in such a way as to encourage the pupil’s logical thinking, to help him express his thoughts, to enrich his speech and to consolidate the knowledge he has obtained at object lessons. When pupils are called upon to read class texts and write compositions, they are acquiring first-hand knowledge of natural phenomena, typical for the current season, of work-tools and man’s work in agriculture and industry, of all manner of things connected with man’s life and activity of the world of animals and inorganic nature.
The subjects of the pupils’ reading and compositions are determined by the subjects covered in their object lessons, after which pupils go on to consolidate new knowledge in the form of stories accessible at their level.
In the seventh year of their schooling pupils embark upon a systematic course in nature study; they are also given elementary information in geography and in the history of the Soviet Union.
In the years of schooling that follow it is the teacher’s objective to systematise and extend the pupils’ knowledge of nature, to acquaint them with the ways in which man utilises nature, to teach them how to use a map, and to instil in them love and respect for their native land and the desire to take part in socially useful labour.
The curricula for the seventh, eighth and ninth year of schooling provides pupils with a grounding in general knowledge and lays the foundation for their subsequent study of biology, geography, and zoology; it also helps them to understand nature around them, the work performed by their fellow human beings and the world of animals.
The teaching of mathematics to these children is designed to enable them to carry out mathematical operations involving whole numbers and fractions, and then to use this knowledge to solve mathematical problems and carry out simple calculations in practice.
The extent of mathematical information given deaf-blind pupils during their nine years’ schooling corresponds in the main to the material covered in the first four classes of the normal school syllabus (for pupils aged between seven and eleven). However, the order in which the constituent elements of this syllabus are presented to the pupils differs from that used in ordinary schools. The syllabus used for deaf-blind children in the main follows a linear progression: in other words after starting work on a particular topic (such as numeration) pupils follow it right through to the end within the framework of the given syllabus. Then they switch to the next topic which is also followed through to the end. Teachers at our school had to abandon the concentric method for the presentation of mathematical material (when this method is used mathematical operations are studied first within the limits of certain sphere and then extended in broader limits). The linear method proved far more economical at our school in terms of time and helped pupils form a far more complete picture of each topic.
In their first year of schooling the study of mathematics starts out from learning numbers up to a thousand, which enables the pupil to grasp the basic idea of the decimal system. The children are taught to master numeration with the help of counting sticks and other aids. The ordinary abacus also proves a most useful and convenient teaching aid.
Once pupils have a firm grasp of numeration then they move on to the four basic rules of number in the following order: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Pupils are also given materials for the study. of measures. While they are working on concepts of measurement, great importance is attached to practical tasks connected with measurement, weighing and the calculation of distance. Particular attention is paid to teaching pupils units of time and how to tell the time with watches (complete with raised figures).
When being taught to solve mathematical problems, the children start out from practical activities with objects. Gradually these problems become more complex and their solution has less and less to do with concrete actions.
The deaf-blind pupil will be taught verbal communication using the dactylic alphabet; he will master reading and writing using the Braille script. The speech-development syllabus in this year includes teaching children to name (using finger-spelling) objects from his familiar environment, and to understand and carry out simple commands, formulated in words (stand up, go, take, etc.). The pupils learn to denote their actions using simple sentences consisting of words (e.g., I played, I’m writing ... ), to describe the actions of others (Olya’s eating. The doll’s lying.), and to answer simple questions (What’s your name? What were you doing? What did you eat?).
In the course of object lessons the child is made familiar with the home as a whole: the classroom (floor, walls, window, door, radiator, furniture, teaching aids, typewriter, abacus, etc.), the dining room (crockery, furniture), food (soup, pudding, bread, etc.), the bedroom (bed, bedside locker, wardrobe, bed linen), the bathroom (basin, tap, soap, etc.), the cloak-room (hanger, cupboards, shelves where shoes are put to dry).
At a level within the children’s grasp they also study “Clothes” (dress, shirt, trousers, coat, etc.) and “Footwear” (slippers, indoor shoes, walking shoes, felt boots).
The children acquaint themselves with the shape of each thing, learn what it is for, then learn its name and how to denote its function. They also study such topics as “Fruit” and “Vegetables” associated with their meals. While they are being taught clean habits they learn names for the parts of the human body: head (face, cheek, nose, mouth, hair), arms, legs, trunk.
Looking after the animals in Pets’ Corner, they learn the names of animals and birds. When working on the school allotment they make a study of plants, bushes and trees. The children learn to mould out of plasticine the objects they are studying and to recognise models and plaster casts of them.
In lessons the pupils are taught numbers up to a thousand, the signs denoting these numbers and the Braille symbols for them. They are taught to count forwards and backwards. They are introduced to the abacus. In their work on the calendar they master the concepts yesterday today, tomorrow. They also learn to recognise and model spheres, cubes and rods.
The speech-development syllabus for this form is designed to promote the understanding of more complex instructions expressed in words (Sit at desk. Repeat. Give some examples. Take book. Put exercise book on table). The pupil learns to express his requests in words (Give me exercise book please. May I go out? etc.), to give both short and extended answers to questions (Have you written it down? – Yes, I have written it down, etc.) and to ask questions (Who’s come? What’s your name? ).
Pupils learn to put together a narrative describing a number of interrelated actions (Olya sat down. Olya took Plasticine. Olya modelled house. Olya washed hands).
In their object lessons pupils’ knowledge is consolidated and extended via excursions, visits to the Pets’ Corner, and work on the school allotment. The topics studied in the object lessons are partially repeated, but at the same time the children’s vocabularies are extended. At the home the children are introduced to the library, the doctor’s consulting room, the staff room, and in the dining room children investigate crockery and various appliances. When pupils visit the homes of their teachers, they are introduced to the latters’ family (father, mother, children), these people’s professions (driver, doctor, road-sweeper, stoker, technician), with features of the town (blocks of flats, roads, pavements), with transport, household pets and study the topics “Garden,” “Allotment,” “Wood,” “Meadow,” “River.” They are taught the names of the seasons and various kinds of weather (winter, summer, autumn, spring, snow, rain) and join in the celebrations for various public holidays.
In their mathematics lessons they are taught addition involving up to three figures (without having to carry). They learn the concepts week, month (as they make dated notes in their exercise books). They learn the ideas of a circle, square, triangle, rectangle.
At the end of the second year pupils are taught to solve adding sums and add a small number of units to a number.
The speech-development syllabus for this year requires that pupils learn to carry on conversations using dactylic words on certain themes which they sustain for several sentences: “Where are you going? – To the doctor – Why? My foot hurts. I was out sledging and fell.” Pupils learn to express in a narrative sequence the events of their day (“How I Spent Sunday”) and they learn to write letters.
In their object lessons they continue their study of the home (kitchen, boiler room, shower-room) and in the dining room they study food, crockery, furniture. They familiarise themselves and learn the names for various types of clothing, footwear, headwear. They make a broader and more detailed study of the concepts family (brothers, sisters, grandchildren, etc.) and profession (hairdresser, postman, tailor, etc.)
During their outings to the country the pupils are acquainted with the work of the farmers, inspect the livestock and agricultural machines. They cover such topics as “Insects,” “Fishes,” “Animals” (tame and wild), “Vegetables,” “Fruit,” “Indoor Plants,” “Woods.” They continue to study the changing seasons and celebrate the public holidays of the Soviet people.
In mathematics they study addition involving carrying with units and tens and addition with three figure numbers without carrying. They are introduced to the shapes of the figures used by sighted people, to coins, the various notes of paper money, and measures such as litre and half-litre. The children are taught to do adding sums involving one or two operations.
The speech-development syllabus for pupils of the fourth year provides for teaching pupils to carry on question-answer type conversations independently, and to answer questions with a short narrative (“Where have you been? – I went to the shop. Nina Ivanovna gave me money. I bought a book”), and they are taught to write letters to their parents, friends and teachers. The pupils also learn to describe events from their personal experience in a sustained narrative.
In object lessons they continue their investigation of the home (taking in the various floors, the cellar and the attic), gradually building up a picture of the house as a whole and extending their knowledge of the function of all the premises, and of the work that goes on in them. Special excursions enable them to learn about various types of shops (a dairy, grocery shop, the baker’s). Pupils are taught to classify various objects in groups: food (raw, cooked, liquid, solid), footwear (leather, rubber), etc. Their concept of the family is extended to include such members as sisters, grandmothers, uncles. They learn to identify the seasons and months of the year and learn about the woods in more detail (mushrooms, berries, etc.), also the near-by allotment (edible plants and weeds) and they start to keep a nature calendar.
In mathematics they learn to do subtraction sums involving numbers up to a thousand and to solve problems using subtraction.
In the fifth year the speech-development syllabus is designed to teach pupils to give a detailed account of an errand they have performed (I went to the kitchen. I asked the cook for beetroot. I brought the beetroot to the classroom.), to describe in words (dactylic and in Braille) an event or series of events picking out essential details, and to expound something he or she has read in answer to questions from the teacher.
In object lessons pupils keep their own nature calendars.
At the end of each month they compare their calendars with the corresponding ones from the previous year. In their Pets’ Corner they learn to look after animals: rabbits and fish in the aquarium. They grow plants from seeds, bulbs or cuttings, first in seed boxes and later in beds.
As the pupils look after indoor plants and later beds in the allotment, the teacher develops their work habits and extends their knowledge of plants and potential skills for this work. They also extend their knowledge on other topics: “Garden,” “Woods,” “Animals,” “Seasons” (early and late spring, autumn, winter, summer).
Pupils read appropriate passages from the reader for Form Two of the ordinary school. (In the school for the deaf-blind some text-books designed for ordinary schools are used, only they are printed in Braille script.) The teachers provide commentaries to these texts, and teaching aids are also used.
In mathematics the pupils study linear measures, multiplication, units of time (days, hours, minutes, seconds) and learn to do simple multiplication sums.
According to the speech-development syllabus of the sixth year, pupils are taught how to describe in words (through “conversation” or in written compositions) various objects with which they are familiar (the school, an animal or plant). They start keeping a regular diary. They describe outings and the life in their home. They write précis of reader stories on the basis of plans drawn up in advance.
During their object lessons they study the weather of the various seasons, the link between the weather and various types of labour. They make a comparative study of town and country, life (what people do there). They are acquainted with social institutions: health centres, chemist shops, post offices, railway stations, harbours, aerodromes, etc. They extend their knowledge of wild and tame animals, of the garden, vegetable allotment and near-by woods. They learn about the surrounding countryside outside their town (meadows, fields, copses, orchards), they learn how to find their way about in open fields, and form an idea of different kinds of land surface (plains, hills, gullies). They model the relief of their locality in plasticine. Pupils also read the relevant chapters in the standard readers for ordinary schools (Books Two and Three).
In mathematics lessons they now tackle division. They are introduced to weights, and start using scales, and doing division sums.
The speech-development syllabus for this year requires of the children that they learn to describe an object (such as a room or an animal) in comparative terms, provide detailed accounts of excursions picking out the salient points of their experience, keep a diary with regular entries on specific topics, such as the weather or their work, write a précis of material they have read (with or without a plan made out in advance), carry on conversations on a variety of subjects and at different levels depending upon whether they are talking to an adult or another child.
During their object lessons the children work on such topics as “Weather and the Harvest,” “Climate,” “Nature and the Changing Seasons.” Throughout the year a detailed nature calendar is kept, and comparisons between current entries and those of previous years are made from which conclusions are drawn. The children study the points of the compass (using special compasses for the blind), learn to understand and distinguish North, South, East and West, make plans of their room, or house in relief, and later relief models of the surrounding countryside. They start to grasp the concept of scale.
Pupils are introduced to relief maps of larger areas and countries, and a globe as a model of the earth.
As the pupils study the important dates in their countries calendar this work is supplemented by. reading the relevant passages from readers used in primary classes of ordinary schools (for pupils aged between eight and ten).
In mathematics pupils begin to study simple fractions and numbers consisting of several figures. Pupils carry out sums in the four rules of number using numbers up to a million, including problems involving parts of a whole. In geometry lessons the children are introduced to the concepts straight line, section: they learn to build squares and rectangles with sides of a specified length.
In the eighth year the speech-development syllabus requires of the children the ability to work out a number of alternative answers to one and the same question, to describe an excursion in a composition written according to an independently devised plan, to write a précis of a story they have read, to write an essay on a subject of their own choice or one set by the teacher.
During object lessons pupils work on such topics as “Characteristic Features of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring,” “Flowers,” “Vegetables,” “Weeds,” “Useful and Harmful Animals,” “Plants Growing in Woods and Gardens.”
Practical tasks are carried out: pupils make starch from potatoes, plant out seedlings, gather in the garden crops. Pupils are introduced to the concepts: year, month, season, twenty-four-hour period, morning, afternoon, evening, night. They are taught to draw diagrams for classifying animals and plants. They read abridged, adapted versions of texts from the reader designed for ten-year-old pupils at ordinary schools that treat of their country’s past; and texts that tell of explorers and other famous men and women in the reader for nine-year-old pupils.
In mathematics pupils study prime and compound concrete numbers, reduction, conversion and arithmetical operations involving compound concrete numbers.
Pupils also study a table of units of time. They learn to solve problems in the calculation of time units and simple problems involving speed, time and movement.
The Ninth Year
The speech-development syllabus for pupils in the ninth year provides for their tuition in free communication with the people around them in verbal language; in reading simple fiction and popular science books, writing compositions which depict events both in their own lives and in those of others’, writing compositions on set subjects (such as bird life, winter, etc.).
The object lesson syllabus continues nature study, study of the human body and personal hygiene. Information about the work carried out by various groups of people living in the Soviet Union, as well as more detailed information regarding the present and past of their native land is given. Topics such as “The Surface of Land,” “Minerals,” “Water in Nature,” “Air,” etc. are studied. When working on the topic “The Human Body and Keeping It Healthy” pupils study the skeleton, muscles, internal organs, feeding, diet, physical training, and they are also given some information regarding disease. In their practical sessions for this topic they are taught to feel a pulse, to count the pulse rate, to point out on their own body and those of other pupils the position of the heart and other major internal organs, to bandage cuts and wounds and to administer first aid for burns, frost-bite, etc.
