When I joined the faculty of the Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Syracuse University in 1973, a great number of the wooden tables and chairs in its building were painted a peculiar color that one might call silver-gray or steel-gray. Somewhere along the line, I was told that this mode of coloring furniture had been instituted by a previous director of the Division, William Cruickshank (1915–1992), as part of his ideology of educating brain-injured children. In fact, some people referred to the gray chairs as “Cruickshank chairs.”
Facilitated by having an extensive collection of historical publications at hand, I began in 1998 to do some research on the history of this claim, and thought that the collation of my findings constituted an interesting chapter in the history of special education, and of mental retardation and related conditions during the 20th century, and therefore decided to share it with a broader audience.
Because so many soldiers in World War I suffered traumatic brain injuries—usually from penetrating head wounds—a number of medical scholars in several countries used this natural experiment to study the effects of such traumas. (One minor observation is that the early literature commonly spelled brain-injury with a hyphen, while the current spelling of brain injury omits the hyphen.) One of the scholars on the German side who was to achieve considerable fame for this work was Kurt Goldstein (1878–1956; e.g., Gelb & Goldstein, 1920; Goldstein, 1927), who later was to flee to the United States because he was Jewish. (On the English side, Henry Head did similar work.) Working with Goldstein were several colleagues, one of whom was Adhemar Gelb, and another was M. Scheerer, with whom he published one of his first works in English in 1941 (Goldstein & Scheerer, 1941). Goldstein (1942) also soon republished in English his work on World War I soldiers.
Alfred A. Strauss (1897–1957), a German neuropsychiatrist, was also one of the people in several countries who, during or after World War I, became very interested in, and studied, traumatic brain injury in soldiers. While receiving advanced training at the University of Frankfurt, he became aware of the work of Goldstein, and began to try to relate some of the symptoms of mildly retarded children to the symptoms of Goldstein's brain-injured soldiers (Kirk, 1974).
Being Jewish, Strauss left Germany for Spain in 1933, and thence came to the United States in 1937, where—between 1937–1946—he found a position at the Wayne County Training School (at Northville, Michigan, a few miles west of Detroit). This was a county institution (the only one of its kind in the United States) for youths with various kinds of mental and behavioral problems, especially low intelligence. From the late 1930s into the 1970s (and to some degree still today), it was quite common for professionals from abroad to work in institutions of all types all over the United States because they found it difficult to get other employment in their professions, and these institutions commonly had difficulties recruiting and retaining American professionals. For a period of about 20 years, some very prominent figures in mental retardation and related areas worked at Wayne County Training School, several of them immigrants or refugees, such as Thorlief Gruner Hegge (born in 1889 in Norway), and the Vienna-born developmental psychologist Heinz Werner (1890–1964), another Jewish refugee. Werner was a very influential figure both in the mainstream of developmental psychology, and to a lesser degree, in abnormal mental development. Strauss and Werner co-authored at least 12 publications in English during the years 1938 through 1943, as documented in Strauss and Lehtinen (1947). (For material on the significance of Werner's work specifically, see Barten and Franklin, 1978, and Wapner and Kaplan, 1966.) Among Strauss' colleagues at that institution was also an American educator and psychologist by the name of Newell C. Kephart (1911–1973), with whom Strauss started co-authoring publications no later than 1939.
Early in his studies of the work of Goldstein, Strauss had concluded that brain injury such as had been sustained by soldiers in World War I could profoundly change a person's personality so that the person became “different.” So when Strauss began to discourse in English about persons with brain injury, he infelicitously chose to translate the German word for different (anders) as other. Very likely, Strauss was not yet attuned to the nuances of English, and that “otherness” did not exactly evoke a positive image. Among other things, it conjures up images of “man as other,” an apparently first description of which was rendered by Vail (1966) in his seminal work on dehumanization in mental and mental retardation institutions. (By the way, the phrase “the other” has since acquired considerable popularity as a shorthand expression referring to devalued and distanced persons, not only in English but other languages as well.)
