In Our Care: "Woodward State Hospital and School"

Ray Stewart of WOI-TV Ames, Iowa along with Iowa State University, produced "In Our Care," a 13 week series of documentaries filmed inside Iowa's state institutions. The series won the 1952 National Sylvania Television Award for Production Excellence.

(Voiceover) The newspaper said "Help wanted." You're qualified, but the employment manager said "No," because although you are qualified, you're epileptic. People are…(Missing audio) and so another good job is gone.

Ray Stewart: Otherwise normal people who are subject to epileptic seizures are faced with a tremendous problem. These seizures vary in intensity from person to person, and the resulting social and economic problems vary accordingly.

Ray Stewart: One of the centers for the hospitalization of epileptics is near Woodward, Iowa. The Woodward State Hospital and School is located in Boone County in central Iowa one-half mile north of the town of Woodward, about 32 miles northwest of Des Moines. This institution was opened in 1917 and was originally designed to care for 500 epileptic patients. In 1921, due to the urgent need for additional facilities for the care of the feebleminded of the state, the institution was expanded to include this group and now cares for more than 1600 patients including epileptics from the entire state and feebleminded from the northern half of the state.

Ray Stewart: Tonight, to deal first with the epileptic problem, we find that approximately one-quarter of those who are institutionalized are not mentally deficient but have normal or above average intelligence. To better acquaint you with the problems of these otherwise normal people, I would like you to meet Louie Puttnam, who lives at the hospital and operates a radio repair shop in Woodward. Louie, how long have you been at the hospital in Woodward?

Louie Puttnam: About 12 years.

Ray Stewart: How long have you had epileptic seizures?

Louie Puttnam: Since about 1927. However, I have had the premonition ever since I can remember.

Ray Stewart: What do you mean by premonition?

Louie Puttnam: It's a, well, if anyone you speak to who has them will mention it to you, it's a feeling you have just previous to seizures.

Ray Stewart: You sort of feel that it is coming on.

Louie Puttnam: Yes, it's a feeling.

Ray Stewart: What age were you when you had your first seizure?

Louie Puttnam: I was 17 when I had the first actual seizure.

Ray Stewart: Well, now how can you tell, I mean, you said that you felt those before and after you started having them, you had the same feeling.

Louie Puttnam: It's a feeling more or less comparable to fear.

Ray Stewart: Um hmh. Now, and you had those all your life, up until you were 17.

Louie Puttnam: Yes.

Ray Stewart:What were you able to do with your training, Louie?

Louie Puttnam: My training.

Ray Stewart: Did you go on to school and get training and so on?

Louie Puttnam: I went to radio school after 1927.

Ray Stewart: I see. You were having your seizures then. Have those increased?

Louie Puttnam: The frequency has increased.

Ray Stewart: You went to radio school and learned to study radio, and so forth. Now, it must have been a terrific adjustment to you when you found that this condition.

Louie Puttnam: Well, it's the same, I expect, with everyone who has them. And you find that you have them, and you become aware of the fact that you're going to have to put up with them, and you simply adjust yourself to them.

Ray Stewart: Have you been able to work regularly with the exception of the times when you have the seizures?

Louie Puttnam: Yes, I have.

Ray Stewart: And you operate your own shop there.

Louie Puttnam: Yes.

Ray Stewart: Well, thank you, Louie. I know that the time that we have spent here with you hasn't been nearly enough to cover the problem of epilepsy, but we do want... we did want you to meet someone who has adjusted himself to it and who has... is operating a business of his own.

Ray Stewart: Now the largest activity at Woodward State Hospital and School is with the mentally deficient, aside from the epilepsy. Mental deficiency takes on several forms and degrees of deficiency. While I was visiting at Woodward, I talked with Miss Elsie Seymore staff psychologist. Among other things, I asked Miss Seymore what types of mental deficiency were most common.

Elsie Seymore: The simple type, or what we call the garden variety, is the most numerous, Mr. Stewart, and a large percentage of them belong to that class.

Ray Stewart: You say you can't...

Elsie Seymore: There are no particular physical characteristics or stigmata that mark them

Ray Stewart: I see.

Elsie Seymore: as being feebleminded.

Ray Stewart: Could I see one of those types?

