IDIOCY (ante). The great distinction between idiocy and that form of insanity called dementia is that the latter is acquired, comes on in an individual who has had rational faculties, and therefore has vestiges of previously formed ideas; while the brain of the idiot is a blank, and of a kind which can scarcely be made to receive an impres sion until some further organic development is effected. The demented person, as the • name implies, has lost a part of his mind, hut the idiot,is in a state of amentia. a term which strictly applies not to the demented condition .PrOdueed diSease or feebleness, except when the dementia is complete. Want of organization, or defective development, is the cause of idiocy, and this defect is apt to be accompanied by dwartishncss, and more or less apparent malformation and grotesqueness, and the defects are often so great that little or no mental structure can be erected, very little more, indeed, 111;111 the simplest habits, and these to a great extent connected with the promptings of the senses. The causes of idiocy are various. Its elements are no doubt hereditary, that is to say, a course of conduct in a parent which tends to degeneration, such as excessive sensual indulgence of any kind, will tend to induce arrested development in offspring. Resi dence in certain localities, as the lower valleys of the Alps, appears to favor arrest of cerebral and bodily development—according to Virchow—in consequence of the great amount of lime drank with the water. The attempt to educate idiots commenced in the 17th c , with an experiment of St. Vincent de Paul at the priory of St. Lazarus. His efforts to teach idiots, though continued for many years, were not successful. In 1799 the celebrated Itard took a wild boy, found in the forests of Aveyron and attempted to teach him; and although the success in this particular case was slight, he believed that he had discovered methods and facts which would be of use in other cases. These he communicated to his pupil, Dr. Seguin, who, in 1838, opened a school for idiots in the hospital for incurables at Paris. Ile met with success enough to have the idiots at the Bicetre sent to the hospital to lie instructed, and in the course of three years he received the approval of the French academy. Dr. Seguin adopted a system involving the theory that idiocy was prolonged infancy. His practice, founded upon this, was to excite and continue the process of development. Of course a variable success attended the experi ment. The art of effecting such development requires much knowledge, tact, and
patience. Different kinds of idiots need different stimulants, physical and mental. Pure air, good nutritious food, exercise; in short, any treatment which is calculated to increase the bodily and mental functions will improve the idiot. Wherever his interest can be awakened there will be a mental stimulus, and as the tendency of development is toward a normal standard, more or less improvement must follow. Of course the same amount of care expended upon healthy and normal children would show much greater results; and the most that can be expected in the education of idiots is to Make them as comfortable and as cheerful as circumstances will allow. It might indeed be possible, by continuing the education of idiots through many generations, to raise them to an approach to the normal primitive standard of manhood, but the difficulties would be great.
According to the census of 1870, which is the latest authority obtainable at the present time, Nov., 1880, the number of idiots in the United States was 24,477, dis tributed. among the States'as follows: Alabama 721 Maryland 862 Rhode Island 123 Arkansas 280 Massachusetts . 778'1,zoutli Carolina... 405 California 87 Michigan 6131Tennessec 1,091 Connecticut 341 Minnesota 134rfexas 451 Delaware 60 Mississippi 48. Vermont Florida 100 Missouri 1,130 Georgia 871 Nebraska • . 25:West Virginia 427 Illinois 1,244 New Hampshire 3t5iWisconsin WO Indiana 1,300 New Jersey 436 District of Columbia 50 Iowa.... ... ................ 533 New York 2,486' New Mexico 46 Kansas 100 North Carolina . 976.13tah 23 Kentucky . 1,141 Ohio 2,338 Other Territories 15 Louisiana 286 Oregon 55 Maine 023 Pennsylvania.... 2,250 Total 21,477 But this number falls below the reality, and for various reasons. Parents are often unwilling to admit or to believe that their children are idiots, and often present them to physicians and asylums for treatment for "strangeness of manner," etc. The degrees and forms of idiocy arc also various, and not easily recognized by an unprofes sional person; thus many escape being put in the list by the census taker. The num ber of idiots in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales was estimated according to the census of 1S71 to lie 89,452, but it has been thought by competent authorities to be over 50.000. In Switzerland the number of idiots is estimated to be about 4,000. See CRETINISM.