Once Strauss began to draw a parallel between the symptomatology of a certain proportion of “mentally deficient” children and of the brain-injured soldiers he had studied, he began to infer that these children must have suffered brain injury even if their records failed to document it. Building on this hypothesis, he began (in Strauss, 1933) to popularize the distinction between exogenous and endogenous mental deficiency, first proposed by Larsen (1931). Apparently, the first major publication in English from the Strauss culture that promoted this distinction was by Strauss and Werner (1942).
In order to be assumed to be brain-injured, a child had to meet many or all of the following criteria: disturbances in perception (especially figure-ground confusion); problems with concept formation (especially concreteness and rigidity or perseveration, as in difficulty in shifting from one thought or activity to the next); behavior (especially distractibility, hyperactivity, and lack of inhibition) that interfered with normal learning; neurological abnormalities (even if very minor or mild); a history of an insult to the brain before, during, or after birth; and an absence of a family history suggesting hereditary factors. In practice, many children deemed to be brain injured by the Strauss culture had no documented history of brain insult, and often had few or no neurological abnormalities. (For an excellent review of historical notions of brain injury in children between roughly 1920 and 1980, see the two Salmon lectures by Rutter, 1981 and 1982, but especially 1982.)
In 1946, Strauss left the Wayne County Training School because of poor health, but already in 1947, he founded the Cove School—a residential facility for youth with problems—in Racine, Wisconsin. In 1950, he also founded a comparable day school in Evanston, Illinois, both subsequently called the Cove Schools, not to be confused with the Grove School in Lake County, Illinois, described by Matson (1974).
Also in 1947, Strauss, in co-authorship with Laura E. Lehtinen, published his famous book, Psychopathology and Education of the Brain-Injured Child, based largely on his work at the Wayne County Training School, and in part on the work of Heinz Werner, though the latter was not a co-author. This book was a major force in setting into motion a human service craze about the “brain-injury” construct, at least in children. This is evidenced by the fact that by 1972, the 1947 text had gone through 17 printings, and possibly more since.
One person who embraced the teaching of Strauss was the aforementioned Newell C. Kephart who, after leaving the Wayne County Training School, became a professor of psychology at Purdue University in Indiana. There, he installed a teaching program based on the ideas of Strauss. In 1950, he produced a film about it, entitled “The Atypical Child in the Classroom,” that tried to communicate what the ideology of the brain-injury construct, and its matching program, were like, though the film had many problems in doing so, in my opinion.
Strauss also became a mentor to a parent, Richard S. Lewis (born 1916), of a “brain-injured child.” Lewis was an acclaimed science writer. In 1951, Lewis, Strauss, and Lehtinen published a book which—unlike the one by Strauss and Lehtinen—was aimed at “parents and laymen.” It was entitled The Other Child: The Brain-Injured Child, basing the title on the image of “otherness” created by Strauss.
Apparently impressed by the work and writings of Kephart, Strauss invited him to co-author a follow-up volume of Psychopathology and Education of the Brain-Injured Child. This book, published in 1955, and titled the same as the 1947 one, was subtitled Vol. II. Progress in Theory and Clinic. Some time after the 10th reprinting of the 1947 text in January 1962, it was retroactively subtitled Vol. I: Fundamentals and Treatment of Brain-Injured Children, and later printings continued to carry this subtitle that had been postnatally bestowed on it. (By March 1972, Volume II had already gone through eight printings, and there may have been more after that.) Although Lehtinen was no longer a co-author of the second volume, she and two other persons nonetheless collaborated with the authors.
The construct of childhood brain injury quickly became very popular. Soon, organizations concerned with brain injury sprang up, such as the New York Association for Brain Injured Children (formed in 1957) that published material on the topic and funded demonstration classes at Hunter College in New York City. Conferences on brain injury began to be held by various organizations (in 1959, the Association for Aid to Crippled Children, which later became the Easter Seal Society, devoted its annual meeting to the topic of “brain injury”), and articles on the topic began to appear in the mass media. An article written by a priest (Rohan, 1958), entitled “Re: The Other Child,” was widely distributed and reprinted. (It has since become “fugitive literature.”)