Elsie Seymore: Yes, I think you could. Miss Pierce, would you bring in one of the children? Little Esther. This little girl is one of our brighter ones. Do you want to turn around?

Ray Stewart: Let's bring her over here next to me. How would you like that? I would say she's a blonde.

Elsie Seymore: Esther, yes, and she is 2 years and 11 months old, and she belongs to the moron... moron level.

Ray Stewart: Now, I'm interested in knowing how you can tell a child like this is retarded.

Elsie Seymore: Well, we have standardized tests that go down to the 2-year level and even below that we can get some idea of their motor and sensory responses. And if they start speech and show some social responses. Now, let's see. Esther, will you show me the dolly's hair? That's right. And where are the dolly's eyes?

Esther: Eye.

Elsie Seymore: Yes.

Esther: Eye.

Elsie Seymore: And where are the dolly's hands? Do you like the dolly?

Ray Stewart: Now, you think this represents about the most common type.

Ray Stewart: What are some of the others?

Elsie Seymore: We have a great variety of types. I can show you a few of the most outstanding, perhaps. The next one that I can show you is a little mongolian, little Sandra.

Ray Stewart: What are the characteristics.

Elsie Seymore: She's 5 years. Come over here, Sandra, will you please?

Ray Stewart: Do you want to stand right here.

Elsie Seymore: Right over here. The characteristics are the rather small head and the depressed nose bridge, and the tongue is rather large or else it's pointed. And the hands are spatulate, and the little finger curves inward and very short stubby hands. And there usually is a crease, deeper crease than usual across their hands.

Ray Stewart: Well, what is the standard, I mean, on what level of intelligence.

Elsie Seymore: Well, most of them are at the imbecile level, and this little girl is. Their joints are very hyperextensile. They're rhythmical, they love music, and they mimic people.

Ray Stewart: Then what another type is one.

Elsie Seymore: Well, another type is the cretin, which is due to a lack of thyroxine. Hello, Charles, can you come in?

Ray Stewart: This boy's name is Charles.

Elsie Seymore: Yes. And how old are you, Charles? Can you tell Mr. Stewart?

Charles: Well, 23.

Ray Stewart: Twenty-three years old.

Elsie Seymore: And you see the dwarfed stature, and it also indicates a dwarfed mind and some irregularities in the shank.

Ray Stewart: What do you do, Charlie, over there at the school?

Charles: Well, I make mats.

Ray Stewart: You work with art

Charles: Yeah.

Ray Stewart: and things like that.

Charles: Uh huh.

Ray Stewart: What is the level of Charlie here?

Elsie Seymore: They're usually about the imbecile level, perhaps the high imbecile.

Ray Stewart: Thank you, Charlie, very much.

Elsie Seymore: Then we have the cranial anomaly group, and there are quite a number in that group. I'll show you one, John, who is a microcephalic.

Ray Stewart: Microcephalic. Hi, John. How are you?

John: Okay.

Ray Stewart: What are the characteristics there?

Elsie Seymore: The small size head. The head rarely develops beyond 17 inches in circumference. And not only the small size, but also the slanting forehead, and sometimes it comes to an apex. Otherwise, sometimes they're rather ungainly and shambling in their gait, but otherwise, there are not any particular physical characteristics.

Ray Stewart: What level of intelligence is reached there?

Elsie Seymore: Most of them are at the imbecile level too. And there are... John has two brothers who are at Woodward also.

Ray Stewart: Could run in the family, then.

Elsie Seymore: Yes. There are the two types. Some of them are familial because of the occurrence of more than one in a family, and it also may due... may be due to exogenous causes such as drugs or x-ray treatment during pregnancy of the mother.

Ray Stewart: John, what do you do over there at Woodward?

John: Work in the laboratory.

Ray Stewart: That's right. I made some pictures in the laboratory. You do a good job over there.

John: That's right.

Ray Stewart: Well, thank you very much, John, for coming out. We'll see you again sometime.

Elsie Seymore: There's one more type that I'd like to show you and that is (missing audio)

Ray Stewart: (missing audio) what type?

Elsie Seymore: They are so called because of their rather grotesque appearance. This is Lee.

Ray Stewart: Hi, Lee. Now what... what is the cause of this?

