site logo

Idiocy Imbecility Cretinism

=Idiocy= is not a disease, but a congenital condition in which the

intellectual faculties are either never manifested or have not been

sufficiently developed to enable the idiot to acquire an amount of

knowledge equal to that acquired by other persons of his own age and in

similar circumstances with himself. Idiots, as a rule, are deformed in

body as well as deficient in mind. Their heads are generally small and

haped, and their features ill-formed and distorted. The teeth are

few in number and very irregular. The hard palate has a very deep arch,

or may even be cleft. The complexion is sallow and unhealthy, the limbs

imperfectly developed, and the gait is awkward, shambling, and unsteady.

In his legal relations an absolute idiot is civilly disabled and

irresponsible, but in regard to crime, or as a witness, see remarks made


=Imbecility= is a form of mental defect not usually congenital, but

commencing in infancy or in early life. The line of demarcation between

the imbecile and the idiot may be found in the possession by the former

of the faculty of speech, in distinction from the mere parrot-like

utterance of a few words which can be taught the idiot. Imbecility may

be intellectual, moral, or general. Questions frequently arise as to

their responsibility for actions done by them, or as to their ability to

manage their own affairs.

=Cretinism= is a form of amentia, which is endemic in certain districts,

especially in some of the valleys of Switzerland, Savoy, and France. The

malady is not congenital, but its symptoms usually appear within a few

months of birth. The characteristics of this form of idiocy are an

enlarged thyroid gland constituting a goitre or bronchocele, a

high-arched palate, dwarfed stature, squinting eyes, sallow complexion,

small legs, conical head, large mouth, and indistinct speech.

=Feeble-Minded.=--These are persons who are capable of earning a living

under favourable circumstances, but are incapable, from mental defect

which has existed from birth or from an early age, of (a) competing on

equal terms with their normal fellows, or (b) of managing themselves

and their affairs with ordinary prudence. Feeble-mindedness may affect

the moral nature only, rendering the person selfish, untruthful,

obscene, or unemployable. The Act of 1899 controls feeble-minded

children; many such become paupers, criminals, prostitutes, etc.

=Mental Deficiency and Lunacy Act, 1913.=--Those included under this Act

are idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, and moral imbeciles. The

parents or guardians of such children between the ages of five and

sixteen years must provide for them education and proper care. If they

are unable to do so, the School Boards or Parish Councils must do so.