Pupils are taught about the past and present of their country with the help of texts from the Form Four reader used in ordinary schools (pupils aged ten).
In their mathematics lessons these pupils learn Roman numerals, and how to measure area: they are introduced to the table of square measures, and to the measurement of volume. They learn to solve simple problems involving the calculation of area and volume.
The volume of knowledge covered in the syllabuses drawn up for our deaf-blind pupils, and the order in which topics are introduced are in no way binding for every pupil. The material outlined above provides initial guide-lines, which the teacher can refer to as he compiles a learning programme for each of his pupils that will take into account the latter’s individual characteristics. The allocation of various materials to specific years of the schooling programme should also be regarded as approximate and should in no way inhibit the teacher’s initiative. Some pupils will succeed in mastering the material outlined much more quickly than is suggested in the programme, while others, suffering from additional handicaps, will require more time than that stipulated.
It should also be borne in mind that some of the pupils will overtake the others in their class, while others will fall behind. Sometimes this makes it necessary to transfer a pupil from one group to another in the course of the school year.
For schooling purposes groups of three pupils are selected: for the most part these three will work through the syllabus of one and the same year and possess a similar level of development. This makes it possible to use the technical equipment available at the home (various types of teletactor) at the lessons. However, it is sometimes advisable to group together pupils of varying degrees of development, when relationships between the latter shape in such a way that one serves as a model for another pupil and helps the latter. In both cases each pupil is taught according to an individual plan and at the optimal rate for his abilities.
Pupils’ capacities for assimilating a certain body of knowledge and the rate at which this can be done are determined by the individual characteristics of the pupils, which in turn depend upon the nature of the illness which impaired their sight and hearing in the first place, on the vestiges of sight and hearing perhaps still in their possession, on the conditions of life a child knew before coming to the home for the deaf-blind for tuition and the level of development he or she had attained in those early conditions.
In accordance with the methods used to teach them reading and writing, that were, in their turn, determined by the state of their sight, pupils at this school stage were divided into two subsections (consisting of sixteen and eight pupils respectively). The pupils in the first group (sixteen) were taught to read and write with the help of Braille script. Pupils in the second sub-section (eight), who were able to take in lesson material relying on their residual sight, used special text-books for the partially sighted (printed in large letters) and were taught to write “as the sighted.”
The first group, using Braille script, included pupils who were completely blind in both eyes (Fanil S., Vitya K., and Volodya T.) likewise Tolya Ch., who retained some sensitivity to light, enough to enable him to distinguish light from darkness, Semyon B., with a negligible amount of residual sight enabling him to distinguish finger movements at a close distance from his face, and finally pupils with central vision of between 0.01 and 0.04, able to use their sight to help them find their way about (Yana K., Tanya S., Lida A., Anna P., Olya Sh., Galya R., Sanya Ch., Dmitry H., Tata P.) Nata Ch., whose vision after correction had an acuity of no more than 0.09 and who, at her ophthalmologist’s recommendation was being taught Braille script was also assigned to this group, as well as Alexei B., whose sight in his one remaining eye had an acuity of 0.07 and was deteriorating.
In the second group (in which reading and writing were being taught as to sighted pupils) were placed pupils with 0.1 vision (Zana S., Misha F., Seryozha B., Dima D.), as well as pupils whose vision after correction had improved to as much as 0.3 (Lyuda S., Shura Ch., Sasha K., Inna X).
A special approach was needed in the case of children suffering from after-effects of diseases of the central nervous system, manifest in mental deficiencies, asthenia, motor malfunctions. These pupils were Tata P., taught with Braille script, Inna A. and Dima D., who were taught as sighted children.
Further perusal of diagnostic data and a resume of the progress made in teaching these children is most relevant here.
Fanil S. only began his proper schooling at the age of fourteen. His condition was diagnosed as follows: meningitis at the age of twenty months after which there followed complete loss of sight, hearing and speech. Subatrophy of both eyes and total blindness. Deaf-mutism. No vestiges of hearing found.
According to the boy’s parents, the child had been born normal. He began to walk before he reached the age of one year and he had started to use individual words, before his illness struck. Up until the age of twenty months he had been a strong, healthy child. When he fell ill, his parents did not call in the doctor at once and the diagnosis of meningitis was only established two months afterwards, when the boy had already lost his sight and hearing. The boy then stopped uttering the words he had known before.
Until the age of fourteen Fanil had lived at home, where his parents had taught him self-care habits and had initiated him in various work skills. At the time when he came to the home for the deaf-blind Fanil understood individual instinctive signs, shown to him through his own hands. Yet he made no independent use of these same gestures. In one school year he succeeded in covering the syllabus for the whole of the preparatory course.
The boy was clean in his personal habits and knew the basic rules of polite behaviour. In the morning he used to make his own bed, do his exercises, take a strip-wash, brush his teeth, wash his feet at night, look after his clothes and put them away tidily, etc. He learnt to mould objects from plasticine, to put together. various models using the parts of his construction set and take part in socially useful work, such as tidying up the classroom or the garden. He learnt signs and began to use them in order to communicate with his teacher and his fellow pupils as well. He also learnt the dactylic names of certain objects and actions. He learnt to read and write a number of words in Braille script, words which designated objects with which he was really familiar. He learnt to count up to a hundred, using signs, and to designate these figures by raised dots.
During the second year of his schooling Fanil covered the syllabus for the first year of tuition in the school for the deaf-blind: he learnt to communicate via signs and some dactylic words; he learnt to describe certain actions and “events,” consisting of a number of actions using dactylic and written words, in Braille script; he began to write short compositions describing his life and to keep a diary. Work now started on teaching Fanil to vocalise certain words.
In his third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh years of schooling Fanil covered the syllabus envisaged by the programme for the deaf-blind. For communication purposes he uses finger-spelling and is able to ask questions independently and to provide correct answers to questions put to him by others. When communicating with people who can hear he vocalises ordinary words. He conducts a correspondence with his relatives on his own. He is able to type with an ordinary type-writer. He keeps a diary. He is able to describe excursions, in which he has taken part. He enjoys reading fiction (either stories written in simple language or adapted texts). He can solve simple sums and mathematical problems.
During his time at the Zagorsk home he has acquired work skills in the carpentry and sewing shops and learnt to use machine-tools for the production of safety-pins. He started working at a professional level (as a member of the association of blind workers) during the fourth year of his schooling. His output was of a high quality free from rejects. He received wages and sent money home to his parents.
Vitya K. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of ten. His condition was diagnosed as the outcome of intrauterine injury to the central nervous system and subsequent complications; cataract in both eyes, secondary glaucoma and blindness; deaf-mutism.
His auditory capacity was investigated using tonal audimetry and the loss of hearing established was as follows: for frequencies of 125, 250 Hz – 65 decibels; for frequencies of 500 Hz – 60 decibels; 1,000 Hz – 65 decibels; 2,000 Hz – 70 decibels; 3,000 Hz – 75 decibels.
Vitya had been one month overdue at birth. At birth the child had edema of the head and clefts in cranial sutures (of 1 to 2 cm).
At three and a half months the parents noticed that the boy did not react adequately to light. An examination at the local clinic revealed that as a result of the injuries sustained at birth and the late delivery Vitya’s sight and hearing were impaired. At the age of five an attempt was made to teach the child in a pre-school group of deaf and dumb children. It is not known what residual sight the child possessed at that time, but after spending three and a half months in a group the boy was removed in view of his weak sight. At six Vitya fell into a cellar and injured his head again: detachment of the retina resulted from this accident and he lost his sight completely. He had never been able to speak. Until the age of eight the boy remained at home where his parents taught him to eat, dress, wash and use the lavatory independently. He had learnt to use some signs. At the age of eight it was decided to place Vitya in a home for handicapped children where he was given no suitable instruction and began to lose the skills and knowledge of signs which he had acquired previously.
He entered the Zagorsk home for deaf-blind children when he still had a good grasp of certain simple signs and possessed a small active vocabulary of signs he used in communication. He had also trained in various skills of self-care.
His behaviour was very excitable, he cried a lot and threw tantrums. He also tired very quickly.
In the first year Vitya was taught habits of correct behaviour, communication through signs, the use of a certain number of manual words and covered the preparatory stage of the course in writing in Braille script.
In his second year Vitya began to work through the syllabus for school work. He managed to keep pace with this course from year to year. In his seventh year at the home Vitya worked through the syllabus for pupils in their sixth year at the school. He was able by that time to communicate with other people using finger-spelling; he understood questions asked of him, was able to answer them and ask questions independently; in manual words or in a written form (Braille script) he was able to describe an event he had witnessed, and he was carrying on a correspondence with his parents. He could use vocal speech as well, although it was badly articulated. He could read and understand class texts specially written for him or taken from the second or third year readers for ordinary schools.
Vitya could do sums and problems taken from mathematics text-books for second- and third-year pupils in ordinary schools. lie worked in the carpentry shop and learnt among other things to use a fret-saw, and he mastered the operations necessary to work machine-tools for the production of safety-pins.
Volodya T. was given individual tuition at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps and then at our home. He began his tuition at the age of seven. His diagnosis read: tuberculosis meningitis at the age of three years and eight months. At the age of one year and four months he had chicken-pox and infectious hepatitis. At the age of two he was discovered to be suffering from enlarged periauricular lymphatic nodes. His parents also noticed that the child had begun to lose his hearing. Before he fell ill with meningitis the boy had only uttered a few individual words such as: papa, mama, baba (granny). He lost his sight and hearing as a result of the tuberculosis meningitis. In the range of usual speech frequencies his hearing loss exceeded 75 decibels.
While still at home Volodya had been taught some self-care skills. When he joined the group of deaf-blind pupils receiving tuition at the Institute at the age of seven, Volodya’s physical development resembled that of a normal five-year-old. He could not tolerate to be on his own and his behaviour was excitable.
The first year at classes provided at the Institute was spent on reorganising his behavioural patterns, training him in the skills of self-care, acquainting the boy with objects around him and teaching him some signs.
During Volodya’s second and third year he was acquainted with his environment in accordance with the pre-school programme. He learnt to use sign-speech and started work on manual and Braille words. He would carry out the instructions of his teacher when these were transmitted in finger-spelling (hortatory speech), and he had learnt to read simple texts in Braille script: he could also count up to thirty.
In his fourth and fifth year of tuition Volodya continued to work at conversation in dactylic form. He started to grasp concepts of time (yesterday, today, tomorrow, week, and the days of the week) and grouping concepts (crockery, clothes, footwear). He began to write a diary, his first compositions and his first letters to his parents. It was also at this time that Volodya read through his first book, which had been specially written for him and consisted of stories describing events from the child’s own life.
Over the course of five years’ tuition Volodya covered the materials designed for the preparatory stage of the course and the first-year school syllabus. By the end of that period the main form of speech he used in communication was finger-spelling. The boy was not yet ready to embark upon the task of vocalising. His written language was well developed: he could describe correctly events that he had witnessed during the course of a walk, while at play or in class, and he was also writing a diary. As regards the standard of his written work, he had reached the level expected of pupils in the third year at the school for the deaf-blind.
For a number of reasons, the boy was taught individually without coming into contact with other pupils. This had an unfavourable effect upon the development of his personality, and also on his progress in certain skills and abilities. These shortcomings in his overall development came immediately to the fore when, in the sixth year of his tuition, he moved to the home for deaf-blind children, where he had to live and work in a group of pupils his own age. It turned out that he was not prepared for communication with other children; he was not able to communicate with them in series of questions and answers. After only communicating with adults prior to this move, he had grown used to carrying out all their demands. He started to obey all the commands of the children without a murmur as well, and the latter, on realising how naive he was, began making fun of him, ordering him to do quite ridiculous things such as to lie down on the floor, to crawl into a cupboard, etc. Volodya then came to fear other children and avoid them.
In the first months that he spent at the home Volodyla began to learn to work in the carpentry shop and learnt to cope with all the work operations required for the manufacture of safety-pins.
Yana K. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of six years and five months. Her condition was diagnosed as stemming from injury to the central nervous system resulting from birth trauma: cataract in both eyes, acuity of vision in both eyes no more than 0.01 and deaf-mutism. The loss of hearing in the range of speech frequencies was 85 decibels.
Between the ages of three and four the little girl had attended a kindergarten, where she had been cared for individually. Between five and six Yana had been at a home for children with impaired hearing, where she had also received individual instruction. By the time she came to us Yana had mastered the skills of self-care: she could eat properly, dress and undress herself, comb her hair, tie a bow in her hair-ribbon, put on her shoes properly and tie up the laces. At the home for the deaf Yana had learnt to carry out the duties of a monitor, laying the table, watering indoor plants, and dusting their leaves with a wet cloth. She had also learnt to “speak” to the other pupils by imitating their mime and sign language. At that stage she had possessed more residual sight than was the case when she came to the home for the deaf-blind. Using what remained of her sight Yana had learnt to read and write large letters. She had also learnt the dactylic alphabet. She had a dactylic vocabulary of ten words, most of which were the names of the people around her. For everything else she used signs. She had also learnt to play with dolls and other toys. With no trouble at all she adapted to the time-table at the home for the deaf-blind. She quickly learnt to find her way about the building and the garden. In a matter of days she had mastered those skills of self-care which she had not possessed hitherto. She learnt to brush her teeth, wash her feet before going to bed, prepare her bed for the night, make it in the morning and wash small articles of clothing.
The girl started learning to play games that were more complicated than those she had known previously. She quickly mastered the point of role-playing and willingly. took on leading parts.
Since Yana had well-developed sign language at her disposal, work on verbal language in her case began with substitution of words for signs. The state of her vision by this time made it imperative to teach her Braille script.
It took the little girl only four months to master the Braille alphabet. By the end of her first year of tuition Yana was able to read short texts in Braille. By the end of her second year at our school she had a vocabulary of two hundred words. She understood questions dealing with household and every-day matters and answered them correctly. Her spontaneous communication with other children and adults consisted of a mixture of signs and dactylic words. At the end of her first year sign language was the dominant form, it merely incorporated isolated dactylic words. During the next year the share of verbal speech increased; her communication through signs incorporated not merely individual words but groups of words and whole sentences.
