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In America, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876) was involved in many social causes. He was concerned about the conditions of persons with mental illness, persons with a hearing loss or who are blind, slaves, and groups of people who were politically oppressed throughout Europe. Consequently, he was familiar with developments in Europe, having visited Dr. Guggenbühl's Abendberg school and hearing reports of Seguin's work in France.

In 1848, Dr. Howe, director of the Perkins School for the Blind, established The Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth, an experimental boarding school in South Boston for youth with intellectual deficiencies. Both Seguin and Howe firmly believed in the importance of family and community, and wanted their schools to prepare children with disabilities to live with the rest of society.

At this time, most social reformers in America believed "idiots" could not be taught. Many believed phrenology , "the practice of studying the shape of the skull to determine human characteristics and functions," offered the only hope of understanding disabilities.

Samuel Gridley Howe
Samuel Gridley Howe