Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Deafand Dumb

Deaf and Dumb is the term commonly used to describe persons who, through deafness, are unable to hear the spoken words of others, and who, consequently, remain dumb. Deafness is the cause, dumbness the consequence. Thus the term "deaf and dumb" is a misnomer, for the deficiency is single, not two-fold, although in the result it affects the two organs of hearing and speech. The term "deaf and dumb "is that which is used in every European country, and has its equivalent in every Continental language; but the Americans have dropped the word "dumb," and now always. speak of the "deaf" simply.

Children who lose their hearing at an early age through disease or accident, very soon lose the power of speech, and ought to be sent at once to a good school for the deaf. Such cases of acquired deafness ought to be treated separately, and not classed among the deaf and dumb.

Deafness is either congenital or acquired. Congenital deafness arises from some natural cause which deprives the child of hearing from its birth. Acquired deafness arises from disease, accident, or other causes. The deaf are divided into two classes - the totally deaf, and the partially deaf: the latter being subdivided into five classes: that is, into (a) those who perceive the human voice when it is used close to the ear, without being able, however, to distinguish the separate sounds; (by those who can distinguish the vowels when they are loudly pronounced in the ear; (c) those who understand (but with difficulty) some words known to them when these are clearly pronounced in their ear; (d) those who, without effort, understand all that is clearly pronounced in their ear; and finally (e) those who can hear the raised voice, but not sufficiently well to follow general conversation, or to attend to what is going on in a class of hearing children. All those coming within this division are fit subjects for schools for the deaf and dumb.

Hearing children acquire speech by imitating the sounds they hear spoken by others; the deaf, unable to do this, remain dumb. Medical science being of no avail, the deaf have to find their solace in educational treatment. As we have to deal with want of hearing, a substitute has to be found for it, which in some cases is done by signs, in other cases by acquired speech and lip-reading. The eye in all cases has to perform the double duty of hearing as well as of seeing. The power of reading what others say, from the face and lips, is called lip-reading. The deaf child, like its hearing fellow creatures, is taught to speak by imitation. There are, at present, three methods for teaching the deaf and dumb; first, the German, or Pure-Oral System, which teaches by articulation and lip-reading exclusively; secondly, the French or Sign-System, which employs artificial signs and a manual alphabet; and thirdly, the Combined System, which tries to unite both the preceding ones, making use of signs for conveying instruction, and teaching articulation as an accomplishment. A fourth system, called the Aural System, makes use of hearing trumpets and other artificial means, with the partially deaf, with a view to develop the amount of hearing they still possess, and turn it to account as far as possible.

In Great Britain the proportion of the deaf, of all ages, to the whole population, is believed to be about 1 in 1,800. But the number has never been satisfactorily ascertained, for the means employed are not adequate, the information desired is not available, and parents are sometimes unwilling and sometimes unable to report the facts required to the official persons making the inquiry. The first census of the deaf and dumb taken in this country was in 1851; and at successive intervals of ten years the inquiry has been repeated. The results of the fifth Decennial Census taken in 1891 are useful chiefly for the purposes of comparison, for no attempts were made by the authorities to extend or improve the returns in 1891, though the importance of doing so was strongly recommended and urged by the Royal Commission and other authorities. The number of deaf mutes at school in the public institutions of Great Britain in 1885 was, as nearly as could be ascertained, as follows: -

TotalMale PupilsFemale PupilsBoardersDay SchoolersMale TeachersFemale Teachers
England and Wales1,9411,0588831,41252961101
United Kingdom2,9081,5701,3382,353555102138


Total PopulationDeaf and DumbProportion of Deaf to whole Population
185127,511,80117,3001 in 1,590
186129,321,28820,3111 in 1,432
187131,845,37919,2371 in 1,644
188135,023,63919,5181 in 1,794
1891 (England and Wales)29,002,52514,1921 in 2,043

There are about 36 institutions and schools throughout the United Kingdom.