Once Strauss died in 1957, Kephart became one of his ideological heirs. He wrote (in 1960) The Slow Learner in the Classroom that contained many elements based on Strauss' thinking, gave many lectures, and became very influential with teachers and parents. Kephart also was the “founder editor” of the Slow Learner Series published by Charles E. Merrill that published books (e.g., Ball, 1971; Bush & Waugh, 1976) on related topics, with identical cover pictures that resembled the picture on the dust jacket of Kephart's 1960 book The Slow Learner in the Classroom.
In 1960, a second edition of the Lewis, Strauss (posthumously), and Lehtinen 1951 book, The Other Child: The Brain-Injured Child, was published. In 1961, another parent, Ernest Siegel, of a brain-injured child also published a book on the topic, Helping the Brain Injured Child: A Handbook for Parents, which rather strangely was interpreted on its dust jacket as the “first comprehensive” book on the topic, though like the book by Lewis, Strauss, and Lehtinen, it was directed primarily at parents. In it, one was told such peculiar things as how “brain-injured” children should be taught to bathe, brush their teeth, and go to bed. (The spelling of brain injured in this book was inconsistent.)
The children who were deemed to have brain injury as conceptualized by Strauss and his coworkers might or might not be mentally retarded. Earlier on in Strauss' work, they usually were; later, more children without mental retardation began to “qualify” as “brain-injured.” For instance, a review by Hallahan and Cruickshank (1973) of studies of children said to be brain damaged or having learning problems found that 82% of them in 1941–1945 studies were retarded, but only 16% in the 1966–1970 studies.
Whether retarded or not, such children were interpreted as requiring special kinds of instructional techniques, and, indeed, entire curricula. Accordingly, for several decades, all sorts of programs, classes, curricula, and activities for “brain-injured” children were developed. One of the ideas very prominent in many of these programs was that brain-injured children were easily distracted, and that, therefore, teaching should be conducted in an environment from which all irrelevant stimuli had been stripped. This meant that the physical space and its furnishings would be monotonous and drab in color, absent of decorations; the walls, floor, and furniture would all be of the same color; there were no such things as teacher desks, pencil sharpeners, calendars, blackboards, or bulletin boards; shelves were all enclosed so that their contents would not draw attention; there would be a reduction or elimination of distractions from outside (e.g., either no windows, or opaque glass); and the teachers were to dress plainly and wear no jewelry or make-up.
One gets the impression that what many parents were most concerned about were two things: either to avoid or escape a naming of their child as “mentally retarded,” or how to respond to their child's hyperactivity and distractibility. Obviously, the latter was the root of what is currently the “attention deficit/hyperactivity syndrome.” The brain injury construct in those days also played a role somewhat similar to that since assumed by the “autism” construct, in that children of subaverage intellectuality who came from the lower social classes were commonly interpreted to be “mentally deficient” (most likely of the “cultural-familial” or “garden variety” type), whereas those from upper social classes were more apt to be interpreted as “brain-injured,” much as a diagnosis of autism for their child seems to have been preferred by many parents of the middle and higher social classes. However, that is admittedly a controversial opinion.
Readers may be amused to learn that according to Dunn (1960), the 1947 book by Strauss and Lehtinen had stimulated more research and critical thinking in mental retardation than any other book in the 1938–1958 era, though Dunn called for educators and psychologists to drop the brain-injury construct, and at most use the term “Strauss-syndrome.”
