Our Hidden Children (continued)

("Our Hidden Children," continued from p. 3)

in the sense that the full oak is contained in the acorb, or should be. It can happen to anyone. Families with several normal children may, have, do, produce one mongoloid.

Billy, aged 10 or 11, is one of the handsomest children the visitor has ever seen. He has the cleanest, most even teeth, the most exquisite smile. He faces you and smiles, and uu feel that he must be very superior--if only his head were not so big! There is such understanding in his smile. He says "hello" with hit lips without making a sound. But he is a mongoloid and must be cared for all the days of his life.

Over under a second window is Georgie, who peers at nothing much through thick lenses -- again with heavy rims and frames. He has never spoken a word, though he is 11. He smiles, opens his mouth wide. He always wears a bib, not because he drools saliva (which he does? but because something ails his throat muscles and he can't eat neatly. He wears leg braces. He has one of the ataxias, and he shouldn't be alive at all. There are others here who have the same kind, and shouldn't be alive, either. But the tragic fact is, they are.

One boy has a wizened kind of face, on which a set smile is fixed. It is instantly clear that he is stubborn. Whatever is to be done, hewon't do it, or help do it. He smiles, shutting his eyes, but you know he is looking at you through lowered lids and you feel guilty without knowing why.

"He's eight," says the principal," and has been with us two years. He came to us creeping. Now he walks, but always as if he didn't want to."

He doesn't understand argument, doesn't understand words, or speak any; he simply rebels against the push, the pull, the leading by the hand or elbow. But he must be led, or pulled, or Rushed, or he would never move -- save when the teacher turns her back, and he can strike someone with the back of his hand.

They all sit at desks, when they sit at all, except the beautifully formed, almost ebon, little negro girl. She sits cross-legged atop her desk. There is no segregation here, though Lissa wouldn't know if there were. These children don't know or don't care, whether Lissa is black or white.

Lissa slips lithely, surely, smoothly from the desk-top. It's clear she has something most of the others lack: physical coordination to an unusual degree. She begins to approach the principal and the visitor, swaying, spinning on her toes like a dancer--she 12 dancing--moving her arms, dangling her hands above her head at arms' length. She is surprisingly graceful. She touches her breast with her fingertips, bending down from high raised elbows, as if she were doing something in pantomime.

She comes close. Her face is unreadable. She spins like a small dark houri, but without coquetry. Her mouth opens. Her upper lip skins back from pearly white teeth, and the sound heard in the vestibule has now been traced to its source as Lissa "speaks":

"Eek-eek! Eek-eeeeeek!"

There is a girl here who seems to be about 17. She could be one of the teachers. She is dressed as a teacher, even. But while she seems almost to be supervising, to be assisting the teacher, she is seen, actually, to take part in nothing. She meets the eyes of the visitor with some show of interest, but no coquetry. What can she be doing here?

This question is answered only when a toy balloon comes into the room from the vestibule, wafted on the breeze of the opening door. This girl, Teresa, cries out:

"Balloon! Balloon!" But you wouldn't recognize the word if she were not looking at the balloon, and shrieking with laughter.

"She's trainable, but not educable," the principal explains. "That's true of all our mongoloids, too; of all the children here. They can be trained, but not educated. Their I. Q.'s..."

But we know about their I.Q.'s. If they were 50 or above these children would be in public schools.

Beside the girl in dark clothing--who has learned all she knows about sitting, standing, looking, by watching others--is an obese girl in yellow. She has the eyes and face of the mongoloid, which she is. Her neck is straight from the shoulders to the crown of her round head. Edie has the mongoloid eyes, lips, blondness, and secretive expression--if it js an expression--which Teresa does not have. The two are great friends. They sit together, and Edie whispers to Teresa. Teresa listens, her eyes darting elsewhere, her lips moving as she answers. She nods her head seriously.

But it is all strange pantomime, for Edie talks only a few words, and Teresa couldn't understand if she enunciated clearly. Nor does Teresa really say anything to Edie, because she can't. She doesn't know how.

Then comes the Touslehead, blonde Rebecca, holding out her arms to embrace or to be embraced. She's eight, a tiny undergrown minx.

"Her mother sent diapers for her," says the principal. "Oh, yes, we have to teach almost all of them bathroom techniques. Rebecca tells us sometimes now, in time, but it's a rather hit-or-miss proposition. Just the same, we're not going to be bothered with diapers for any eight-year-old."

Rebecca doesn't talk, either. But she doesn't "eek". She screams -- which could be a kind of laughter.

A huge man, 17 years of age chronologically, two years of age or less mentally, hulks behind an undersized desk. He watches everything, including the visitor. He's Herman, the epileptic, who must have morphine, shots or orally, several times a day or he will have seizures. A teacher walks before him, going downstairs, her hands grasping his belt, so he won't fall. It's a job for a big woman, if Herman should fall.

"How do parents feel...?" the visitor begins.

"There are extremes, in parents," the principal says quickly. "The commonest extreme is, I think, refusal of both parents to admit their unfinished child is anything but normal."

How many such children, estimated, are in the United States? In three categories, which include the trainable but uneducable--the mongoloid and the imbecile--and the slow-learning child for whom special classes must be held in public schools, or should be, since not all schools separate them, thereare 4,000,000 subnormal children of or approaching school age.

Only 35 are being trained, or developed, at the House on Martha Avenue. There is a waiting list of 40 more. They must wait until there is room. The State provides the four teachers. Everything else must be provided in other ways: donations.

The 4,000,000 can be trained; some can be educated.

Animals can't be taught to read, write, and cipher. But they can be trained. Countless animals are trained, by devoted owners.

The 4,000,000 are not owned. But they have parents.

Anyone capable of parenthood could be the father or mother of any of the 4,000,000.

"You'll stay to lunch, and Terry's birthday party?" the principal asks the visitor.

"Of course," he says hastily, without thinking. If he had thought he might have fled. If he had really thought, he could not have left for other important thing on the face of the earth--until after the party.


The children live at their homes. They're