chapter  4
26 Pages

History of Fad, Pseudoscientific, and Dubious Treatments in Intellectual Disabilities: From the 1800s to Today


The history of questionable treatments is as long as the history of educational and adult services for people with developmental disabilities (DD) and, indeed, may predate such services. Prescientific treatments, which almost by definition predated the 1900s, reflected the state of art in what gradually became the fields of medicine, education, and even later psychology and culturally typical responses to people with disabilities in general. Histories of special education and adult services have placed a heavy emphasis on where people were served in different eras and how developmental disabilities and people with such conditions were viewed in those eras and, to a lesser extent can and do report about the manner in which they were taught or treated. In part, this is a ramification of the nature of surviving records, with preservation of philosophical and policy documents and the records of individuals who were prolific in their writing or became recognized as leaders in the development or organization of services or in advocating for services, being superior to that of detailed and complete explications of methods of care, education, and treatment. As a result, today we know more about where people were served and with what aims than we do about how they were served and the outcomes of those services.