Oligophrenics, Special Education of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Oligophrenics, Special Education of


a branch of defectology. The special education of oligophrenics is aimed at rearing, training, healing, and socially rehabilitating mentally retarded children. It became a discipline separate from medicine and pedagogy early in the 19th century. Physicians, working in special departments of mental hospitals and in special asylums, were the first educators of mentally retarded children. In the mid-19th century, the French physician and teacher E. Séguin devised an educational system for mentally retarded children. The system emphasized the patients’ physical development and abilities using a special regimen and exercises to train the sensory organs and to improve attention span, motor abilities, and will. Interest in mild forms of mental retardation in children increased in the second half of the 19th century after the introduction of compulsory education in many countries. Special classes and schools were organized.

Abroad, progress in the special education of oligophrenics is associated with J. Demoor and O. Decroly in Belgium, B. Men-nel and A. Fuchs in Germany, and A. Binet, and J. Philippe in France. Important contributors to the Soviet and prerevolution-ary special education of oligophrenics included E. K. Gracheva, M. P. Postovskaia, V. P. Kashchenko, A. N. Graborov, L. S. Vygotskii, and G. M. Dul’nev. In Russia, the first special class for mentally retarded children was organized in 1908, and the first special school was founded in 1910.

In the USSR, children with mild forms of mental retardation are raised and educated in special schools. Efforts are made to correct the developmental abnormalities as much as possible and to socialize the children and train them for work. Thus, play, study, and work activities are carefully organized. Soviet specialists reject the formal exercises that are widespread abroad as the principal means of correction. The guiding principles of the Soviet method are regimens that protect the child’s nervous system; an organized, healthy peer group; involvement of children in socially useful work both in and out of school; and an approach that coordinates the needs of school and family and provides a stable environment. Soviet specialists emphasize enrichment of the child’s sensory experience, speech development, careful utilization of verbal and visual aids in the learning process, and a practical direction in education. On the basis of dynamic psychological and pedagogical study of mentally retarded children, an individual, differentiated approach is developed for each child.

Teachers of the mentally retarded receive their training in departments of defectology at pedagogical institutes. Research in the field is conducted at the Scientific Research Institute of Defectology of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR and at the subdepartments of the defectology departments of pedagogical institutes.


Printsipy otbora detei vo vspomogatel’nye shkoly, 2nd ed. Edited by G. M. Dul’nev and A. P. Luriia. Moscow, 1960.
Graborov, A. N. Ocherki po oligofrenopedagogike. Moscow, 1961.
Vospitatel’naia rabota vo vspomogatel’noi shkole. Edited by G. M. Dul’nev. Moscow, 1961.
Pinskii, B. I. Psikhologicheskie osobennosti deiatel’nosti umstvenno ot-stalykh shkol’nikov. Moscow, 1962.
Lur’e, N. B. Korrektsionno-vospitatel’naia rabota s umstvenno otstalymi det’mi. Moscow, 1962.
Osobennosti umstvennogo razvitiia uchashchikhsia vspomogatel’noi shkoly. Moscow, 1965.
Dul’nev, G. M. Osnovy trudovogo obucheniia vo spomogatel’noi shkole. Moscow, 1969.
Rubinshtein, S. Ia. Psikhologiia umstvenno otstalogo shkol’nika. Moscow, 1970.
Zamskii, Kh. S. Istoriia oligofrenopedagogiki. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.