The popularity of the Straussian construct and pedagogic system did not last long, for at least four reasons. (a) Although it inspired much research, the findings were not very favorable to the construct. (b) Stevens and Birch (1957) critiqued the Straussian brain-injury construct, and proposed that it be called “Strauss syndrome” instead, so as to free it from the assumption that the observed behavior was the result of an injury to the brain. However, the proposal was not widely accepted. (c) Modernistic people are craze-crazy, and quickly lose interest in the newest and latest scheme when another one comes along (Wolfensberger, 1991, 1994). (d) In fact, there was an upsurge in other or broader concerns with “brain-damage” or “organicity” at that time, and with corresponding tests, instructional materials, and therapeutic regimens for both children and adults. For instance, the study of the psychological manifestations of traumatic brain injury started becoming a growing field in the early 1940s (e.g., Conklin, 1944), probably in part because of a new wave of brain-damaged soldiers during World War II, and spawned a number of craze notions, especially in clinical psychology. Relatedly, in 1956, the prominent child psychiatrist Lauretta Bender (designer of the Bender Gestalt Test) published an influential book entitled Psychopathology of Children With Organic Brain Disorders. Werner was not mentioned in it, and Strauss was mentioned only twice (and that in footnotes) in connection with his 1947 text co-authored by Lehtinen. Similarly, Edith Meyer Taylor, in her substantial 1959 book on Psychological Appraisal of Children With Cerebral Defects, barely mentioned Strauss (again, only in a footnote).
Not only did competing constructs and theories arise, but a number of other pedagogic regimens for “brain injuries” ascended in the craze firmament as the Straussian craze faded, including one by Bobath. For a relatively short time, so-called “patterning,” promoted by Doman and Delacato of the (Philadelphia) Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential, was out ahead. Several parents wrote books about how their children benefited from patterning. A good example of a parallel to Siegel's (1961) book, but focused on patterning, was Marilyn Segal's 1966 book, Run Away, Little Girl, about her severely brain-injured (from being very premature) daughter Debbie. Marianne Frostig came out with a whole package of writings and testing and instructional materials, though these were at least partially influenced by Straussian notions. People continued to speak of brain-injured children, but not in the Straussian sense. By 1964, Birch had compiled a substantial annotated bibliography on “brain-damaged children” generally (the bibliography was also reprinted as a separate brochure the same year by The Woods Schools, Langhorne, PA.).
We have lost our appreciation of just how popular some of the early books on “brain injury” were with pedagogues and parents. I mentioned the many reprintings of the Strauss texts, and Siegel's (1961) book was reprinted several times—four times by January 1968, and possibly more often thereafter. Other people also published books on the topic, such as Your Child or Mine: The Brain Injured Child and His Hope by Hood (1957), a teacher who first founded a school for brain-injured children, and then had a severely handicapped child himself. In Robinson and Robinson (1965, p. 215), readers will find a list of people who developed theories or instructional systems for children with symptoms identical or similar to those subsumed by the Strauss syndrome.
One factor that has contributed to our loss of this and other historical knowledge is that publications that appeared before the major computerized databases were established a few decades ago are commonly treated by younger scholars as nonexistent. Several major introductory mental retardation, special education, or “exceptionality” texts in recent decades have not even carried the term “brain injury” in their indexes, or have made only the most fleeting reference to the construct, or have instead given some emphasis to “brain damage” or “organicity.” Similarly, I was amazed to read a 1999 review (Rosenthal, 1999) of a book by Winslade (1998) on brain injury, where Rosenthal asserted that “prior to 1980, virtually no textbooks or primers were available to guide professionals or consumers who wanted to gain an understanding about the nature of traumatic brain injury or its consequences”—and that in a journal of the American Psychological Association devoted entirely to reviews of psychology-related books! Another reviewer (Puente, 1999) in the American Scientist of Winslade's book made a similar claim, saying that “missing from the head-injury literature has been a nonmedical or neuro-psychological perspective” (p. 379). The loss of memory by people in relevant fields of the Straussian oeuvre is all the more remarkable in light of the importance attributed to it by Dunn (1960), as cited above. Perhaps there is an additional motive: shame over having been so taken in by a craze.