As Yana’s ability to communicate in words grew, she began to describe objects, actions and events (using dactylic words and the Braille alphabet).
During her first year at the home Yana covered the bulk of the programme of the preparatory stage of her schooling. In the second and third year she covered the material for the first and second years of the deaf-blind’s school course. The next year she also successfully completed the syllabus for the third year of that programme. By this time Yana’s main means of communication was verbal speech using manual words.
She also learnt to vocalise all speech sounds. However, her oral speech at that time was still insufficiently distinct since her enunciatory skills were not yet automatic. She was able to read and understand texts describing events with which she was familiar and was able herself to describe in words (manual or Braille) an excursion she had been on, to write letters, keep a diary; she also learnt to count, do sums and simple problems.
Semyon B. came to the home for the deaf-blind from his own home at the age of eight years and nine months. Prior to that he had had no tuition at all. His condition was diagnosed as the result of intrauterine injury to the central nervous system, deaf-mutism, congenital cataract in both eyes. His hearing was reduced by 80 decibels. He still had some residual vision and could count on his fingers if he held them up in front of his face. From birth he had also suffered from fish-skin disease which reduced the tactile sensitivity in his fingers.
When he came to the home Semyon had some self-care skills and he understood a few natural gestures such as: cat, sleep, get up, dress, wash.
During his first year of instruction the box. was given exercises to develop his skills of self-care. He learnt to put on appropriate clothes at different times of the day and for different activities: he soon did not need reminding to put on his sports outfit for physical training sessions, or to put on his overalls for work sessions. At the end of the year he knew how to brush his teeth and wash his feet before going to bed and was able to make his bed tidily. He also learnt to take part in certain group activities contributing to the running of the household: he helped tidy up the room he shared with other pupils, learnt to water indoor plants and to tidy articles on the shelves in his cupboard and bedside locker.
The boy was also taught to understand a large number of new signs. Later he came to use signs independently. While communicating with him through signs, his teacher also started to introduce a number of short dactylic words and some dactylic letters.
The impaired tactile sensitivity in Semyon’s fingers made it harder than usual to teach this particular boy. to read a script consisting of raised letters. However, special aids helped him surmount even this difficulty.
During his second year Semyon began to have regular lessons in verbal language: in “conversation” (finger-spelling) and writing (Braille script).
Lida A. came to the home at the age of eight. Her diagnosis read: congenital injury to the central nervous system; microphthalmia of the right eye, horizontal nystagmus in both eyes, chorioretinitis, the acuity of vision in the eye that still functioned was 0.03 (with a correction 0.08); deaf-mutism.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
Before Lida came to the home for the deaf-blind she had received tuition in a group of pre-school pupils at a home for the deaf. She had mastered skills of self-care. When she first came to our home, Lida communicated with people via signs referring to various everyday and domestic activities (eat, sleep, wash, go). She had not mastered verbal speech in either its manual or written forms. Initially, she hardly communicated at all with the other children because she had a command of only very few signs, and could not use finger-spelling at all. In her special lessons to promote communication skills Lida was given simultaneous instruction in signs, manual speech and writing. She was taught signs denoting objects, then their dactylic names modelled on special cards with raised shapes.
During her first year of instruction Lida learnt to find her way about her room and the yard most efficiently. She learnt to make her bed tidily and to wash small articles of clothing. She was given her initial instruction in the work skills required for sewing and learnt to hem handkerchiefs. She learnt to communicate with others using sign speech.
By the end of her second year of instruction Lida described an outing at the following level: “September 1st. I saw field. Rye growing. Ear. Grain. Bread. Mushrooms, nuts in wood.”
In the second year of her instruction Lida learnt to answer with dactylic words questions concerning what she had been eating, where she had been, what she had seen during a walk or outing. After paying a visit to Moscow during that year she wrote the following composition: “We went to Moscow. We saw Metro. We went to Pioneers’ Club. Many children in club. I saw many toys.”
In her third year Lida started to incorporate more and more dactylic words into her communication on her own initiative. The compositions she could write had now attained the following degree of complexity: “Yesterday holiday. I went to hall. I danced with Valya. Misha, Sashahares. Vova-bear. Misha horse run. He fell. Fir-tree in hall. Jolly. On Sunday I not learn. I went walk. Warm outside. Frost on trees. I played with Nadya, Galya, hitting boys. Vova hit boys and girls hard. Vova tired, fell in snow.”
In her fourth year at the home Lida was able to use finger-spelling to carry on conversation on a specific subject. She could for example carry out the following instruction from her teacher conveyed in dactylic words: “Lida, tell Seryozha how you spent the summer holidays.” An example of one of her written compositions dating from that time is as follows: “Today Lena, Shura went to post-office. Mama sent Lena parcel. Woman gave Lena parcel. Lena said: ‘Thank you’. Lena brought parcel to class. Lena opened parcel herself. Parcel had sweets, apples, photo postcard. Lena shared sweets with children and teacher.”
During her fifth year of tuition Lida continued working at her verbal communication. She learnt to ask “Why” and “How” questions. She learnt to answer questions using prepositions correctly and using correct verb, noun and adjectival endings. An example of one of her written compositions at this time is as follows: “Today at arithmetic lesson we played shops. I came to shop. I said: Measure out two metres, fifty centimetres of material please. Lena bought one metre and two centimetres of elastic. Shop-assistant measured out one metre and two centimetres of elastic.”
In her sixth year Lida worked on the syllabus for the sixth year of schooling for the deaf-blind. She also mastered the necessary skills enabling her to join in sewing work.
Olya Sh. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of nine and a half. Her condition was diagnosed as stemming from intrauterine injury to the central nervous system; meningitic phenomena were also noted in her case-history; divergent squint, compound hypertrophic astigmatism, atrophy of the optic nerve; acuity of vision in both eyes 0.02; bilateral chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerve; deaf-mutism.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss: 95 decibels at a frequency of 500 Hz and 100 decibels at a frequency of 1,000 Hz.
Before Olya came to the home for the deaf-blind an attempt was made to give her instruction at a residential school for the deaf. This was a failure, however, because Olya could not see what the teacher wrote on the board and could not learn to lip-read either, but in particular because of the way she was treated by other pupils who teased and bullied her exploiting her weak sight and clumsiness.
When she first came to the home for the deaf-blind, Olya was very highly strung and restless. She used to bully children who had no sight left at all. She used signs to communicate with the other children, but also knew a certain number of dactylic words.
After detailed examination by an eye specialist it was decided that Olya should be taught the Braille alphabet. During her first year of regular lessons Olya used to tire very quickly and was only able to cope with two lessons in a morning. It was only in her fourth year at the home that she was able to carry out useful work in the course of the usual five lessons.
When Olya joined us, she was a very clumsy little girl, and could not keep her locker or cupboard tidy; she dressed in a slapdash fashion and did not look after her clothes properly. She was as yet unable to take part in joint work to tidy up the classroom or yard. After three years at the home there was no difference between Olya’s level of participation in these tasks and those of the other pupils. She was able to carry out the work of dining-room monitor and tend the rabbits as well as anyone, and she enjoyed working in the sewing room. The following extracts from her diary serve to illustrate the degree to which she had mastered verbal language. The first extract was written after Olya had been at the home for eighteen months: “Fir-tree. Holiday come fir-tree. On fir-tree toys, balls, crack. Snow-maiden, clowns. Father Frost gives present.”
The second extract dates from Olya’s diary halfway through her third year with us: “Yesterday I went into hall. Nurses, teachers, children were in hall. I danced with Ida. I bumped Lida. Lida cross with me. Toma was fox, Vova bear. Bear fell. Fox cried. Where bear? Bear climbed up stairs. Fox cross at bear. I snowballs, Lida snowballs too. I went into bedroom. I took from locker soap, tooth-powder, tooth-brush. I took towel from bed. I went to washing-room, I washed hands and face. I brushed teeth. I went to bed.”
In her fifth year at the home Olya covered the syllabus for the sixth year of the deaf-blind school programme.
Sanya Ch. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of nine years and five months. His diagnosis was congenital deafness, no residual hearing; no speech skills; at the age of seven months he had an accidental injury to his left eye; atrophy of the optic nerve in the right eye, concentric narrowing of the field of vision to as little as 5-7°, degree of vision around 0.04. Scar on the cornea and traumatic cataract in the left eye.
At the age of four the boy had been placed in a group of pre-school deaf children and then progressed to join the preparatory class in the same school, and finally to cover the first two years of their curriculum. It was difficult for him to work with sighted pupils because he could not see words written up on the board or make out the dactylic speech of the teacher, and he could not lip-read either. His sight started to deteriorate and then the child was transferred to the home for deaf-blind children.
When he joined us the boy was good at finding his way around, he had well-developed skills in self-care: he communicated with people with signs, but he did not use finger-spelling although he knew the dactylic alphabet. He could read words written in big letters and could write on his own relying on his residual sight; he did not know Braille script and he had no vocalisation skills.
When Sanya first came to the home the immediate objective was to teach him verbal speech. He could use sign language as well as pupils from ordinary schools for the deaf. He started to be taught to “verbalise” his actions, to substitute dactylic words for certain signs. Sanya was taught the names of various objects and from his first year onwards he was taught to keep a diary, and to write short descriptions of his outings in simple words. The following independent composition written by this pupil should give readers an idea of the development of Sanya’s verbal language during his first year at the home: “I walked. Sanya sledge hill. Sanya fell. Hill coat and hat snow.”
The main method used to train Sanya in language skills was dactylic or written description of events in which the child himself participated or which he had witnessed. Similar importance was attached to his mastering of verbal language in direct communication with teachers and fellow-pupils. Texts like that cited above were corrected by the teacher, extended, and written out again by the pupil. A number of devices were used to encourage Sanya to use word language in direct communication: hortatory speech (go there, do this, etc.), the transmission in words of an errand to another pupil, practice in question-and-answer conversations; training in formulating requests, etc.
In order to help Sanya to master verbal language it was most important that he should be taught to read books. At first he used to read texts compiled specially for him, describing events with which he was familiar, then he moved on to adapted texts and finally to ordinary books, newspapers and magazines. The following composition written after an excursion to an experimental plastics factory serves to illustrate the word-language skills Sanya had mastered by the sixth year of tuition: “Friday, December 27th. The Plastics Factory. In December we went on a tour of the plastics factory with Vera Ivanovna. The factory is in the small town of Zarechny. It is twenty miles from Zagorsk to the village Golygino. After lessons we went with our teachers for an outing to the plastics factory in Zarechny. The bus stopped and waited by some high hills. We got out of the bus and waited for the manager of the factory. She came out to us and led us into the factory. We went into the plastics factory. Men and women workers were working in the factory. They were making plastic. The workers carried sacks of granules into the work-shop and emptied them into a tub. The granules were mixed round and heated in the tub to make a mass. This was then spread out with rollers on to a hard strip; big slabs of plastic come out of the machine. We went from the first work-shop into the second. In the second work-shop women were making little bags from plastic film. The bags were stuck together and put in piles. The women workers gave us some bags. From the second workshop we went into the third. In the third work-shop there were machines used for making various construction parts. The women workers gave us various construction parts made on the machines. We liked this plastics factory.”
During his seventh year at the home Sanya worked through the syllabus for the fourth-year pupils at an ordinary secondary school and he studied the history of the Soviet Union.
The boy also mastered work-skills required in the carpentry work-shop, learnt to make safety-pins using machine-tools with a professional level of competence, and also started making washers for soft toys required by a local toy factory.
Nata Ch. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of ten. Her condition was diagnosed as the result of meningitis contracted at the age of two; bilateral atrophy of the optic nerve, myopic astigmatism; degree of vision in the right eye – 0.02; in the left eye 0.06 (0.09 using glasses); bilateral neuritis of the acoustic nerve, deaf-mutism.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss: 60 decibels in the frequencies 125, 250, 500 and 1,000 Hz; 65 decibels for the frequency 2,000 Hz; 75 decibels for the frequencies between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz. She possessed no oral speech skills.
Before she came to the home in Zagorsk Nata had spent two years in a preparatory class for deaf children. She had not been able to keep up with the syllabus and had had to leave the school because of deficient sight. In the home for the deaf-blind it turned out that Nata was able to look after her everyday needs. She was good at finding her way about relying on her residual sight. She could play with dolls and other toys. She used signs for communication but also knew some dactylic letters and words. Her vocabulary of dactylic words – names of concrete objects – was not large, consisting of about twenty words. Nata was able to read and write certain “sighted” letters.
In her first weeks at the home Nata did not find it difficult to adapt to the new timetable, to look after her clothes neatly, wash her white collars and cuffs, her handkerchiefs, and stockings and iron her underclothes. On the days when it was her turn to be monitor she learnt to tidy the class with other pupils, to tidy the bedroom, to carry out household tasks in the dining room and to clear up the yard.
When communicating with other pupils Nata only made use of signs. Gradually she was taught to substitute dactylic words for certain signs. Halfway through her first year of instruction Nata could use dactylic words to denote a large number of household objects: cup, saucer, plate, spoon, knife, fork, table, bread, tap, water, blanket, mattress. She also mastered certain longer dactylic words such as washroom, bedspread, blanket-cover, pillow-case.
Work on verbal language for Nata, as indeed for all pupils, involved – among other things “verbalising” actions, dactylic and written descriptions of excursions, walks, games.
When Nata came to the school, an attempt was made to teach her to write in the ordinary way. The teacher wrote down on paper words and phrases in large letters. Nata read them and then spelt them out in dactylic letters. She then had to try herself to reproduce the ordinary “sighted” letters which she had mastered previously. However, she bent down so low over the paper that her nose was almost touching it. After a visit to the ophthalmologist it was decided that Nata should switch to the Braille alphabet. This she mastered quickly and halfway through her first year at the home she could read and write using this alphabet.