The education of the deaf is only about one century old. We read of isolated attempts being made before the 18th century, in different countries, to instruct one or two deaf and dumb persons, but no concerted efforts are read of until the times of the Abbe de l'Epee in France, and his contemporary Samuel Heinicke in Germany. As a rule, the isolated efforts above referred to were looked upon as miracles, and died out, as all eight days' wonders do. In Spain Pedro Ponce (1520-84), a Benedictine monk, taught deaf mutes to speak, and in the following century another monk belonging to the same order, Juan Paulo Bonet, published a work on the subject, which has been translated into many languages, in which he gave an account of his experience as a teacher. His book contained a manual alphabet. It was published in 1620, and served as a guide to the Abbe de l'Epee, nearly 150 years later. Bonet, however, advocated oral teaching. De l'Epee was the first to use artificial signs and the manual alphabet as a means of communication and for conveying knowdedge, and thus gave the manual alphabet and signs the character of a language. Bonet's fame spread, and his work was taken up by our countrymen. In 1648 Dr. John Bulwer published his Philocophus, or the Deafe and Dumbe Man's Friend, in which he speaks of a lip grammar which "may enable you to hear with your eye, and thus learn to speak with your tongue." Dr. William Holder published his Elements of Speech, with an Appendix, concerning persons deaf and dumb, in 1669; and Dr. John Wallis, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, taught some deaf and dumb pupils with great success, and corresponded largely on the subject with his contemporary, Dr. John Conrad Amman, a physician of Haarlem, who published many valuable books, of which Surdus Loquens ranks foremost (1692). This small book, translated into many languages, is still of service to the teacher. Amman was a physician practising at Haarlem, where he successfully taught the daughter of one of his patients, and so great is his merit that in Holland, to the present day, the oral system is often called the Amman System. George Dalgarno, the author of The Deaf and Dumb Man's Tutor, which was published in 1680, and which is another book worthy of mention, is the probable inventor of the two-handed alphabet in use in our English institutions. It was not, however, until 1765 that the Abbe de l'Epee made the instruction of the deaf a special branch of work by collecting a few deaf children and opening the first school. Samuel Heinicke did the same in Germany; and the first school in the United Kingdom was started by Thomas Braidwood at Leith, near Edinburgh. Braidwood removed to Hackney in 1783, and his nephew and assistant, Dr. Joseph Watson, became the head-master of the London Asylum, opened in 1792. As soon as the fact was ascertained, without a doubt, that deaf and so-called dumb children could, by means of instruction, be rendered useful members of society and industrious, respectable citizens, British philanthropy came to the fore, and we can now boast of having a large number of institutions and schools for the education of the deaf in every part of the kingdom. What State aid has accomplished in other countries, Britain has hitherto done by its own philanthropy. It is to be hoped, however, and expected, that Great Britain will soon cease to be the exception to the rule of all other nations where State contributions step in to help private efforts to make the education and instruction of the deaf as complete as possible. The systems followed in Great Britain until 1867 wrere the French System and the Combined System, excepting in a very few cases where private persons had their children taught by private tutors. It was not until 1867. as just mentioned, that, at the instance of the late Baroness Mayer de Rothschild and her friends, the Pure Oral System was introduced into Great Britain. The Baroness founded a Home in London for poor Jewish deaf mutes, and having heard of the results of the oral system abroad, resolved upon securing for her proteges the most improved instruction she could obtain. This was the means of bringing to England Mr. William Van Praagh of the Rotterdam school to undertake the work. The success which attended the Pure Oral System was so marked that the late Baroness and her friends resolved to extend its advantages to the community at large, and as a result she, with the co-operation of a very influential committee, founded the Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in 1870, and the Normal School, and Day Training College for Teachers of the Association were opened on the 15th July, 1872, under the directorship of Mr. Van Praagh. In 1877 the success of the work of the Association led to the formation of a somewhat similar society by Mr. St. John Ackers with a Residential Training College at Ealing.

The spread and adoption of the Pure Oral System since 1867 has been most marvellous. Originally limited to Germany and Holland, it has spread rapidly through Italy, has become the Government system of France, and has been introduced in many parts of America, where only recently Dr. Graham Bell, of telephone renown, has established a society for the encouragement of teaching speech in schools for the deaf. The International Conferences at Paris, and particularly the one at Milan in 1880 and the last one at Brussels in 1883, have most fully established the superiority of the Pure Oral System on the Continent. English teachers have held conferences also, which have tended to encourage the adoption of the Pure Oral System. It was crowned with almost unanimous approval at Milan, and was immediately adopted in other places, even in the three national subsidised institutions of France, the cradle of the Sign or French System.

In 1886 a Royal Commission, under the presidency of Lord Egerton of Tatton, was appointed to inquire into the education of the blind and the deaf and dumb. The Commission carried out its work with the utmost perseverance and energy, and made most searching inquiries into the education of the deaf at home and abroad. Its report is most exhaustive and complete, and the twenty-seven "recommendations" which it made are of great practical value. No. 9 recommends "that every child that is deaf should have full opportunity of being educated on the Pure Oral System. In all schools which receive Government grants, whether conducted on the Oral, Sign and Manual, or Combined System, all children should be, for the first year at least, instructed on the Oral System, and after the first year they should be taught to speak and lip-read on the Pure Oral System, unless they are physically or mentally disqualified, in which case, with the consent of the parents, they should be either removed from the Oral department of the school or taught elsewhere on the Sign and Manual System in schools recognised by the Education Department. The parent shall, as far as practicable, have the liberty of selecting the school to which his child should be sent."