William Cruickshank, a special educator who was the director of the special education department at Syracuse University for 20 years (1946–1966), seems to have become intrigued by the brain-injury construct in the late 1950s, and became one of the foremost proponents of its application to pedagogy. In 1955, Cruickshank had senior-authored a text (Cruickshank & Raus, 1955) on Cerebral Palsy, and Strauss was one of the most cited individuals in the author index. Yet interestingly, in the first two editions (1955 and 1963) of Cruickshank's text on Psychology of Exceptional Children and Youth, there was not yet a separate chapter on brain injury. Similarly, in the 1958 first edition of Education of Exceptional Children and Youth (Cruickshank & Johnson, 1958), there were only a few scattered mentions of brain injury, and these were mostly in connection with visual impairments and cerebral palsy. However, in the 1967 Education of Exceptional Children and Youth text edited by Cruickshank and Johnson (1967), which had nine contributing authors, Cruickshank wrote a whole chapter (pp. 238–283) on “The Education of the Child With Brain Injury.” Also in 1967, Cruickshank authored an entire text on the brain-injury construct, The Brain-Injured Child in Home, School, and Community; and in the 1971 third edition of the Psychology of Exceptional Children and Youth, there was a chapter (Cruickshank & Paul, 1971) on “The Psychological Characteristics of Brain-Injured Children.”
It, thus, appears that although aware of, and influenced by, the work of Strauss, it was not until 1957 (maybe 1956) that Cruickshank strongly embraced a distinct and largely Straussian brain injury construct. At any rate, in 1957, he set up a pilot study of a teaching method for “brain-injured” and “hyperactive” pupils based on Straussian concepts, namely, in Montgomery County, Maryland, overseeing and administering it out of Syracuse University. It ran for 2 years, and was reported in a hefty book in 1961 (Cruickshank, Bentzen, Ratzeburg, & Tannhauser, 1961). The experimental group (half of the total of 40 children) was placed into rooms with “uniformly colored walls,” but apparently, the furniture—though shown in photographs as plain and relatively uniform—was not painted steel-gray.
Based on the Maryland experience, Cruickshank installed a more ambitious demonstration program of education for “brain-injured” children at Syracuse University in 1961, in which student teachers were trained. It is this program that Cruickshank described in his 1967 book The Brain-Injured Child in Home, School, and Community, which was published shortly after he moved from Syracuse University to the University of Michigan. Steel-gray chairs and tables, of which at one time there were a great many at the Syracuse University Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation, had been painted (or acquired in) that color for that program in keeping with the ideology of the brain-injury instructional craze. (The remaining such furniture, including tables, was refinished back to its beautiful wooden grain around 1990, except for a few chairs that had been “forgotten.” Two such chairs have been deposited in the National Historic Archives Project on Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities of the University of Illinois at Chicago, that recently moved to the University of Colorado). The teaching setting is described in a term that would strike us today as rather naive, namely, as a “stimulus-free learning environment” (e.g., p. 106). The gray chairs of the straightback version (in contrast to the also existing armchair version) are actually depicted in Figures 19, 20, 22, and 23 of the 1967 book. In 1968, Cruickshank, Junkala, and Paul (1968) authored The Preparation of Teachers of Brain-Injured Children, which is mostly a documentation of the demonstration program on that topic at Syracuse University. It also shows two of the same pictures as Cruickshank's 1967 text on The Brain-Injured Child in Home, School, and Community. By 1977, this had become a different book entitled Learning Disabilities in Home, School, and Community but still showed seven pictures of the Syracuse program of the early 1960s, with “Cruickshank chairs” of both the straightback and the armchair type being visible in four of these.
Readers are invited to imagine what the Cruickshankian learning laboratory at Syracuse University—and its imitators elsewhere—must have looked like, with no unnecessary features or objects, no windows, students isolated from each other by cubicles, everything steel-gray, and teachers in plain clothes without jewelry or make-up. I could not help wondering if at least in his own mind, he also specified that they should be of plain countenance.