By the end of her first year Nata started learning to keep a diary. At first it consisted of simple sentences, written with the help of her teacher, about what she had eaten for breakfast, lunch and tea. Work on language and to familiarise children with the life around them proceeded along parallel lines. Nata together with her fellow-pupils was shown the outbuildings in the garden, the Pets’ Corner, with rabbits and guinea pigs, the streets of our town, the local stadium and shops. Events from the pupils’ day-to-day lives were reflected in the texts compiled by the teachers for use in class. Pupils were presented with the following text, for instance, after a walk during which they had played snowballs: “Playing Snowballs. Sasha, Misha, Lena and Nata walked in the yard. The children played snowballs. Lena threw a snowball at Misha. Misha threw a snowball at Lena. The children laughed. Anna Andreyevna came. The children went home.”
This text printed in Braille script Nata was able to read. Then with their teacher’s help the children acted out the action contained in each sentence. After that the children wrote out the text themselves.
Verbalising actions proved a particularly effective method of teaching Nata to master word language. By the end of her first year of tuition she succeeded in writing the following text with minimal assistance from her teacher:
“Modelling Lesson. Nata took plasticine. Nata modelled cat. Nata modelled mouse. Nata modelled bucket. Nata put cat, mouse, bucket in cupboard.”
During three years at the home Nata covered the preparatory stage and the syllabus for the first three years of the schooling programme.
Zana S. came to the home for deaf-blind children at the age of ten and a half after living with her own family prior to that. Her diagnosis read: injury to the central nervous system resulting from birth trauma; microphthalmia, partial atrophy of the optic papillae, acuity of vision in both eyes around 0.1; deaf-mutism; hearing loss in the range of speech frequencies – 85 decibels.
Before Zana came to the home the girl had not received any training. She was hardly able to walk and was led about by the hand. Her skills of self-care were underdeveloped, but she could eat by herself, take off and put on her dress and stockings. She did not use signs or understand them.
In her first year at the home Zana was instructed in skills of self-care, communication by means of signs and elementary dactylic words. All the pupil’s actions were introduced by natural signs. On her first day in the home Zana learnt the sign for lavatory, and a week later she began to understand the signs for eat, sleep, dress. Soon she started to use the signs herself. As soon as Zana started using signs independently, her teachers tried to correlate these with dactylic words. The first dactylic word which Zana began to understand was her name – Zana. She mastered it four months after coming to the home. Two months later Zana understood and could finger-spell the names of other children: Tanya, Lena, Sasha, and of her teachers: Nadya, Lusya, Klava. She later learnt the names of garments, types of footwear, and food and objects in the classroom.
Zana took a little over a year to cover the preparatory stage in the instruction of deaf-blind children. During her second year Zana succeeded in covering the syllabus for the first year of the deaf-blind pupils’ schooling programme. In her third year she covered the second-year syllabus, and during her fourth year at the home Zana worked at the syllabus for year three. She had more difficulty with mathematics than other subjects, but her language work continued well. An independent composition written during her third year of tuition serves to illustrate this: “At allotment. We went to allotment. Lusya brought water-can. I on bed. We plant seeds for vegetables beetroot. People work in field in allotment.”
After discussing and working through this text and “acting it out,” Zana rewrote the composition as follows: “At allotment. We went to allotment. Lusya said: ‘Zana bring water-can.’ I brought water-can. I watered bed. In bed vegetables grow: beetroot, carrots. In spring people work at allotment.”
Another interesting example of her work is that concerned with “verbalisation” of actions during her fourth year. Zana washed a blouse of hers and hung it on the line to dry. After that the teacher suggested that she tell the “story” of what she had done by means of signs and dramatisation. In signs and mime Zana then acted out the whole washing process. After that it was suggested that she tell the “Story” in words (dactylic ones). During this account the teacher prompted Zana when she had occasional difficulties with individual words. Then Zana took her exercise book and wrote out her story. Side by side with her pupil the teacher corrected the mistakes in it and then Zana wrote out the composition again. In its final form it looked like this: “I Washed a Blouse. My blouse was dirty. I said to Lusya: ‘I want wash blouse’. I took soap and blouse. I went to wash-room. I took basin. I turned on hot tap. I poured water in basin. I put blouse in basin. I washed blouse with soap. I wrung blouse. I hung blouse on line. The blouse dried.”
Misha F. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of eight and a half. His condition was diagnosed as an after-effect of birth trauma which had damaged the central nervous system: a high degree of myopia, convergent squint, partial atrophy of the optic papillae, acuity of vision in both eyes – 0.05 (with glasses 0.1); deaf-mutism; chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerves.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
The boy came to us from a home for deaf-mutes where he had been trained to keep to a regular timetable, had mastered skills of self-care and learnt to communicate using signs and mime. Misha knew the dactylic alphabet, and how to read and write large letters. He knew a number of dactylic words.
In the four years he spent at the home for the deaf-blind he covered the syllabus for the preparatory stage and those for years one, two and three of the schooling programme for the deaf-blind. He derived a good deal of pleasure from work in the carpentry shop. He was good at carving out animal shapes with a fine fret-saw. On his own initiative he used to help elder pupils in their work manufacturing safety-pins.
Seryozha B. came to the home for deaf-blind children when he was eleven. His diagnosis read: encephalitis following on influenza at the age of two years and four months; deaf-mutism; hearing loss – 75 decibels; impaired vision-acuity of vision in the right eye 0.1, and in the left eye 0.09.
The child was normal at birth. His development proceeded well at first: he learnt to walk before he was a year old and started to talk. He fell ill with influenza at two years and four months, and his condition was then complicated by encephalitis. He was in hospital for six weeks. After his discharge his mother noticed that the boy could not hear and that his sight was impaired. By the time another eighteen months had passed he had lost all his speech skills.
Seryozha was sent to a residential school for deaf children. He spent two years working in the preparatory class and was then kept back in the same class for a third year, since he had not completed the syllabus. He did not take part in class work since he could not read from the board, and could only distinguish dactylic signs when these were made right in front of his eyes.
When he came to the home for the deaf-blind, Seryozha already possessed skills of self-care and could communicate in signs. He did not have any vocalisation skills. He knew the dactylic alphabet and how to read and write “sighted” letters. Seryozha’s vocabulary was very poor: he could only write, read and spell in dactylic letters a mere handful of words (Mama, Papa, table, house). The essential task at first was to teach him verbal language as a means of direct communication and descriptive speech in its dactylic and written forms. After consulting an ophthalmologist it was decided that Seryozha could continue to be taught language skills using “sighted” methods.
In his first year of tuition at the home for the deaf-blind Seryozha was taught words denoting objects around him; at mealtimes he was introduced to the names for various eating implements and types of food. The names for these objects and actions were reinforced in his work on written language. Communication via signs and mime was gradually replaced by verbal communication.
The following is an example of an independently written composition which Seryozha produced during his second year of tuition: “I goes quickly. Many people. Flags out. Sun. Spring warm.”
A visit to the zoo in the summer was recorded by Seryozha on the day following the treat in the following words: “Yesterday morning went train. I horse rode. We saw wolf, lion, tiger, elephant, fox, bear.”
The contrast between this and another composition written in the middle of his fifth year is striking: “December 7th. Saturday. On Thursday morning Olga said: ‘You want to ski?’ I want to ski. Olga and I went downstairs. I took skis. I put on trousers, jacket. I went out. I skied outside. I looked Raisa, Borya. I said: ‘No Raisa, Borya.’ I, Raisa, Borya went up hill. We skied long time. Borya fell in snow. I laughed. Borya fell many times. I skied on hills. Borya skied and fell on river. I watched boys and girls on skis. Raisa said: ‘Feet cold.’ We skied home.”
In his sixth year at the home Seryozha covered the syllabus for year four of the deaf-blind schooling programme. He works in the carpentry shop using machine-tools for manufacturing safety-pins.
Tata P. came to the home for deaf-blind children at the age of ten. Her diagnosis read: mental retardation resulting from intrauterine injury to the central nervous system atrophy of the optic disks; degree of vision 0.03 (right eye), 0.04 (left eye); chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerves.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss.
The girl was sent to the home for the deaf-blind from a school for deaf-mutes, where she had spent several years in the preparatory group and which she had had to leave as she had not mastered the syllabus. Apart from impaired hearing and sight and her lack of speech skills, Tata suffered from motor handicaps (her gait was abrupt and jerky her coordination was faulty and she had tremor). These motor malfunctions prevented Tata form mastering skills of self-care and those necessary for joining in household tasks. Nevertheless, Tata learnt to eat on her own, to dress and undress herself and to take her shoes on and off (the one thing she could not cope with was tying laces).
Work was started to train Tata in communicative skills: signs, word language of a conversational (dactylic) and written (Braille) type. However, retarded mental development ruled out success in this undertaking. During the four years she spent at the home all Tata managed to learn were signs and words which were repeated for her countless times by her teacher; she also learnt to repeat words after her teacher, to copy texts and to reproduce these from memory. Any attempt to correlate word material with what it denoted caused her great difficulty, more often than not of an insurmountable kind.
Inna A. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of six years and five months. Her condition was diagnosed as the. result of birth trauma: deaf-mutism (neuritis of the acoustic nerves), underdevelopment of the eyeballs and a defect in the iris; acuity of vision 0.1 (right, eye), 0.05 (left eye); hearing loss over 80 decibels; the case-history also mentioned mental retardation.
Before Inna came to the home for the deaf-blind she had stayed with her parents and had been trained in some skills of self-care. She could eat properly, and walk well; she could dress and undress with some assistance from adults. She had evolved certain natural signs, which she made use of to communicate with people around her. Inna was a temperamental child. She reacted to attempts to teach her to behave properly with screaming, crying and stamping. In the dining room Inna was apt to throw plates or bread on to the floor. Gently but firmly Inna was taught to behave in a fitting way. Systematic work began on perfecting her skills of self-care, promoting her sign speech, and, later instructing her in speech (dactylic and written). With her doctor’s approval it was decided to allow Inna to use her residual sight in lessons.
In instructing Inna it was most important to make sure that the material offered her could be associated with aspects of her immediate practical experience.
During her first year of instruction Inna learnt to dress and undress herself far more quickly and tidily, to wash socks and handkerchiefs, collars and underpants. Inna learnt to tidy up the bedroom, classroom and dining room together with other pupils. She learnt to ride on a sledge, use the skipping-rope, and catch a ball with two hands. She learnt signs denoting household articles: crockery, garments, toilet articles, food items. She began using signs to denote actions. With no difficulty she would perform errands transmitted to her through signs, such as Bring broom. Bring bucket of water. Clear away dustpan. Inna learnt how to write letters and how to transmit them in dactylic form.
In the following year of her tuition Inna learnt how to spell her own name in dactylic letters, as well as those of the other children in her group. She could also understand and transmit in finger-spelling the words: table, chair, desk, class, soup, porridge, tea, butter, knife, spoon, cup. She learnt to use the dactylic words for Thank you, Hallo, Good-bye. Attempts were made to teach the girl to replace certain signs with dactylic words in direct “conversational” exchanges. However, this proved beyond her and when her teacher insisted, she would first make a sign and then spell out the corresponding dactylic word. If the teacher still persisted in trying to persuade her to substitute dactylic words for signs, Inna would spell out a dactylic word, and then, as if she had doubts as to whether she had been understood, would follow up the word with the appropriate sign. In this way she would use word-sign pairs to “say”: sleep, eat, walk, goodbye.
In the course of the next two years Inna was given further instruction in dactylic communication. She was taught the names of various objects and introduced to new kinds of exercises: she was taught to “verbalise” actions, to write a diary, to describe pictures (her sight was good enough for her to be able to make out pictures if these were held up close to her face), to read texts and to write. However, her grasp of verbal language proceeded very slowly. It emerged that she suffered from defective memory and found it difficult to retain new words for any length of time. In order to make up for her poor memory, new words were written down in large letters on special cards. When Inna was called upon to “verbalise” an action or to make an entry in her diary, she made use of her special “word index.”
By the end of her fourth year of instruction she was able to put together a text like this for instance: “I slept. I got up. I took. I sat down. I played.”
After five years of instruction Inna is able to read, write and reply to simple questions with answers memorised previously. However, she is not able to work on her own. A constant check has to be kept on what she is doing and she needs guidance all the time. As soon as she is left on her own she drops the exercise she has been working on and no amount of effort on the part of her teachers has succeeded in overcoming this.
Dima D. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of ten. His diagnosis read: damage to the central nervous system (following on intrauterine encephalitis); hemiparesis of the left side; extreme myopia with changes in the function of the eye; acuity of vision in both eyes 0.1 (approximately 0.3 with a correction); bilateral chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerve.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
The boy was also underdeveloped physically. He looked no older than six at the age of ten. Before he was transferred to the home for the deaf-blind he had been at a home for deaf-mutes. Then he had spent two years in the first form of a school for children with impaired hearing but being unable to cover the material he had had to leave. Relying on his residual sight Dima found his way about in the home for the deaf-blind easily. His skills in self-care were well developed. He used signs and mime to communicate with people around him. He knew dactylic words denoting classroom objects, garments and various kinds of footwear. He accompanied these with vocalisation but his oral speech was not articulate enough to be understood.
The main task Dima’s teacher tackled in his first year of instruction was the mastering of verbal language. The boy learnt to communicate using dactylic speech and to describe practical actions and excursions in finger-spelling and in writing. One of the first compositions written by Dima read as follows: “I put on hat, coat. I went out. Leaves in street. I saw fall. I gather leaf.”
During his second year of instruction Dima covered the syllabus for deaf-blind children’s second year of schooling. A composition written by him after an outing to the park during that year read as follows: “We went to park. We went to hill. I played. We took gathered brown, yellow, red maple leaves. On trees leaves fall. We went home. “
Texts written independently by Dima are corrected and amplified by the teacher and then written out again by the boy. His progress in mastering the grammatical structure of language and extending his vocabulary is slow both in communication and in descriptive language. The fact that Dima tires quickly (one of the after-effects of his illness) hinders his progress. The paresis in his left arm makes it difficult for him to master work skills.