The supporters of the Pure Oral System claim for it perfect success if carried out exclusively, and entirely apart from other systems. And, although the Pure Oral System is not adopted in Britain in all our schools, one scarcely finds a single school now in which articulation is not introduced and carried on to some extent. The Pure Oral System uses the eye as a substitute for the ear, and lip-reading is the very "backbone of the system." It is of the greatest importance that a deaf child should be made to understand even before it can speak, just as hearing children understand before they can articulate. Every sound which we emit produces vibration of the face and throat, as well as of the lips. Sight and touch are therefore used to teach the deaf child to reproduce sound. The child is taught gradually and successively to inhale and exhale, to emit vowel sounds, to combine the vowel sounds with consonants, and the combined sounds into words. The meanings of these words are illustrated by objects or pictures. Instruction of the deaf consists in the teaching of articulation and the teaching of language together. They continually go hand in hand. The deaf and so-called dumb children are taught to speak, lip-read, to read and write, simultaneously.

When a teacher pronounces a sound the child imitates it - that is, he speaks; he is taught to recognise it when spoken - he lip-reads: he is taught the sound in letters - he reads; and imitates them on the blackboard, the slate, or paper - he writes. The modes of teaching on the Pure Oral System may differ sometimes in detail, but the principles are always the same. They vary according to locality, length of the course of instruction, and from other causes. The principles are - that from the very outset lip-reading and articulate speech must be the sole and exclusive means of conveying language to the child; that every effort must be made to make lip-reading as perfect as possible; that no other means of conveying language to him are to be allowed - no signs whatever, except the so-called natural signs in the earliest stages, and not much writing. Speech must become to deaf children what it is to hearing children - it must be part of their existence; and lip-reading must be practised to such an extent that it becomes a natural process equivalent to hearing. Every deaf child before going to school, has a command of natural signs, which must not be extended beyond pointing, and must never on any account degenerate into artificial signs.

Natural signs are easily distinguished from artificial ones; natural signs being understood by everyone, artificial ones only by the initiated. The French System makes use of the natural signs of the deaf, but develops the natural ones into artificial ones, and uses them and the manual alphabet as means of instruction. The Combined System uses both manual alphabet and speech, as well as signs; but specialists are of opinion that the French System - teaching by signs - is even preferable to a Combined System, as it is impossible for a deaf child to watch movements of the hands and movements of the face at the same time, and he therefore prefers the easier way, that of signing: speech and lip-reading have, therefore, little chance of success. A Pure Oral teacher looks upon signs as weeds in his garden, and uses every means to encourage spoken language exclusively. The Pure Oral System he upholds as preferable because (1) it emancipates the deaf mute by giving him the great gift of speech; (2) because it develops the power of understanding what others say; (3) because it teaches language in the natural way; (4) because it extends his means of acquiring knowledge, since everyone whom he sees talking and who converses with him becomes to him a teacher, whilst at the same time it destroys the isolation of his life, and makes him better fitted to mix in general society.

The education of deaf mutes is carried out in boarding schools and in day schools. Each of these systems has its ardent partisans who vigorously defend their own cause. Those in favour of Boarding Schools say that deaf children want constant supervision; the friends of the Day School System maintain, on the other hand, that their pupils have a larger field of observation, and derive much benefit from daily mixing with the outer world.

Deaf boys and girls, after having finished their school education, are apprenticed to suitable trades, like hearing boys and girls. The kind of occupation for which a deaf boy is fitted depends, to a great extent, upon the class of family to which he belongs; yet care must be taken not to apprentice him to anything that is subject to change of fashion, but to an industry of some permanent character.

Separate and independent societies exist throughout the country to look after the spiritual and temporal welfare of the adult deaf and dumb. The headquarters of these organisations for London are the offices of the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, St. Saviour's, 410, Oxford Street, where all information on the French or Manual System may be obtained. There are two Colleges for the Training of Teachers of the Deaf and Dumb on the Pure Oral System, a Day Training College at 11, Fitzroy Square (opened 1872), and a Residential Training College at Ealing (opened 1878), besides which there exists an Examining College of Teachers, at Stainer House in Paddington Green (opened 1880), which gives certificates to teachers of all systems.

Information on these subjects, with lists of publications, etc., may be obtained from the Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, 11, Fitzroy Square, London, W.