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In 1842, a training school for children with disabilities was established in Berlin, and another in Leipzig in 1846. England also established training schools at this time. In 1842, Johann Jakob Guggenbühl (1816-1863), a young doctor, established a school for "cretins" in Switzerland. When Guggenbühl was 20 years old, "he was stirred by the sight of a dwarfed, crippled cretin of stupid appearance mumbling the Lord's prayer at a wayside cross."


Guggenbühl decided to devote his life to the cure of cretinism , and soon established his training school called the Abendberg. The school was built 4,000 feet above sea level on a mountain summit, because Guggenbühl believed that the lower altitudes somehow contributed to cretinism. He also believed that his students could be cured through proper health programming and training.

Children Exercising
Children Exercising
Guggenb├╝hl at Abendberg
Guggenbühl at Abendberg

Guggenbühl was praised for his efforts. He traveled widely throughout Europe and spoke of the accomplishments at the Abendberg. Eventually, however, visitors to the Abendberg discovered neglect and abuse, due in part to Guggenbühl's frequent and prolonged absences from his pupils. Unfortunately, contemporaries viewed the failure of the Abendberg as the personal failing of Guggenbühl.

The most important lesson of the failure of Abendberg was that overcrowded, understaffed, segregated facilities inevitably tend toward abuse and neglect. Although the Abendberg was closed, and Guggenbühl was disgraced, his initial efforts influenced others to open training schools for children with disabilities.