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Copy of the Why Handout.

 

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COMMENTARY ON FIRST HANDOUT "WHY?"

Start 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 Swiss.

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 mistreated.

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.

 

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