Experience of the Zagorsk home for the deaf-blind has shown that pupils with impaired sight, hearing and speech are nevertheless able not merely to master knowledge in general subjects but also to learn certain productive skills.
Investigation of the physical and mental development of various pupils revealed the need for differentiation in the teachers’ approach. At the beginning of the 1969-1970 academic year twelve pupils were selected for vocational training, which would later enable them to work for one of the production artels of the All-Russia Association of the Blind, while at the same time continuing their instruction in general subjects essential for their everyday adult lives.
Four teaching groups were constituted for this purpose and the weekly timetable for the pupils was as follows: vocational training – 24 lessons, Russian language – 8 lessons, Soviet Constitution – one lesson, mathematics – one lesson, object lesson – two lessons. The total number of lessons a week then came to thirty-six.
Apart from vocational training and general subjects each of these groups received training in everyday domestic skills on a par with groups of pupils studying according to the ordinary schooling syllabus.
The lessons allocated to vocational training involve the following activities: 1. learning about safety precautions; 2. study of production equipment; 3. training in skills.
This training is designed to qualify pupils as a seam
stress, fitter, puncher, driller, etc.
On the basis of sex, level of development and degree of residual sight pupils were allocated to one of the production shops in the Zagorsk home to be trained in: a) carpentry, b) sewing, c) locksmiths’ trade, d) cooking and e) housecraft (washing, ironing, mending, etc.).
Training in everyday domestic skills is provided in the course of regular day-to-day pursuits outside the classroom: rising, morning exercises, washing, meal-times, walks, homework, outings, meetings, and social activities. All deaf-blind pupils’ activities during their waking hours require the presence and active guidance from a member of adult staff.
The work of each group of pupils undergoing vocational training will be discussed separately since they had attained different levels of mental development and had not all reached the same point in the schooling programme, and their diseases in infancy had afflicted them with various kinds of physical impairment.
The first group consisted of pupils Vladlen P., Vladislav T., and Valya B. The pupils in the second group were Lyuba H., Nadya K., and Vova L. The third group consisted of two pupils Kolya B. and Boris G. These two boys had some residual hearing, which made it possible for them to apprehend loud speech. The pupils in the fourth group were Mikhail N., Mara L., Valya P. and Anatoly T. These pupils apart from being deaf-blind and possessing no speech skills had suffered from damage to the central nervous system leading to asthenia, motor malfunction and varying degrees of mental retardation.
All the pupils in the groups for vocational training had been taught at schools for the deaf before coming to the home for the deaf-blind. The only exception was Valya P., who, before coming to the home in Zagorsk, had not received instruction anywhere. However, for many of these pupils instruction at schools for the deaf had not resulted in any progress over a period sometimes as long as several years.
There now follows a more detailed survey of the diagnoses and learning progress of the pupils in these groups.
Vladlen P. came to the home for the deaf-blind aged fourteen. His condition was diagnosed as stemming from intrauterine injury to the central nervous system: atrophy of the optic nerve in both eyes; acuity of vision 0.01 (after correction 0.06); bilateral neuritis of the acoustic nerve; deaf-mutism.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
Before coming to the home for the deaf-blind, Vladlen had spent five years at a school for the deaf. He had proved unable to cope with the syllabus for first-year pupils at that school. When Vladlen came to the home in Zagorsk his skills in self-care were well developed, he could communicate using mime and signs, he knew the dactylic alphabet and could write large letters and read large print. His vocabulary was very small and he could only finger-spell a few household articles. He did not use verbal language when communicating with other people at all, nor could he describe his actions in words.
His instruction began with the syllabus for the first year of the schooling programme for the deaf-blind. He found it extremely difficult to substitute dactylic words for certain individual signs he used in communication. However, by the fifth year of his tuition at the home Vladlen had acquired a large vocabulary and could write compositions of considerable complexity.
From the very beginning of his stay in the home Vladlen had shown interest in work. He really enjoyed using construction kits and putting together complicated things such as cars, rockets, cranes. He engaged in both sewing and carpentry work. He learnt quickly how to make safety-pins using machine-tools for this purpose, and did the work very well.
During his seventh year at the home for the deaf-blind Vladlen covered the syllabus for the seventh year of the schooling programme for the deaf-blind. He worked in the carpentry shop, making discs with holes in the middle for the local toy factory, and also clothes-hangers and other articles. He communicated with adults and the elder pupils using dactylic speech.
Vladislav T. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of thirteen. His condition was diagnosed as stemming from congenital impairment of the central nervous system: the first child in his family had been born deaf and Vladislav (the second) had also been born deaf; the extent of his hearing loss was 75 decibels . Absence of the left eyeball, pigmentary degeneration of the retina in his right eye, subatrophy of the optic papilla; acuity of vision 0.06. Vladislav had spent five years at a school for deaf children. According to the reports of his teachers he had hardly participated in, any class work and had not even mastered the first-year syllabus. Vladislav came to the home for the deaf-blind with well-developed skills in self-care. He communicated by means of mime and signs. He could read and write relying on sighted methods, but his vocabulary was very limited and he did not use words for communication.
It was with great difficulty and reluctance that Vladislav learnt to communicate through dactylic words. Communication through signs and mime he found easier to understand and use.
Like his group-mate Vladlen P., Vladislav found it easier to use the verbal language for descriptive purposes than for direct communication.
In his seventh year at the home for the deaf-blind Vladislav completed the syllabus for the seventh year of the deaf-blind schooling programme. He continued to use mime and signs in communicating with deaf-mute pupils possessed of residual sight while he “conversed” with adults in dactylic words. Like Vladlen, he was working in the carpentry shop.
Valya B. came to the home for the deaf-blind aged sixteen. Her diagnosis was damage to the central nervous system after encephalitis which in its turn had followed on from measles: keratoleukoma in both eyes; acuity of vision in her better (right) eye approximately 0.05; chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerves; deaf-mutism.
Valya was brought to the home for the deaf-blind after previously being a pupil in the fifth class of a school for the deaf. On the basis of her command of verbal language she was placed in the class working on the third-year syllabus. She used mime and signs to communicate with.
The following two examples of unaided writing during her fifth year of tuition in Zagorsk home serve to illustrate the level of Valya’s command of language: “The Carpentry Shop. The carpentry shop is in a room in the basement. In the carpentry shop there are laths, bars, plywood and boards. There are three machine-tools standing in the carpentry shop: a circular saw, a lathe and a machine for drilling holes in wood. Wooden bars are sawn using the circular saw. Dmitry Pakhomovich sawed in two parts. We (Nadya, Toma, Lydia Ivanovna and I) drilled holes on the drilling machine. There are three work benches in the carpentry shop. On the work benches wooden parts and toys are assembled. In the cupboard in the carpentry shop lots of wooden articles and tools are kept. Dmitri Pakhomovich, our teacher, works in the carpentry shop. He teaches carpentry work to the boys.”
The second example of Valya’s writing is an extract from her diary:
“Yesterday we (Nadya, Toma and I) were dining-room monitors. Nadya and I put dishes on the table. Children came for breakfast. After breakfast Nadya and I collected dishes, put dishes on scullery table. Nadya and Toma washed dishes. I wiped tables with cloth, then swept floor with broom. Nadya washed scullery floor with cloth. Nadya and I put out dishes on tables for dinner. We went to lessons. At lessons we had a nature-study test questions to answer. After lessons we went to dinner. After dinner we collected dirty dishes and washed dishes. I wiped tables with cloth, swept floor with broom. We put cups, bread-basket with bread on table. We went to lessons. After dinner Lyubov Ivanovna came. I typed on ordinary typewriter Rota for Classroom and Bedroom Monitors. We had tea. We washed crockery. We not went outside. We had lessons. We rested.”
It is possible now to talk to Valya using verbal language (dactylic words). She keeps a diary and can type using a Braille typewriter. She can also use an ordinary typewriter. She reads books written in large type (text-books adapted for the partially sighted), but because of her deteriorating vision she is now switching over to books printed in Braille. Valya is employed in the sewing workshop and is adept in working on a sewing machine.
Nadya K. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of nearly nineteen. Her diagnosis read: damage to the central nervous system following meningoencephalitis at the age of two: pigmentary retinitis, compound myopic astigmatism; acuity of vision (corrected) 0.2; bilateral neuritis of the acoustic nerve; deaf-mutism.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss: at a frequency of 250 Hz 75 decibels, and at a frequency of 500 Hz 90 decibels.
Before Nadya came to the home for the deaf-blind she had completed eight classes at a school for the deaf. She communicated using exclusively mime and signs. Her command of verbal language was very poor. Her dactylic and written (“sighted”) verbal language was for all intents and purposes a string of words without any grammatical connections. Moreover, she did not want to learn verbal language, because she saw no need for it, as she got by with communication in signs. However, the prospect of writing letters to her family was something that did arouse her interest, for she was very attached to her relatives. Each day Nadya worked at writing letters. Her teacher would correct them and then she would write them out again. Using her residual sight Nadya was also taught to think up and write down captions for pictures. Then she moved on to compiling written texts describing pictures or a story in pictures. In order to encourage Nadya’s use of verbal language the enjoyment she derived from communicating with the younger pupils in the home was also exploited. She used to show pictures to those among them who retained some residual sight, pictures which she herself was able to draw, and then tell them what the pictures were about.
Nadya now has a much better command of verbal language in its written form: She has begun to keep a regular diary, can type on Braille and ordinary typewriters, and writes letters with no difficulty.
She is making good progress in her work skills. Not only has she mastered all types of work taught in the sewing workshop, being able to make dresses, underclothes etc., but she has also learnt to make safety-pins using the appropriate machine-tools. In addition she also enjoys looking after the animals and is competent at all types of house work.
Vova L. came to the home for the deaf-blind when he was nearly sixteen. His condition was diagnosed as resulting from meningoencephalitis in early childhood (the exact age is not known); myopic astigmatism in the right eye, and
traumatic cataract in the left eye; acuity of vision in his right eye is 0.01 and in the left 0; deaf-mutism.
Vova came to the home for the deaf-blind after completing six years at a school for the deaf. He uses mime and sign language to communicate. When communicating with those who can hear, he uses some phrases in oral speech. He mis-stresses almost every word he utters. Vova can see virtually nothing and is not able to read or write using “sighted” texts. As soon as he arrived Vova started learning to write using Braille script and to read finger-spelling.
Vova soon acquired a good grasp of the work skills needed for making safety-pins. He enjoys working in the carpentry shop.
Kolya B. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of nearly sixteen. His diagnosis read: damage to the central nervous system after meningoencephalitis at the age of two and a half; a high degree of myopia, acuity of vision in the right eye 0.06 and in the left 0.04 (with a correction – 0.2); impaired hearing.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
Kolya was transferred to the home in Zagorsk from a school for the partially deaf or those whose deafness had set in at a relatively late age. Kolya communicated mainly by means of signs and mime. He used oral speech when communicating with the hearing. He knew a fair amount of words but used to make mistakes in pronunciation, mis-stress words and mispronounce word-endings.
He mastered the work skills for making safety-pins, finds carpentry interesting and willingly carries out any household chores.
Boris G. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of eighteen. His condition was diagnosed as stemming from damage to the central nervous system after a disease of ill-defined etiology at the age of seventeen months; virtually total blindness (the left eye is sensitive to light but no more); bilateral neuritis of the acoustic nerve; impaired hearing.
Boris completed five years at a school for the partially deaf, but had to leave it because of his bad sight, and for three years had no schooling at all. Then he came to the home in Zagorsk. The condition of his hearing makes it possible for him to apprehend oral speech and to communicate through oral speech himself.
During his second year at the home for the deaf-blind Boris worked on material from the fourth-year syllabus used in ordinary schools. He has mastered a trade (the manufacture of safety-pins) and works in the carpentry shop.
Mikhail N. came to the home for the deaf-blind when he was nearly twelve. His diagnosis read: congenital injury to the central nervous system; deaf-mutism; atrophy of the right eyeball, microphthalmia of the left eye; residual sight in the left eye (0.04) which does not render itself to correction.
Tonal audiometry revealed a hearing loss of over 75 decibels in the range of speech frequencies.
When the boy was eight years old attempts were made to teach him at a school for the deaf, where he spent about four months. His teacher wrote in her report at that time: “During this period Mikhail was unable to settle in with the other children at the school or get used to the timetable; he could not tell the difference between lesson and break-time. During lessons he was restless, would jump about and sway his body from side to side. It proved impossible to teach him to make any sounds other than a and m. When a teacher was trying to teach him a sound or anything else Mikhail started playing with the teacher. He would try to hug the teacher or his class-mate or stroke their faces with his hands and expect a similar friendly caress in return. During breaks he would feel over all the children and adults he encountered. Everything edible he used to smell, feel over and then lift to his mouth. Mikhail did not make the impression of a stupid child, but teaching him was very difficult.”
After leaving the school for the deaf (before the home for the deaf-blind was opened) Mikhail spent close on four years at home, where he did not communicate with other children. The parents communicated with the boy using a very limited number of natural signs. Mikhail himself did not use signs. When he came to the home in Zagorsk Mikhail had mastered certain skills in self-care: he could dress and wash himself and use the toilet independently. He also suffered from various types of motor malfunction: his body used to twitch, he used excessively wide and wild arm movements and constantly moved his lower jaw from side to side.
Very little was achieved during his first year of tuition. Mikhail was made familiar with elementary signs (sleep: right palm placed against his right ear; get up: a movement of the right hand with palm uppermost; go: a movement to and fro of the index and middle fingers in turn; eat: placing the thumb and first and second fingers together and then raising them to the mouth; wash: a movement with the palm of the hand around the face; physical exercises: arms to the side and raised; work: banging one fist up and down against the other; study: putting the hands in front of the body one on top of the other; make a bed: moving the hands out sideways as if smoothing out bedclothes; sew: a movement as if working with needle and thread; model: movements of the hands as if to make snowballs.)
By the end of his first year Mikhail began to understand these signs but did not use them. He kept away from other children and did not communicate with them.