As mentioned, when I arrived at Syracuse University in 1973, much of the furniture of the entire, and sizable, Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation was steel-gray. This raised the question of why Cruickshank had so much more steel-gray furniture than he needed in his experimental classrooms. One of my more senior colleagues (Peter Knoblock) suggested that the answer may have been twofold. (a) Being a compulsive man, once Cruickshank got started on something, he found it hard to quit. (b) He may have developed the idea that not only the “brain-injured” children, but his teachers-in-training too would benefit in their classes and seminars from the same blandness of the environment as he hoped the brain-injured would.
The Straussian construct of “brain injury” had an intense but only short period of bloom, probably because so many of its claims were not upheld by research, and probably for other reasons as well. One of these reasons is that human service feeds on crazes that give it “hope,” and in our culture obsessed with “newness,” crazes tend to quickly get “old,” and to be quickly abandoned in favor of more recent (“newer and better”) ones, even if a replacement craze has even less validity than its predecessor. (For an overview of the craze mentality in human services, see Wolfensberger, 1994.)
Kephart seems to have anticipated the decline of the brain-injury craze rather early, and shifted his emphasis to “perceptual-motor” functioning of children. The curricular emphasis, and the teaching structure and activities, of his 1960 text, The Slow Learner in the Classroom, were very much like the ones that had been favored in programs for “brain-injured” children, but the text made no claim to be addressed to problems of such children, and, amazingly, the term brain injury was not even listed in the subject index. Revealingly, however, Strauss was still the most frequently cited author by far. It almost seemed that Kephart still believed in the Straussian methods, but was “ashamed” to admit their link to the brain-injury craze. Together with Eugene Roach, he published the Purdue Perceptual Motor Survey in 1966 (Roach & Kephart, 1966), which was advertised as “relating to” both Frostig's perceptual tests and Kirk's Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (1966 publisher's flyer). However, the book Steps to Achievement for the Slow Learner by Ebersole, Kephart, and Ebersole (1968) was reviewed in Exceptional Children as being primarily about brain-injured children. Also, as late as 1965, the “movigenic” classroom and pedagogic regimen designed by Raymond Barsch (1965) was also still based on Straussian notions.
Around 1970, some people tried to popularize the concept of “cerebral dysfunction” (e.g., Hensley & Patterson, 1970), but this did not become very popular. Instead, in the 1970s, the construct of “brain injury” began to be replaced by the construct of learning disability that is still prominently with us, though some people preferred the term specific learning disability. This change from terms with etiological or medical connotations to a descriptive behavioral–educational one had been proposed by Samuel Kirk in 1963 to a group of parents in Chicago (Johnson & Morasky, 1977). However, the term learning disability can be said to have referred—at least when it first emerged in the early 1960s—to what earlier had been called “brain-injury” (McCarthy & McCarthy, 1969). This learning disabilities construct was enthusiastically received by middle-class parents and the schools. First of all, it was seen as a less stigmatizing “diagnosis” than several others, such as mental retardation; and secondly, like “brain injury,” it permitted parents to see themselves as absolved of any culpability for a child's scholastic shortcomings. Unlike the Straussian brain injury construct, which faded away as rapidly as a supernova, the learning disabilities construct, with an equally meteoric rise, still burns brightly in the human service firmament. Indeed, over half of the children receiving special educational services in the United States at present are construed to “be learning disabled.”
Cruickshank himself “fled” into the “learning disabilities” construct in a 1973 book co-authored with Hallahan (Hallahan & Cruickshank, 1973). In the 1975 third edition of Education of Exceptional Children and Youth by Cruickshank and Johnson, the chapter on brain injury got replaced by one on “The Education of Children With Specific Learning Disabilities” (pp. 242–289, written by Cruickshank himself). In his aforementioned 1977 book on Learning Disabilities in Home, School, and Community, the terms brain injury and brain damage were only mentioned a few times (in chapter 1), and Strauss was mentioned only on 4 pages—and yet, the educational setting created for brain-injured children in the early 1960s at Syracuse University was still prominently featured in several chapters, though the text no longer described the experimental subjects as brain-injured, but as “learning disabled”—an amazing preconstructionist post-hoc sort of linguistic brain healing. In the 1980 fourth edition of the Psychology of Exceptional Children and Youth by Cruickshank, the chapter on brain injury was replaced by one on “The Psychological Characteristics of Children With Learning Disabilities” (pp. 497–541), written by Cruickshank and James L. Paul. However, it still teemed with references to the brain injury literature.
Ernest Siegel must also have experienced some disenchantment with the Straussian brain-injury construct. When in 1974, he published a follow-up to his 1961 text, he entitled it The Exceptional Child Grows Up: Guidelines for Understanding the Brain-Injured Adolescent and Young Adult, relegating the term brain injury to the subtitle. He also claimed that the classical “Strauss syndrome” diminishes with age, giving way to “secondary traits” (e.g., p. 16). Strangely, neither the acknowledgments nor the foreword mentioned his earlier publications on the topic, nor was his 1961 book listed in the bibliography. Perhaps he too was embarrassed by his earlier publications.
When in 1977, Lewis also published a follow-up to the 1951 and 1960 book that he had senior-authored, he also gave it a new title that no longer referred to “brain injury,” but he still retained the code word other, entitling the text The Other Child Grows Up. This book also illustrated the confused relationship between “brain injury” and mental retardation, in that the book had long sections on mental retardation generally, dealing with people who largely did not meet the Straussian criteria for “brain injury.” By the way, in this 1977 edition, Lewis referred to the 1951 and 1960 editions as “my” book, and said that Strauss and Lehtinen had assisted in their writing.
Although one hardly ever hears talk any more of a distinct brain-injury syndrome that calls for a distinct educational regimen, the stimulus-bare learning environment received a new lease on life in some of the developmental regimens designed for “autistic” children, such as the so-called “applied behavior analysis,” Son-Rise, Bridge, and TEACHH program schemes.
Among other things, this article brings out three lessons.
1. A development in human services that is viewed as a very major one at the time can become very quickly forgotten, or reinterpreted as having been of minor importance, or of “footnote quality.”
2. A theory, and the pedagogic system of practice that it generated, can become unlinked from each other, with the theory fading away while elements of the practice linger on, or even get hijacked by newer theories. One might think of the former especially as a disensouled practice—a bit like a chicken running or flying around for a while after its head has been chopped off. A prime example is the Straussian disciplines promoted in Kephart's (1960) The Slow Learner in the Classroom, even though the brain-injury construct had vanished. Something similar also seems to have eventually happened with the Doman–Delacato regimen, in that we can still see “patterning” machines being used by people who do not subscribe to the Doman–Delacato theorizing, and may even have hardly any knowledge of it.
We can also observe the same thing where servers believe they ought to emphasize age-appropriate possessions, environments, attire, and activities for mentally retarded people, but no longer know that these practices are derived from normalization theory (e.g., Nirje, 1969; Wolfensberger, 1972; Wolfensberger & Glenn, 1973), and perhaps not even why this theory taught that these were important. Observing this phenomenon can be rather amusing.
3. Just one relatively small human service artifact that might not even draw one's attention (a steel gray chair) can have a wealth of history and thinking behind it, and reveal this to a scholar. If properly understood, it can be as revealing to a knowledgeable scholar as an archaeological artifact (a scrap of fabric, a piece of pottery, etc.) can be to historians in other fields.
This article was not meant to do justice to the history of the brain-injury construct in mental retardation or pedagogic practice. Entire books should be written on the history of this construct, some of its peculiar notions (e.g., that brain-injured children engage in “animism” (Siegel, 1961), and its ideology, politics, and economics.
Author: Wolf Wolfensberger, PhD, Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry, 800 S. Wilbur Ave., Suite 3B1, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13204.