Elsie Seymore: That is a disturbance of the lipoid. It's a lipoid disturbance. That is, the fatty tissues of the nerve cells, and it is affects almost every part of the body.

Ray Stewart: Oh, I see.

Elsie Seymore: The...

Ray Stewart: This is prenatal too?

Elsie Seymore: And Congenital, yes.

Ray Stewart: Congenital. Now

Elsie Seymore: See, one of the characteristics that you may find is this syndactylism of the hands.

Ray Stewart: Sort of webbed.

Elsie Seymore: Also of the feet.

Ray Stewart: Is that webbed?

Elsie Seymore: Yes.

Ray Stewart: His hand isn't webbed now.

Elsie Seymore: Well, he's had an operation so that it makes it possible for him to use his hand. And he does quite a few things. Do you want to tell us what you do, Lee?

Lee: I help on the ward and play... play baseball.

Elsie Seymore: Help on the ward? And he plays ball too. He catches.

Ray Stewart: Do you like to play ball?

Elsie Seymore: Another thing you want to see is usually the ears and the bushy hair and eyebrows, and the teeth very often are affected. And the cornea of the eye.

Ray Stewart: I see. How old is Lee?

Elsie Seymore: He's 21.

Ray Stewart: He's old enough to vote, then. Well, now, what is his level of...?

Elsie Seymore: That is imbecile also.

Ray Stewart: Um hmh. Most, most of the, these groups go in that level then do they?

Elsie Seymore: Yes, the simple type you find more of them at the moron level.

Ray Stewart: Thank you, Lee.

Elsie Seymore: And the causes of all of these is very difficult to determine. It's partly heredity and partly environment and a mixture of both of them, particularly with the simple type.

Ray Stewart: I see. Now this doesn't represent all of the types.

Elsie Seymore: No, not by any means. There are a great many other types.

Ray Stewart: For instance. I mean could you go into any of those others just as a description?

Elsie Seymore: Well, there are many more of the cranial anomaly. There's also the hydrocephalic, which is the very large-sized head that is difficult to show or bring in, and the hyperteloric is another type, and macrocephalic. Those are the cranial anomalies. And there are several other types. They're not a homogeneous group in any way. They differ in their physical characteristics, their mental characteristics, their personality, and their social and economic backgrounds.

Ray Stewart: The care and training of these children is, as you can see, a very specialized and a very important task. I made a very complete tour of the wards and facilities of Woodward State Hospital some time back in the company of Bob Allen, who is the assistant male supervisor. In one of our ward visits, we stopped to talk with Mrs. Irene Callahan, who is the supervisor of Westwood Cottage. We join Mrs. Callahan with some of the children in one of the cottage day rooms. What types of children are in your cottage, Mrs. Callahan.

Irene Callahan: At Westwood, we have children of the higher mental level or school children.

Ray Stewart: What about your school children. Are they... what ages and about how many do you have?

Irene Callahan: Well, we have approximately a hundred, and I would say that they start at the habit training age up to the age of 17.

Ray Stewart: Are these children very hard to care for?

Irene Callahan: Well, I can't say they're any harder than normal children if you're accustomed to them.

Ray Stewart: You just have more of them, is that it?

Irene Callahan: Yes.

Ray Stewart: And they're all girls in that cottage there.

Irene Callahan: All girls.

Ray Stewart: Now, how do they... Do they all eat right there in the cottage? Do they have their dining hall and so forth?

Irene Callahan: Yes, we have two dining rooms there.

Ray Stewart: How many attendants do you have to have in your building to care for these children at one time?

Irene Callahan: We try to have four on each floor and there's three floors in that building.

Ray Stewart: Three floors. So that would take... you'd need a good many attendants all the way through. Now do you have children of all mental levels in your cottage?

Irene Callahan: They are a little mixed, although it's tried to be kept...

Ray Stewart: Mostly of the better grades. I noticed down in the basement, there were some of the lower grades. How long have you been over there?

Irene Callahan: Well, I've been there five years.

Ray Stewart: Now, um. Caring for these children, I can realize the problems that you must have and the specialized work and so forth without going into it. How do you like your work in caring for these?

Irene Callahan: I like it very much. And I think that the longer anyone's in this work, the better they'll like it, and there's something new and different that they can learn every day.