By the end of his second year of instruction he had mastered all the necessary skills of self-care: he had learnt to iron underclothes and trousers, to wash socks and handkerchiefs, to sew on buttons and loops to hang garments up by to clear up in the classroom and bedroom. He began learning to work in the carpentry shop. He was twitching much less than before.
During his third year at the home Mikhail began communicating with other pupils who were growing used to him and no longer paid any attention to his twitching and flailing. He learnt to make simple entries in a diary and to use simple dactylic words with which he was thoroughly familiar.
During his seventh year at the home for the deaf-blind Mikhail was working through the syllabus for the third year of the schooling programme for the deaf-blind. He had mastered the work skills necessary for the manufacture of safety-pins. He enjoyed carrying out all errands which involved physical exertion. He was working in the carpentry shop and his motor malfunction did not impede him in his work activities at all.
Mara L. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of twelve. Her condition was diagnosed as congenital injury to the central nervous system. The girl’s parents were both blind, and the girl was born deaf with a little residual sight. She suffered from congenital coloboma of the iris in her right eye, a cataract, her left eyeball was underdeveloped; she could not see with her left eye at all and the acuity of vision in the right eye was 0.02.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
When Mara came to the home for the deaf-blind she possessed skills in self-care and used to communicate with signs. However, their number was limited: eat, walk, play, do. She knew five dactylic words: Papa, Mama, Tanya, Vova. Mara. She found it very difficult to concentrate and had a poor memory. She used to forget very quickly the material she had worked through in class.
When she had stayed for six years in the home at Zagorsk Mara had learnt to read and write using both the “sighted” method and Braille. She had mastered skills necessary for work in the sewing room and was efficient in the manufacture of safety-pins. She enjoyed productive work and executed it well.
Anatoly T. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of twelve. His diagnosis read: congenital deaf-blindness; congenital cataract in both eyes; bilateral neuritis of the acoustic nerve; severe diabetes mellitus; his case history also contained references to symptoms testifying to subcortical dysfunction.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
The boy often had to be hospitalised in connection with his diabetes, operations on his eyes and his psychoneurological condition. He often became violent for no apparent reason. He might even start hitting his teacher with clenched fists. Sometimes injections of tranquillisers had to be resorted to.
During his calm periods work was carried on with Anatoly to develop his communication, reading, writing and work skills. Anatoly has been at the home for the deaf-blind ever since it was first set up. He has learnt to read and write using raised script and has mastered the syllabus for deaf-blind pupils in the first year of their schooling programme. He has learnt the necessary work skills to manufacture safety-pins and he also works in the carpentry shop.
The pupils whose diagnoses and academic achievements are reviewed in this chapter have been taught using Braille script. They are either totally blind (Sergei S., Vasya U., Julia V., and Toma B.) or have a minimal degree of sight left enabling them to do no more than distinguish between light and dark (Natalia Sh., Alexander S.) or possess residual sight of no more than 0.02 (Yura L., Natasha K.).
The majority of these pupils had begun to be taught according to the methods recommended for deaf-blind children before any special institution for their care and instruction was opened. They were either given instruction at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps itself or in other institutions, or at home under the guidance of the Institute’s staff.
They all have a good grasp of verbal language, which they use for communicating with adults and among themselves. Communication is effected via finger-spelling on the part of the “speaker” into the hand of the “listener.” They also make wide use of technical devices that enable the “listener” to apprehend letters and signs in raised script. The pupils can also use oral speech which is sufficiently articulate for them to be understood.
These pupils can read Braille editions of fiction and other literature. With the help of technical aids books, magazines and newspapers which are not printed in Braille are read to them. Apart from working with special Braille type-writers these pupils can also use ordinary type-writers with complete proficiency.
These pupils find their way about inside the home and its yard independently. They are able to look after their own everyday needs, conduct various activities with younger pupils, teaching them modelling, work habits and skills of self-care. They have mastered all types of productive work in which pupils can be trained at the home: carpentry, sewing and the manufacture of safety-pins. They organise social activities for members of the Pioneer and Komsomol organisations, prepare the home’s news bulletin (in Braille script), organise parties and arrange debates.
Four of the elder pupils in the 1969-1970 school year followed the syllabus for the ninth and tenth years of ordinary schools (Sergei Sirotkin, Yuri Lerner, Natasha Korneyeva, Alexander Suvorov). Their dream was to prove eligible for a higher educational establishment. In 1971 they were enrolled at Moscow State University after successfully
passing the entrance exams. These four pupils made up the first group of senior pupils at the home. The second also consisted of four pupils: Julia V., Natalia Sh., Vasya U., and Toma B. Their aim was to complete the eight-year course as provided at ordinary schools.
The following paragraphs will present more detailed information as to the diagnoses and learning achievement of the pupils in these two groups.
Sergei Sirotkin came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of fourteen. His diagnosis read: congenital impairment of sight and hearing (it proved impossible to ascertain the nature of disease giving rise to this impairment); glaucoma in the right eve, detachment of the retina in the left eye, blindness; bilateral otitis and neuritis of the acoustic nerve.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
The child had been born in an asphyxiated state, with his umbilical cord tangled round his throat. When the boy was about eight months old, the parents noticed that he did not react to noise. A little earlier still they had noticed that he was frightened of light and only noticed objects that were very near him. He lost the sight in one eye completely at the age of one year and two months, and his second eve ceased to function when he was five. He did not develop any speech skills.
At the age of six, a year after he had lost his sight completely, Sergei started to receive systematic instruction as a deaf-blind child. Initially he was taught by R.A. Mareyeva. Sergei’s behaviour was of a disorganised character, and it was impossible to get him to sit down at a desk. Lessons had to take the form of games.
Yuri Lerner came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of seventeen. His condition was diagnosed as stemming from tuberculosis meningoencephalitis at the age of four, and repeated attacks of the same disease at seven and nine. His sight had been impaired since the age of four; acuity of vision in the right eye was 0.02 and in the left eye all that remained was photoperception; his hearing had begun to deteriorate at the age of four and he had been deaf since the age of seven.
Tonal audiometry had revealed the following hearing loss:
Yuri was born with normal health but he was a weak child. At the age of six months he fell ill with pneumonia, at the age of a year he had whooping cough and then, at three, measles. He had frequent attacks of tonsillitis.
Up until the age of four Yuri could see, hear and speak. At the age of four he fell ill with tuberculosis meningoencephalitis. He lost his sight completely two weeks after falling ill. He began to lose his hearing. In the course of treatment his sight was restored to an insignificant degree. He lost his hearing completely when he had another attack of meningoencephalitis at the age of seven (degeneration of the acoustic nerves). He never went to school. At nine he began to have individual lessons. He was taught finger-spelling and Braille script. His oral speech which had begun to grow rather inarticulate was restored. When he came to the home for the deaf-blind he had completed his primary education and continued to follow the syllabus used in ordinary schools.
Natasha Korneyeva was placed in a group of deaf-blind pupils at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps at the age of twelve. Her condition was diagnosed as stemming from meningoencephalitis at the age of two and a half; atrophy of the optic nerves, vertical nystagmus; acuity of vision 0.02; chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerves.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
Until the age of two and a half Natasha had, according to her mother, been developing normally: she had been able to see, hear, speak and walk. At the age of two and a half she had a fit, during which, to use her parents’ words, she had “rolled on the floor.” The fit had lasted for two and a half hours. Two months later Natasha’s parents noticed that the child’s eyes started to “wander,” that her sight had deteriorated and “when running she kept stumbling and falling over.” They also noticed that she could not hear very well. The parents went to the doctor a year later. The doctor established that Natasha now suffered atrophy of the optic nerves as a result of meningitis. The extent of her hearing impairment was not measured on that occasion, but it was considerable. When the girl was nine years old she was placed in the first class of a school for the blind. She spent two years at the school for the blind. At the age of eleven Natasha fell ill with poliomyelitis: her legs were paralysed, she lost her hearing and her powers of speech completely. Gradually her powers of speech and movement in her legs were restored, but the deafness remained. The girl had to leave the school for the blind as profoundly deaf. After that she was at home where she had to remain alone for whole days at a stretch. Her speech started to deteriorate. At the age of twelve she was enrolled in the group of deaf-blind pupils at the Institute, where she spent close on two years. She came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of fourteen. She could look after herself in every way, she could use oral speech and finger-spelling, and read and write using Braille.
During her first year at the home she caught up the material she had missed so as to complete the four-year course provided in ordinary schools and the following year she embarked on the syllabus for Class 5.
Alexander Suvorov came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of eleven. It did not prove possible to establish the nature of the disease which had given rise to his gradual loss of hearing and sight. His sight deteriorated slowly. Until the age of three his parents did not notice any anomalies in his development. At the age of two he had measles and chicken-pox, both in a severe form. A year later his parents became aware of a deterioration in his sight. At the age of five the state of his sight was diagnosed as “atrophy of the optic nerves.” Only photoperception remained. At seven the boy was sent to a school for the blind. His speech skills at that time were well developed. At the age of nine it was noticed that the hearing in his right ear was impaired, and then his hearing in both cars started to deteriorate quickly. In his last year at the school for the blind Alexander found his work difficult because of his increasing deafness – his teachers had to shout loudly right into his ears.
Alexander was transferred from the fourth class at the school for the blind (where he had been given individual lessons during his last year) to the home for the deaf-blind.
Tonal audiometry revealed the following hearing loss:
At the time when he came to the home for the deaf-blind the boy could no longer make out what people shouted into his ears. It became necessary for him to learn finger-spelling. The first year of his tuition was spent filling in the gaps in his knowledge of the material required to complete the syllabus of the ordinary primary school, and teaching Alexander a new means of communication and a new learning medium. At the beginning of the year he had suffered from attacks of hysteria (shouting, crying). He did not enjoy communicating with pupils who retained their powers of sight, saying that in the past sighted children had bullied him.
During the second year at the home Alexander became more sociable, made friends with some of the elder pupils and stood up for the younger ones when it seemed to him that they were being treated unfairly. He was following the syllabus for the fifth year of the ordinary school programme. He covered all the necessary material except for one topic in arithmetic: sums involving operations with both decimals and common fractions. Manual work on the other hand was something that he found very difficult. Although he learnt how to manufacture safety-pins, he made the pins very slowly. It also took him a very long time to make his bed and dress, which often made him late for breakfast.
Julia V. joined the group of deaf-blind pupils at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps at the age of fourteen. Her condition was diagnosed as stemming from injury to the central nervous system after meningoencephalitis at the age of two and a half; nystagmus, complicated cataract in both eyes, total blindness; chronic neuritis of the acoustic nerves, deaf-mutism; no trace of hearing was found.
The child had been born one month before term, by Caesarian section. Initially the little girl developed normally and began walking at nine months. At the age of two and a half she could see and hear and was talking. At the age of eighteen months she had gone down with measles and had then had a severe attack of whooping cough at the age of two and a half. Before Julia had recovered from this, meningitis set in. As early as the third day of the meningitis the mother noticed that there was something wrong with the little girl’s sight: she could not always find an object
that had been brought over to her. When Julia began to get better, her parents noticed that she could no longer hear speech, although she still reacted to loud sounds like knocking, for example. After this illness the little girl grew very weak and could hardly walk. Soon her powers of speech were lost. When Julia was three, and after her mother had received specialist advice, work began on training her in the skills of self-care and sign speech at home. Julia made good progress at learning signs and could soon communicate with people around her by means of signs quite proficiently. She took part in all kinds of housework: not only did she soon master all the necessary skills of self-care but also helped her mother in the house: she would wash the dishes, work on the allotment and tend the animals.
Julia and her parents were taught sign-speech and the rudiments of finger-spelling by a teacher specially sent to the village where Julia lived from the Institute.
During her early years at the Institute Julia was given individual tuition. She was taught Braille script and also mastered verbal language by studying parallel texts: the pupil would be given texts of an appropriate level and of gradated complexity. Julia also wrote compositions, using words and grammatical constructions with which she was familiar from the texts used in class.
In the course of each school year Julia would be given close on 100 different texts to work through and wrote about the same number of compositions.
The young girl’s descriptive language developed fairly well: she soon had a wide vocabulary and used fairly complex grammatical forms correctly. However, the level of her speech in direct communication in no way corresponded to the level of her descriptive language. Julia was being taught and brought up away from other children. As the result she did riot know how to communicate with fellow-pupils and did not enjoy doing so when the group at the Institute was enlarged to include other deaf-blind children.
Julia was a very conscientious pupil. Any task set her by a teacher would be completed and painstakingly so. Yet she had little personal initiative and could sit for hours on end on her sofa not doing anything. It appeared that artificial isolation suited her more than the company of other pupils, involving as it did a lot of disturbance. Sometimes she actually declared that she liked living alone. It was not until a good deal later that she was taught to feel any group spirit.
Julia did not strike up any friendship with Natasha Korneyeva who lived and studied for a time with her. However, Natasha did nevertheless set her a useful example which led Julia to start reading books.
An important role in encouraging Julia to communicate with other children was played by Volodya T., a seven-year-old deaf-blind boy who was also enrolled in the group at the Institute. Initially Julia rejected any friendly overtures on the part of Volodya. Her abrupt rebuffs led Volodya to try and hurt her, he started pinching and scratching her. Julia was gradually taught to be kinder to him. Soon from her own experience she learnt that if, instead of pushing Volodya away, she was kind to him he would respond likewise. Gradually Julia became very attached to Volodya and assumed for herself the role of his mentor. She taught Volodya everything she knew: how to wash and dry dishes, and put them away, how to dress and undress. Sometimes Volodya would make a fuss and refuse to carry out the task allotted to him; however Julia, quite undeterred, would continue the task they had embarked upon regardless. After this breakthrough Julia was transferred to the home for the deaf-blind, but it was not until two years had passed that she struck up friendships with other pupils and decided that she wanted to be part of her group come what may.
During the holidays, like the majority of the deaf-blind children, Julia goes home to her mother, whom she loves very much.
