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.