Ray Stewart: All of the people who are involved in the care of these children are important people. To help you understand more of the needs of these mentally deficient children, I have asked Miss Seymore to come in for a discussion of their special problems. Miss. Seymore, what can you do for these children?

Elsie Seymore: Well, of course one of the main things of a psychology department is to diagnose the patients and find out what their mental level is, their personality, their emotional maturity, and any special aptitudes or disabilities that they may have and then make recommendations for treatment or for their training or for their work.

Ray Stewart: Well, now what specifically, and maybe you answered it there, but what specifically are you able to determine from those tests?

Elsie Seymore: Well, we can tell much better than snap judgment of the person's mental level, their intelligence, and also a good deal of their general reaction to any situation. If they have some personality defects or trouble in adjustment, we are pretty sure to find it out in our test period. Of course, we do like to see these when we do find some special difficulties that the child has, we like to have the treatment that we know they should have available.

Ray Stewart: How are you able to teach them or to treat them, as the case might be?

Elsie Seymore: Well, of course we recommend that they be placed in school if they are... if we think that they could profit from that training. Or if they need special speech therapy or special reading, remedial work in reading. We have one patient who is, came in recently who has an IQ of 80 and yet he cannot read, and we have arranged for one of our teachers to be give him special remedial work. And there are... we have many that come in that have reading difficulties.

Ray Stewart: Are you able to work very closely with the teacher, is that a function of your department?

Elsie Seymore: Well, it... at times it is and it's going to be... I'm going to have more of that work to do, I think, as I have help with the regular routine testing, and at present I do have some help.

Ray Stewart: You... You make your tests available, though, to that teacher or do you just assign them?

Elsie Seymore: No, I send a report over to the director of the academic education to be on file.

Ray Stewart: Do you have any special therapies or things that you do yourself?

Elsie Seymore: Yes, I do, and I think if I had to give up the testing or the therapy, I would give up the testing. I think the therapy there is very important.

Ray Stewart: What is the nature of that?

Elsie Seymore: Well, I have the group psychotherapy and individual psychotherapy and play therapy and activity groups.

Ray Stewart: What can you do in that group therapy?

Elsie Seymore: We have to use different techniques from what they do use or emphasize different techniques from what they do in some situations. I cannot be as permissive or as non-directive as one can with patients who understand more. I have to be more directing in counseling and giving them a pattern.

Ray Stewart: Is it basically a discussion thing where they discuss problems and such?

Elsie Seymore: Yes, at a certain level. But with the younger ones, it has to be through the activities.

Ray Stewart: And your observation and so forth. Well there are more facets to the care and training of these children than can possibly be related in a brief program like this. But one of the important phases, as we have brought out, is concerned with the academic training of these children. This institution has a special school which is geared to the special needs of retarded minds. Here they are able to study the things that they need to study at the pace they need to study them.

Ray Stewart: These cards which you will see here are a special device for helping them to learn fractions by laying the required number under the direction of the teacher on the board. There are many activities for the children to bring out and develop their skills.

Ray Stewart: This little girl is deaf. There are some considerations that she might be retarded rather than completely deficient. And then, of course, the art class extends to the others and finger-painting and various types of activity.

Ray Stewart: The teacher here is showing the children how to count by asking them to hold up certain blocks, hold up two blocks, three blocks, now count all of the blocks and so forth. There is... It's a definite visual aid to teaching. Now they hold up three blocks.

Ray Stewart: There's more to the training of these children than you might think. They must be taught how to live in a home and learn how to cook and how to sew. Notice in the picture that there are some Gray Ladies. This lady is helping with a jigsaw puzzle and here one of the Ladies in Blue of the American Legion is helping comfort one of the children.

Ray Stewart: There's a beauty parlor operated by the volunteer workers, and as you can see, the volunteer work at this institution is an extremely important thing. This is church school where the Ladies in... These are the Gray Ladies, I believe. This is catechism with the Ladies in White. The volunteer workers from all sections come.

Ray Stewart: Here is a student from Ames, the Presbyterian Church, Collegiate Presbyterian Church. The students have been responsible for much work and painting and so forth there. And we made this picture especially to show you the great number of volunteer workers who are busy at Woodward State Hospital and School.