Considerable time and effort were devoted to teaching Julia work skills. She was trained to work not in a factory, but in home conditions. The All-Russia Association of the Blind caters for those who are unable to work in ordinary factories: the “home based” workers are provided with the necessary equipment, raw materials, instruction, etc. It was decided that Julia would be trained in a number of work operations that she could execute at home.
The first work operation which she mastered was the stamping of furniture nails using a small specially designed machine-tool. Soon after she had been introduced to this work Julia was able to fulfil 75 per cent of the daily quota and later, with no trouble or over-exertion, she reached the 100 per cent target.
The second work operation – assembling rings for a flexible pipe (a part of an agricultural machine) she also mastered with no particular difficulty. By her third lesson Julia could carry out this work operation without wasting any materials and it soon emerged that given a whole working day she would be able to exceed the daily production quota by a wide margin. However, the main objective for Julia’s teachers was to help her master general subjects, and so she used to work a shortened day, outside school hours.
The third work operation she was trained in was assembling a binding machine. This operation she mastered even more quickly than the other two.
The fourth work operation (for which a special machine-tool was used) was bending hooks to be used for making women’s buckles.
Julia was taken on to work at home for one of the artels of the All-Russia Association of the Blind. She visited the relevant workshop with her teacher, was acquainted with all types of work carried out in the workshop and came to understand the role of the work operations she carried out in the work-process as a whole; she was also introduced to some of the workers, to the manager and the cashier who was to pay out Julia’s wages to her.
Later, after Julia had moved to the home for the deaf-blind to take up her studies there, she learnt just as quickly and efficiently to cope with all the work operations for manufacturing safety-pins. What she enjoyed best of all though was sewing work. Here she was in her element: she became really absorbed in this new work and wrote enthusiastic letters about it. The following extract is a typical example: “I am healthy, I am getting on well in the home and at school. Forgive me for not writing to you for so long. I am very busy. At the home for the deaf-blind there are new machines in the sewing room now. I can work quickly and easily with a new machine. I am sewing sheets. I like the new machine very much. I enjoy working in the sewing room a lot.”
By this stage Julia had a good command of verbal language, has mastered skills of oral speech and was carrying out productive work operations in the sewing room.
Natalia Sh. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of eighteen. Her diagnosis read: injury to the central nervous system after viral influenza at the age of fourteen months, followed by encephalitis; aphakia and an after-cataract in her right eve and a cataract In her left eye; vision reduced to photoperception; deaf-mutism.
Natalia’s mother had taught her the skills of self-care and how to behave politely. From the age of nine Natalia had been given individual lessons by a teacher from a school for the partially deaf. In the course of four years she had learnt basic skills in reading, writing and oral speech. Her oral speech, however, was badly articulated and poor in vocabulary.
After four years Natalia’s lessons were discontinued because of the inordinate difficulties experienced by Natalia’s teacher in trying to work with her. For the next four years she was at home. During that time her mother used to work with her. When Natalia was seventeen, she started to receive tuition again, this time at the Institute for Research into Physical and Mental Handicaps, where she studied for a year.
When she came to the home for the deaf-blind, Natalia was able to read and write using Braille script and she had covered the syllabus of the first two and a half years in ordinary schools. During her sixth year at the home Natalia was working at the mathematics syllabus for Class 5 in ordinary schools, at the Class 6 syllabus in Russian language and literature, at the Class 7 syllabus in zoology, geography and history. In addition Natalia had by this time mastered the skills necessary for manufacturing safety-pins and was making good progress in sewing work as well.
She was quite adequately trained for working proficiently in one of the production artels of the All-Russia Association of the Blind.
The following extracts from Natalia’s independently written compositions serve to illustrate her command of language, and also to reflect some of the traits in her character and the nature of her relationships with the people around her:
“I used to live alone without friends. That was before I came to the home. But I was never lonely at home without friends because I was busy doing interesting things and with housework.... I used to walk round the garden of our house by myself. I was almost left to my own devices. Quite simply I wanted very badly to have a friend, but a very close one, a friend just like me. I used to go with Mama by train to Moscow several times a week for lessons. My Mama was very strict. She did not like it when I sometimes did not obey her, yet I love her all the same like a good friend! I did not always speak well out loud because I was lazy and Mama got worried about this. I found it very hard to develop strength of will because my habit was very stubborn. For me that was bitterly sad. It was not a simple matter! I was not a serious person, I had no serious jobs to do like grown-ups. Yura and Sergei do not have anything serious to do either. After all they are pupils. Sergei does have one serious job though. He is in charge of the Komsomol organisation. Yura has a favourite pastime, that is modelling! Natasha’s job is looking after the animals and feeding the fish. That’s rubbish!
“On October 21, 1963, I came to the children’s home for the deaf-blind to study. At first I was shown round the school, and met the teachers from the other groups. I worked with R. V. for various subjects and with V. S. for mathematics and Russian language. I had not been taught properly and did not understand life well.
“My teacher did not understand this and said to me that I did not work well. It was just that at first I did not know how to tell people about things and could not write exercises and compositions properly. I tried my best to understand everything but there were many new things in the books that I could not understand. The teacher did not understand this really and she used to get cross for nothing. When I think back to that I am very surprised about it. I cannot understand at all how that could have happened. My lessons started going better than they had in earlier years.
“In 1965 and 1966 I grumbled because I was very worried, I was also very worried by the things in life around me that existed on earth. When I was really worried, I grumbled all the time during lessons (I could not think calmly about lessons). Natasha helped me correct my mistakes in behaviour, and I did what she said, but she, too, was sometimes unkind.
“I like our teachers who are good, kind people. I do not bully children in the home and am friendly with them always. I am friends most of all with Toma B. because she is like me and she is a close friend. Natasha K. and I are different people, because I think one thing and Natasha another, and so we were always having unexpected quarrels about silly little things. Natasha is not truly friends with me from her heart, like my dear Toma. I am always grateful to Natasha K. for her help and tried to get on with her, but she was often angry with me and said unkind things and did not want to admit that she had been unkind and quarrelsome.
“Every day before bed I read books. Now when I used to talk to Toma B. in our free time everyone called us magpies and chatterboxes, although they did not know what we were talking about.
“This year my work in lessons is not like it used to be. Now I can write without mistakes, or at least only sometimes with mistakes. Even so I am getting on better and have learnt many new things from the teachers, from textbooks, from library books. After that I feel different.
“When I was moved to another group to work with Julia it made me very sad. I am very far on from her (Julia is now reading The Young Guard but I read the book The Young Guard a long time ago.). I must say again that Julia and I are not developed the same.
“Toma B. and I never quarrel and are real friends. Toma and I have the same level. We live and think and understand life the same way! “
Toma B. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of seventeen and a half. Her diagnosis read: meningoencephalitis at the age of six; deafness, loss of speech skills; complete loss of sight in the left eye and partial loss of sight in the right eye; remaining sight in the right eye was lost for
good at sixteen as the result of an accident.
Toma received tuition at a school for deaf children, where she successfully covered a seven-year syllabus. During a summer holiday her brother injured her good eye by an accidental shot from a shotgun, and she lost all that remained of her sight. She was in a hospital for a long time and had no lessons for a year.
In the summer of 1967 Toma came to the home for the deaf-blind. During her first year she was frightened of literally everything. She was unable to walk about on her own and reluctant to try. Nor did she want to learn anything or have anything to do with the other children or the teachers, to participate in the life of the home in any way. She refused to carry out the errands asked of her. She had been emotionally shattered at the loss of her sight and kept saying: “I do not want to live now I’m blind.”
She found it very difficult to communicate with people around her; she had not yet learnt to read finger-spelling and could not use it herself very accurately, her oral speech was not articulate enough and she could not even make use of written speech, since, with her sight lost completely she could not write the ordinary script, nor had she learnt to use Braille script as yet. In the first few months Toma communicated with the other children exclusively by means of sign-language, of which she had a good command.
During her first year Toma learnt to write using both Braille and ordinary type-writers, she learnt to use dactylic speech and communicate via a teletactor. In mathematics she covered the syllabus designed for Class 3 in ordinary schools: in the Russian language and speech development she followed the syllabus for schools for the deaf-blind.
In her second year Toma covered the mathematics, Russian language and speech development syllabus for Class 4 in ordinary schools, and the nature-study, physics and geometry syllabus for Class 5.
During her third year Toma covered the Class 5 syllabus in Russian language and literature, mathematics, history, geography, botany and the Class 6 syllabus in geometry and physics.
The following report was submitted by her teacher R. S. Burlakova during Toma’s third year of tuition at the home:
“In the elapsing years at the children’s home major changes have taken place in this pupil’s behaviour and mental state. Toma has begun to participate in the life of the home, come to know and grow fond of other children and conscientiously to carry out tasks entrusted to her. She has learnt to find her way easily about the home (in her bedroom, along the corridors, in the toilet, the dining room and cloak-room), but she is still frightened of being alone outside (in the yard): she then loses her bearings and becomes completely helpless.
“However, her character is still very unpredictable. Her moods change very often: one moment she is bubbling over with infectious laughter, making other people laugh and enthusiastically carrying out her work, and the next all of a sudden she does not want to do anything at all, becomes melancholy or angry (this applied in particular to her first two years at the home, whereas now she is less subject to sudden changes of mood).
“She enjoys reading and giving accounts of what she has read. She is friendly with all the other children. Initially, she was on close terms only with Natalia S., now her circle of friends is much wider. She shares many interests with and enjoys talking to Nadya K., Lida H., Julia V. to name but a few. Her friendship with Natalia S. does not figure so prominently in her social contacts as before.
“She is not always sufficiently objective or aware of her own faults. However, she no longer complains of being bored or lonely as she did at first and she derives genuine pleasure from her work.
“She works hard to master practical skills in the sewing workshop.”
The next passage is taken from Toma’s diary which she first wrote in Braille script and then typed out on an ordinary type-writer after she had introduced corrections in response to the teacher’s comments:
“Yesterday we took our turn as dining-room monitors. The children had breakfast in the dining room. After breakfast the children said thank you to their teachers and went away to lessons. Nadya and I went to wash the dirty dishes in the scullery. Valya carried the dirty dishes to the scullery. I washed the dishes standing next to Nadya. Valya wiped the table with a cloth and swept the floor with a broom.
“Nadya carefully put the cups in the washing-up bowl. Nadya brought the spoons, forks and knives to Valya. Valya put the spoons, forks and knives on the flap of the sideboard. She wiped the spoons, forks and knives with a drying-up cloth and put them away tidily in the sideboard. After washing up the plates we went to our lessons.
“Nina Vassilievna asked us questions on our nature-study. topic. We answered the questions well. When the lessons were over we wanted to go to the sewing room but it was locked. Julia Ivanovna was not there. She had gone to Moscow. At the fifth lesson Nadya talked to me about the cinema. Nina Vassilievna called us to the dining room. After dinner we washed up again. Nadya went off to work in the workshop. I did not want to have my nap because there was little time left. So I began to read a book in the classroom. Outside it was raining and cold. Lyubov Ivanovna came into class in her overcoat. The boys and girls got up in their dormitories and went to have tea. Lyubov Ivanovna came to me and said Hallo. I said Hallo to Lyubov Ivanovna too and went to have tea. After that Lyubov Ivanovna said to us that the weather outside was nasty. We did not go outside for a walk. I sat on the settee and told Natalia Sh. about the story in my book.”
Vasya U. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of fourteen and a half. His condition was diagnosed as resulting from damage to the central nervous system caused by meningoencephalitis at the age of one month: the boy was blind and had impaired hearing.
Before coming to the home for the deaf-blind Vasya had attended a school for the blind, where he had covered the bulk of the syllabus for pupils in the first two years. He had found study there difficult because of his impaired hearing. Vasya’s level of hearing was not constant: sometimes it improved, then it would deteriorate again. However, Vasya could always hear what people said if they shouted right into his ear. His skills in oral speech were well developed.
At the home for the deaf-blind Vasya began to follow the syllabus for Class 3 in ordinary schools.
His mastery of skills in self-care was good.
For the first six weeks he did not communicate with the other children at all since he did not know either finger-spelling or sign-speech. He could only communicate with other children via the staff. However, by the end of those six weeks he had mastered dactylic speech and had begun to communicate with the other children.
In the fifth year he spent in the home at Zagorsk Vasya was working through the syllabus designed for ordinary schools: the Class 5 syllabus in the Russian language, the Class 6 syllabus in literature, algebra and geography, the Class 7 syllabus in chemistry, zoology and history and the Class 8 syllabus in geometry and physics.
The following extract was taken from a report submitted by his teacher N. V. Lazareva:
“Significant changes are now to be observed in Vasya’s behaviour. He has started to take his studies more seriously. Despite his limited capacity for grasping new material he is trying to complete his schooling programme as quickly as possible.
“He is interested in radio engineering, carpentry, and hopes to be able to work later on in a factory where he can use complex machine-tools.
“Hence his enthusiasm for physics and mathematics.
“He is friendly towards the other children and does not bully anybody. His best friends are Borya G., Kolya B., Vova L., and Alexander S.”
At the Zagorsk home it was decided to admit a special group of mentally retarded children. Some of them had no sight or hearing at all, while others had some residual sight or hearing or both.
These children possessed no skills of self-care. Their physical needs to eat, excrete and protect themselves from cold were attended to by adults looking after them, while the children remained completely passive.
Before coming to the home at Zagorsk, these children with multiple handicaps had not been given any instruction elsewhere. We tried to teach them, as the deaf-blind children who were not mentally retarded, normal habits of human behaviour, skills in self-care and work skills. Observation of these children in the course of their instruction revealed that there was not a single one among them who was utterly unteachable. It proved possible to teach them all skills in self-care and simple work operations, although of varying complexity. It also transpired that a different approach was required for teaching the mentally retarded children, as opposed to the deaf-blind of normal mental capacity. The differences involved, both quantitative and qualitative, in initial tuition are fundamental enough to merit special mention. With this point in view, this chapter has been included to describe results achieved in the tuition of mentally retarded deaf-blind children. Everything these children were taught, particularly in the early stages, was connected with the satisfaction of their immediate physical needs (to eat, excrete and protect themselves).
