You’ve reached a retired site page. PBS no longer has the rights to distribute the content that commonwealth games in india essay been provided on this page.
Stay Connected to PBS Subscribe to our Previews newsletter for a sneak peek at your favorite programs. Check Out PBS Video Watch local and national programs from anywhere at anytime. Billy was 59 years old that spring or summer of 1846, when a well-dressed man from Boston rode into his Massachusetts village on horseback, and began measuring and testing him in all sorts of ways. The visitor, as we imagine the scene, placed phrenologist’s calipers on his skull, ran a tape measure around his chest and asked many questions relating to Billy’s odder behaviors. It was those behaviors that had prompted this encounter. A few months earlier, the legislature had appointed a three-man commission to conduct, in effect, a census of such individuals.
In Billy’s case, however, the man who examined him soon realized that no commonly accepted definition of intellectual impairment quite fit this particular subject. But what diagnosis might have fit better? If Billy were alive today, we think his disability, and that of others documented then in Massachusetts, would likely be diagnosed as autism. But that does not mean the world was empty of people whose behaviors would strike us, in 2016, as highly suggestive of autistic minds. There are no known biological markers for autism. Its diagnosis has always been a matter of experts closely watching an individual, and then matching what that person says and does against established criteria.
Finding it in the past requires finding a witness, also from the past, who was good at observing behaviors and writing down what he saw. Like that man on the horse, whose devotion to hard data, fortunately for detectives of autism history, was far ahead of his time. Samuel Gridley Howe, born into a well-to-do Boston family in 1801, was an adventurer, a medical doctor, a visionary educator and a moral scourge. He was also half of what today would be called a power couple. He and his New York-born wife, Julia Ward Howe, operated at the Brahmin level of Boston society, well-connected, well-traveled and with a shared commitment to the anti-slavery cause, which perhaps helped bind them together through their often stormy marriage. Her husband’s most enduring achievement, however, is the 38-acre Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts—a storied institution that opened in 1832.
Howe was the school’s first and longtime director, and lead designer of its groundbreaking curriculum. His radical idea, which he personally imported from Europe, was that people who are blind can and should be educated. His wife, Julia Ward, was a fiery poet, playwright, suffragist and leading feminist. That Howe would emerge as a thundering advocate for teaching children who were disabled would have stunned those who knew him only in his mischievous younger years.