Ray Stewart: This institution has a big program, an institution with many, many activities and efforts. Much is being done at the Woodward State Hospital and School and the coordinator of all these activities is here with me. She is Dr. Grace M. Sawyer, who is the acting superintendent of the school and the hospital. Dr. Sawyer, do you have all of your problems solved?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: By no means. We have the problems of the ordinary household, the problems of food, clothing, physical care, health, recreation, sanitation, as well as a large farm, garden, big dairy herd, and so forth. Those things that every farm family have to contend with.

Ray Stewart: Well, you have to be a lot more than a doctor, then, to manage this thing don't you?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: That's right.

Ray Stewart: Well now, what do you consider your biggest need?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: At the present time, our biggest need is an increase in the budget which will provide us with adequate help.

Ray Stewart: I see.

Dr. Grace Sawyer: Help in all areas from professional down through all the levels of nonprofessional.

Ray Stewart: I visited the ward there. I noticed the very important job that your attendants were doing, but you also have a shortage of doctors, as well.

Dr. Grace Sawyer: Yes.

Ray Stewart: I think that people might be interested in knowing from your point of view what do you consider the public attitude is toward mentally deficient people?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: We find the public attitude to be very sympathetic. We have many visiting groups. The Gray Ladies have carried out the work throughout our central area and have made for a very good feeling toward the institution. We have groups visiting us practically daily—students, college students, high school students, social workers, doctors, frankly every profession, ministers, and so forth.

Ray Stewart: I take it that these visitors are welcome.

Dr. Grace Sawyer: They're very welcome. They are urged to come, invited to come back.

Ray Stewart: You are interested, then, in promoting public relations

Dr. Grace Sawyer: Very much.

Ray Stewart: Now, does that help... Are you able on these higher type children to train them so that they can go out into society and earn a living for themselves?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: Yes, that has been our policy. Through the years we have changed, the institution policy has changed from a custodial type policy to a training type policy. For the past three to five years, we have been placing patients out on work and home placement situations. In the main, these have proved to be quite successful.

Ray Stewart: You would consider your program in that regard very successful.

Dr. Grace Sawyer: Generally speaking, yes.

Ray Stewart: What... If I wanted to get one of these children to work for me, say, I would put in an application, contact you?

Dr. Grace Sawyer: That's right.

Ray Stewart: I see.

Dr. Grace Sawyer: It would then in turn be turned to the social welfare department who would make the proper investigations and make the placement arrangements.

Ray Stewart: It is very encouraging to know that you are able to do more with these children than perhaps you have been able to do in the past. Thank you, Dr. Sawyer, for helping us to understand the institution a little better.

Ray Stewart: We have a little more to this program, but before I go, I would like to tell you that we are presenting this series of programs, and this is the seventh, as a public service to help you become acquainted with our state institutions. We would like to know your activities. So, if you would like to write to me, Ray Stewart, here at WOI TV, I would be very glad to hear from you concerning the program.

Ray Stewart: We have some children here who would like to entertain for you. They're from the Woodward Hospital and let's look at them now.

Boy singing: And when my Baby smiles at me, my heart goes roaming to paradise. And when my Baby smiles at me, there's such a wonderful light in her eyes, a kind of light that means just love, the kind of love that brings sweet harmony. I sigh, I cry, it's just a glimpse of heaven when my Baby smiles at me.

Three boys singing: And when my Baby smiles at me, my heart goes roaming to paradise. And when my Baby smiles at me, there's such a wonderful light in her eyes, the kind of light that means just love, the kind of love that makes sweet harmony. I sigh, I cry, it's just a glimpse of heaven when my Baby smiles at me.

Couple singing: Anytime you're feeling lonely. Anytime, you're feeling blue. Any time you feel down-hearted, that will prove your love...

(Voiceover) The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity.

(Voiceover) This has been a public service feature produced in the studios of WOI TV Ames, Iowa by Ray Stewart. The program was directed by LaMar Smith. Script for In Our Care is prepared by Hazel Allen, with production research by Ferne Bonomi. The technical director was Charles Hawley. Portions of the program were on film. Next week, we will present the story of the mental hospitals at Clarinda and Independence. This is Bob Heskett speaking.