Usually all instruction took place in real-life rather than classroom situations, situations that were part of the everyday routine. Washing in the morning, morning exercises, making beds, putting on day-time clothes and shoes, eating breakfast, dressing to go out, morning walk, undressing after the walk, washing hands and face before dinner, eating dinner, undressing for the afternoon nap, resting, dressing after the nap, washing face and hands before tea, washing hands, face and feet before bed, turning down the bed for the night and undressing; all these things taken together filled the children’s day. They constituted their instruction programme. Movements involved in self-care and special exercises to develop them were all effected by the teachers: in the early stages the children’s hands moved passively in the hands of the teachers. Just as when working with other deaf-blind children the teachers sought gradually to reduce their active role, while that of the children was gradually increased.
To illustrate this some examples of the early stages of instruction for children from this group are described below.
Ivan D. According to this boy’s case history, he fell ill with tuberculosis meningitis at the age of two, after which he suffered from severe mental retardation, motor malfunction, epileptic fits, blindness and deaf-mutism. He was transferred to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of ten from a home for handicapped children. When he first arrived, Ivan could not walk or use the pot and he had no skills in self-care. He would not eat solid food, bread had to be broken into his soup or dipped into his tea, while any meat or sausage he ate had to be put through the mincer. He could not hold or use a spoon. When he was being dressed or undressed he made no active effort to take part in the procedure at all. All his movements were tense and inhibited.
I was difficult to either bend or unbend his arms, legs or trunk. He seemed to fear making any unnecessary movement, and if a teacher tried to carry out any action using his hands he would tense up and freeze over. Any ordinary movements on the part of other people seemed too abrupt for him. Everything had to be done very slowly. He put up less resistance to movements that were deliberately slowed down.
The boy was gradually taught to use the pot, and when he was being dressed and undressed Ivan’s teacher held his hands in her own and made sure they went through the necessary movements.
Within the framework of a regular timetable the boy was given regular training in walking and needed less and less support. When he was led into the wash-room or play room one of his hands would be held, while with the other he was made to touch the wall. At first for a few seconds at a time, and later several minutes, he would be left on his own, but the teacher would take his hand again as soon as he expressed fear. Periodically he was put through exercises to develop his motor functions: his arms would be stretched out and then bent back towards his body again, his trunk would be bent forward and then straightened out again, he would be made to take little jumps while his hands were held, and encouraged to look for objects that had been dropped on the floor. His hands would be passed over all objects in the rooms he went to, in the corridor and during his walks.
Gradually the boy became more active: whereas initially the teacher had to hold firmly Ivan’s hand as he lifted the spoon to his face, soon Ivan’s hand needed only gentle guidance and support as he fed himself, and this only because the boy’s movements were not coordinated well enough and he might well end up with the spoon containing food the wrong side of his shoulder. Gradually Ivan learnt to coordinate his movements properly and lift his spoon to his mouth himself. However, scooping up food from the plate was an art which remained outside his grasp for a long time to come.
By the end of his first year at the home Ivan was able to walk about his room touching the furniture as he went for support. When he was being dressed he would hold out his arms and legs. In undressing he was even more active. At first his teacher used to take off his stockings holding his hands in hers from the beginning to the end of the operation, then she began to take the stockings off only half way, while Ivan completed the operation independently. Soon all that was required was to place his hands on his stockings or slippers for the child to start taking them off. At first, when his shirt was taken off, first one of Ivan’s arms had to be pulled out of a sleeve and then the other, while he himself did not play any active part in the procedure; then he began to lift his arms, and finally all that needed doing was to raise the hem of his shirt for Ivan to pull the sleeves off his arms and take the shirt off over his head. In this way the beginning of the teacher’s action in taking off stockings and shirt provided Ivan with a signal for continuing the operation the teacher had begun.
It took a great deal of time to teach the boy to go up and down stairs. The stairs led to the dining room and it was therefore necessary to go up and down them four or five times a day. In addition the teacher used also to take Ivan to the dining room to drink water several times a day to teach him to use the stairs independently.
At the end of his first year of instruction at the home Ivan was walking about his room and the corridor, going up and down stairs, while holding onto the banisters with one hand, and he learnt to walk outside as well. Having learned to walk, however, the boy would never actually start walking independently; he would only walk if his teacher first set him off. He learnt to raise his spoon to his mouth, but he could not learn to tell whether or not there was any food in his spoon: he was quite capable of lifting an empty spoon to his mouth. Admittedly he did not learn how to use the pot by himself, but he would get up and become restive, and that was his signal to show that he needed the pot.
The skills for dressing and undressing, which Ivan acquired after a long period of training, proved extremely conservative. The boy would only use a downwards movement for taking off a stocking, and if his stocking became caught up in some way and would not roll down, Ivan would continue to pull it down in the same direction as before, without attempting to change the movement he had already embarked upon. If he was passed a shirt collar first, he would try and put it on that way without turning it round. He did not learn to distinguish his clothes from other people’s. All the actions which he was able to carry out would only be embarked upon by Ivan at a signal from the teacher. No integrated patterns of behaviour ever emerged. It proved impossible to develop any cognitive need in his case: all things that were not connected with eating or dressing Ivan would push away or drop on the floor. It proved impossible to interest Ivan in toys. Nor was it possible to develop any need for communication: Ivan was not capable of apprehending or reproducing a single sign. Neither did he ever learn to imitate others.
Anfisa K. fell ill with meningoencephalitis at the age of five months, after which, according to her mother, she stopped reacting to light or noise and severe mental retardation set in. When Anfisa came to the home for the deaf-blind, it was discovered that the little girl did react to bright light and loud noises. Until the age of six Anfisa had been at a home for handicapped children. When she came to the home for the deaf-blind, she knew how to walk, liked climbing up onto a chair and from a chair to a table or window-sill. She was not able to feed herself and did not hold a spoon: she was able to hold a piece of bread in her hand, but she could not lift it to her mouth or bite off a piece. When she was having her clothes or shoes put on, not only did she not help the teacher but she resisted the latter’s efforts-shouting, biting and scratching. Her resistance was particularly wild when attempts were made to sit her on the pot. She could not wash herself either. Anfisa was constantly sucking her thumb. She had no set sleeping times and was restless when just lying on her bed: at any moment she might get up and start wandering about the room.
On the very first day that Anfisa spent in the home for the deaf-blind work began to teach her to eat, dress, undress, wash, use the pot and make her way to the lavatory or play-room on her own. During meals the teacher would put bread into Anfisa’s left hand and a spoon into her right, and then lift her hands in turn to her mouth. This was an unfamiliar procedure for Anfisa, for her hands had never been involved in the feeding process before. She resisted this innovation. However, the same procedure was repeated day after day. Gradually her resistance abated and active movements on her part began to emerge: the hand with the bread in it started rising in the direction of her mouth and the spoon was also raised facewards. When the child was being dressed and washed, movements were also carried out involving her hands. Exercises to promote her orientation in space were carried out daily: Anfisa was led round her room and along the corridor in such a way that her hands were touching furniture or the walls as she went. Part of her route she covered without help, and this part was gradually increased. When she encountered difficulties or made mistakes the teacher’s hands came to her aid. Anfisa was also given special exercises to promote intricate movements and tactile sensitivity. She was taught to roll out plasticine and to break off small pieces from larger ones, to crumple and tear paper, to put together and take apart pyramids consisting of balls or discs of different sizes, and to pile up building bricks moving them from one place to another.
After six months at the home Anfisa was able to take off her shoes and stockings by herself. She had been taught to wash independently as well. At first she had not enjoyed doing this. The mistake on the part of the teacher at this stage had been to try and teach her to wash with cold water. The little girl used to pull her hands away from the stream of cold water. Once warm water was used instead everything went much better. Anfisa enjoyed holding her hands under the stream of warm water and she was taught then to lift her wet hands to her face and wash it. She learnt quickly how to move her hands up and down her face but she could not manage to move them round and round it. The same applied to drying her face with a towel: she would move her hands with the towel up and down her face one or twice, and that was the end of her drying procedure.
In accordance with the general timetable Anfisa was sat on the pot at regular intervals throughout the day. She kept jumping up and trying to run away and it was almost impossible to hold her back. However, after three months she had learnt to use the pot properly.
Instead of resisting the teacher’s efforts when the latter tried to dress her, Anfisa started to lift her leg when a stocking was to be put on or stretch out her arms when her dress was put on. By the end of her first year at the home Anfisa had become much calmer. Whereas earlier she had fidgeted constantly during meals and at lesson-time, now she lifted bread to her mouth without being prompted and could bite off pieces from a slice, and she could also lift her spoon to her mouth by herself. She had, however, not yet learnt to scoop up food in her plate properly and still needed some help with this. She had also learned to drink from a cup, something that she had not been able to do at all before. Now all that she needed byway of a signal was to have her feeder tied on and then she would make her own way to the dining table and sit down at the table ready to start eating.
While she was being dressed Anfisa would now attempt to help the teacher, putting her hands into the sleeves of her dress, and trying to pull her pants and stockings up over her legs. When being undressed she could already participate in the process with fairly complex movements; if one arm was taken out of a sleeve of her dress Anfisa would then take off the rest by herself and do so properly.
Anfisa learnt to find her way about not just her bed room and play-room, but in the corridor as well. It proved possible to let her out of the lavatory at one end of the corridor and let her make her own way back to the playroom. There were occasions when she went past the required door, but then she would stop, mark time, go back again, find the right door and enter the room.
Anfisa was given special exercises to help her learn to cope with a sliding door. Initial attempts to open the sliding door guiding Anfisa’s hands ended in failure. There was no active involvement on Anfisa’s part: she simply waited for the adult with her to open the door using her hands. Then another means of stimulating her participation in the activity was devised. The door was opened wide enough for Anfisa to be able to squeeze her way through from the corridor into the room with difficulty. When she tried to squeeze her way into the room she could not help but push back the door to widen the gap between the door and its frame. On subsequent occasions the gaps left open were deliberately made smaller and smaller. In this way Anfisa was eventually taught to open the door even when no gap at all was left.
Before coming to the home for the deaf-blind Anfisa had been at a home for bedridden cripples. She had not been taken outside for walks there, and initially she was terrified when taken out into the yard. She used to cry and lie down on the ground. It was only very gradually that the girl grew used to walks. and began to enjoy them. By the end of the year she started to show some active response in connection with this activity. When the time came for the regular daily walks Anfisa would leave her bedroom and make her way to the door leading into the yard.
A most important factor in helping Anfisa find her way about was teaching her to walk with her hands stretched out in front of her. Before being taught to do this Anfisa had not dared to move very far. She found it safer to move about in a tiny familiar space. Usually she had moved around in a small circle in the middle of the room.
None of the movements which it proved possible to teach Anfisa as she was being dressed and undressed did she ever manage to carry out completely independently. She always needed to be prompted and never achieved any integrated patterns of behaviour. She only learnt to carry out certain actions if encouraged to do so by her teachers. It did not prove possible to interest Anfisa in toys, plasticine or paper. When these activities were in progress she was reluctant to stay sitting at the table: she kept trying to get up or sliding under the table. She acquired no active or even passive grasp of the signs (eat, wash, dress) that the teacher tried to teach her.
Kirill K. came to the home for the deaf-blind at the age of fifteen. He was classified as mentally retarded and deaf-blind. He had not learnt any skills of self-care.
During his first year at the home he was taught to eat properly, to use the lavatory, to dress and undress, and avoid wetting his bed. At a sign from the teacher Kirill learnt to take off his clothes and shoes, hang up his clothes on the back of his chair, place his shoes next to his bed and find them again when he got up. He even learnt to distinguish between his right and left shoe or boot. Kirill learnt to brush his own teeth (albeit without tooth-paste or powder), to use soap, to wash and dry his face and hands. At meals Kirill learnt to eat his main course with a spoon (initially he had picked it with his fingers) and he learnt to use a teaspoon for eating stewed fruit. He was not at that stage able to use a fork. He did not manage to learn how to tie or untie his shoelaces, to find his cupboard in the cloak-room or to use a handkerchief.
During his second year Kirill learnt to find his way about in his room, in the corridor, on his own floor and in the cloak-room. He could not, however, find his way about the yard. At meal-times he learnt to eat properly using not just a spoon but a fork as well. He did not master the skills necessary for wielding a knife. By this time he was good at dressing and undressing and used the lavatory properly.
Attempts to teach Kirill to count, to model and to sort out toys into boxes, etc. met with no success.
Later after countless repetitions Kirill learnt to understand signs denoting the following actions: get up, wash, eat, go outside, sleep, and perform the corresponding actions. However, he did not use these signs on his own initiative.
After a long period of training during which the instructor carried out actions using the hands of the pupil, Kirill learnt all the operations necessary for the manufacture of safety-pins. Yet he could not make the transition from one operation to another independently. He worked slowly, but his output was up to standard.
Kirill also learnt how to sew on buttons to shirts, jackets, coats so that the positions of buttons and buttonholes corresponded satisfactorily. He also learnt to use scissors properly.
Everything that Kirill knew how to do he only did at a signal from the teacher. All he did on his own initiative was go to the lavatory. If Kirill was not given any signals for action he could just sit in one place the whole day not doing anything and drop off to sleep sitting up.
To sum up, let it be said that severely retarded children with defective sight, hearing and speech could only be taught a few skills of self-care and in certain cases some work operations.
The execution of the few movements they mastered required long periods of training and represented inert skills performed in response to external stimuli. Skills in self-care and habits of behaviour that they acquired did not constitute an integrated purposeful behaviour pattern.
The reasons behind all this are explained in the results of research into the nature of higher nervous activity of mentally retarded children (60, 33-36). These findings show that associations developed in the mentally deficient do not constitute complex elective systems: nervous processes in these cases are inert and this inertia manifests itself in the frozen nature of their motor stereotypes that cannot be regulated by analysis of concrete irritants. Neither are the signals to which they are exposed analysed by them, they serve merely to trigger off stereotyped sets of reactions.