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Edward Seguin

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Edward Seguin (1812-1880) was an influentional doctor in France. He studied medicine and surgery under Itard (who wrote "Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron"), and psychiatry under Esquirol. Seguin was also an art critic in Paris, a political and economic essayist, and a friend of novelist Victor Hugo. Above all, Seguin is considered "the first great teacher" in the field of developmental disabilities. Although a "free thinker," Pope Pious IX recognized his contributions by calling him "the apostle to the idiots." Working as director at the school for "idiots" in the Salpetriere asylum, Seguin improved upon Itard's method of sensory training.

In studying Itard's work, Seguin saw the potential benefits of a physiological method in treating mental retardation. Seguin believed that mental deficiency was caused by a weakness of the nervous system, and could be cured through a process of motor and sensory training. By developing the muscles and senses, Seguin believed his pupils - regardless of their level of mental retardation - would obtain more control over their central nervous systems, thus allowing them to have more control over their wills.

In 1844, the Paris Academy of Science praised Seguin's methods, stating that he had solved the problem of "idiot education." Seguin's methods and positive results served as a foundation for similar efforts throughout Europe and America. Among those influenced by his teaching methods was Maria Montessori (1870-1952), a pioneer in teaching children with and without disabilities.

In 1850, Seguin left France for the United States, where he worked with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, Dr. Hervey Wilbur, and others in developing progressive training schools.

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