IV. The Rise of the Institutions 1800 - 1950 B. 1850 - 1880: Make the Deviant Undeviant
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Edouard Seguin

Another influential young doctor was Edouard Seguin (1812-1880), who studied medicine and surgery under Itard (author of "Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron"), and psychiatry under Esquirol. Seguin is considered the first great teacher in the field of disabilities. He improved upon Itard's method of sensory training.

While he worked as a director at the school for "idiots" in the Salpetriere asylum, Seguin saw the potential benefits of a physiological method in treating mental retardation. He believed that mental deficiency was caused by a weakness of the nervous system, and could be cured through a process of motor and sensory training.

By developing the muscles and senses, Sequin believed his pupils, regardless of their level of intellectual deficiency, would obtain more control over their central nervous systems and in turn gain control over their wills. In 1844, the Paris Academy of Science praised Seguin's methods, stating that he had solved the problem of "idiot education." Seguin's methods and positive results served as a foundation for similar efforts throughout Europe and America.

Among those later influenced by his teaching methods was Maria Montessori (1870-1952), a pioneer in teaching children with and without disabilities. In 1850, Seguin left France for the United States, and worked with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, Dr. Hervey Wilbur, and others in developing training schools.

Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori