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ON FIRST HANDOUT "WHY?"
with Brehon Laws. Irish phrase for people with mental disability;
"duine le Dia" The belief was that these people were especially
close to God. The attitude was very positive. Similar to the
There were three categories
for people without sense. Idiots, fools, dotards. These people
were care for by the community. Care was locally based.
St. Augustine was a Catholic
bishop. His understanding was very negative and severe. It
tapped into an old Jewish notion that children are deformed
as punishment from God. It promotes a very harsh image of
God. He is a judge who punishes.
In the Middle Ages there
was a mixed attitude. Parents believed that the fairies came
at night and lured the wholesome infant away replacing her/him
with a changeling. Yeats poem "The Stolen Child", captures
this. The handicapped child was not seen as human, yet it
was usually well treated because of the fear of what the fairies
might do to the stolen human child should the changeling be
Around the time of Luther
there were two possibilities. Both involved the devil. The
first theory was that the devil substitutes himself for the
child. The devil sits….where the soul should have been." The
second theory was that the devil substituted himself as the
father. The woman had intercourse with the devil. The mother
was held entirely responsible and was often condemned as a
witch. Both these theories promoted very negative attitudes.
Mothers and children were very badly treated.
Switzerland had a unique
European attitude. "Fools should be kindly and respectfully
treated." Dr. Paracelsus, 1530. Because of deficiencies in
water from the Swiss Alps, many Cretins were born in Switzerland.
These had deformed appearances, enlarged thyroid and odd behaviour.
Because the attitude was so positive, much was done to assist
them. Special hospices were set up to look after these angels.
A Dr. Willis in 17th
century Britain had an interesting theory. He maintained that
parents' excesses in studying, reading, eating and drinking
led to foolish children. Our bodies had to be treated moderately.
Overdeveloped minds or physical excess was abuse of the body
and results in odd children.