Future and history

Action on provisions for differently abledpersons comes and action on provision for differently abled persons goes. And curriculum comes and curriculum goes. Sometimes without any major influence on the actual every-day life. Partly this is due to a built-in inactivity. But more important is maybe the fact that there have not existed any tools for the differently abled, teachers, other personnel and parents to help achieve the changes they have wanted to.

Now it is different. It has never before existed so extremely good possibilities to create tools for learning, talent-support and talent-compensation. In school, within welfare-work and in life itself. The important thing is not the technology itself. The important thing is how we will think and live according to these external changes. Compare for example how it was when the transistor-radio appeared. In the beginning it did not influence radio programmes, images and programme-tableaux. But the fact that you could carry the radio with you changed the lifestyle essentially: suddenly the radio was on the balcony, in the garden, on the beach, in the woods, at work, and it had a major influence on our achievements and experiences wherever we went.

What will now happen when a lot of people within a decade will have touchcreen-pocket-computers, with performances that are better than the PC's of today, and that can be based upon pictures as well as text?

They can be used for:

Making telephone calls (for example by pointing at a face). The built in telephone can localise where you are.

Cover of the magazine: "Teknikens värld" from 1950

"The world of technology"

Photographing. The pictures can be typed out (in colour of course) or be sent wireless. Even moving pictures will appear.

GPS-reception (Global Positioning System), so that you always know where you are (unless the telephone is not taking care of that).

Already today (1995) user tests are going on with the personal digital assistance computer Isaac among differently abled people in Lund and its surroundings. The touchscreen has clear pictures and symbols, a calendar and a watch the user easily understands. One can move around without being afraid of getting lost, have telephone-contact at any time by pointing at a well-known face on the screen, communicate via pictures (important if you find it difficult to speak or write),substantiate the day by the help of pictures and consequently avoid living without a history just because one has a memory problem.

Isaac used in different situations.

The IT-ism

Can the new technology also be a tool for solidarity in practise? If the differently abled children are doing quite well because of IT and their school-friends discover this - can this contribute to reduce dissociation and prejudice? It is when we cannot reach each other, when there is nothing to do about a difficult situation, that distrust and prejudice are growing. This alienation affects not only those who are exposed to it but also those who create it within themselves.

Imagine that many have the possibility to come close to so much. Just now. Immediately. As Benny Andersen writes:

About time
It is about time
the water is boiling
the Earth is burning
the world is waiting
when Alexander was in Caesar's age
he was already the Great
when Caesar was in my age
he was already done
they did not waste their time
the time did not waste them
they used time as a skirt
slept with it on
were buried in it
and here I am
holding my paper
spending Christmas
holding back
letting exploits rush by
in hopeless resistance with discoveries
the world is not waiting
when Mozart was five-years old
when Jesus was twelve
when Columbus weighted anchor
when Homer
when Rembrandt
when Pasteur
when Darwin
when Dalgas
when da Vinci
when da Gama
it is about time
it is past time
my hat
my dress suit
my bicycle
it is now or never

Benny Andersen, Den indre bowlerhat

There are so many different rooms. These four, made by the hand of Olle Gustafsson, have different sizes. The smallest one can very likely be the one that contains the most qualitative stuff. And it is obvious that they all belong together.


The road from the law in 1944 about teaching and care for "mentally deficient who are capable of being educated" to the LSS-law, law about support and service, which came into force in January 1994, has not been either free from conflicts, methodical or predictable. In the middle of the 1940s, it was about "liberate the elementary school from the mentally deficient".

The county council had the responsibility. The statute book said only things about the obligations of the county council, nothing at all about the children's rights. The law said nothing about obligation, education or care of the, so called, not educable children.

When penguins break the surface and swim down into another medium, they are transformed. The dark lounge suit dressed creatures with strutting walk are gone. Instead there are playful, quick creatures who perform fascinating and fluctuating movements down there. And then they will brake the surface with a fish in its mouth!

If it was the differently abled who got the tools to change medium- how would they then move? And what kind of fish would they search for?

Radical changes came together with the 1967-year law about "care about psychically retarded". The term "care" was introduced as a new and wider expression for the activities education, care, spare-time activity and living. From this new way to look at things the directions to the 1977-year analysis about "certain care for handicapped", 1985-year law and 1989-year handicap analysis with its vision about "A society for everyone", started to grow.

The curriculum for the special school marks that you have to start from what the pupils can do, not from what they cannot. In the new curriculum from the 1 of July in 1995 for the special school, which is compulsory, it says for example about technology:

"Technology has been developed from a need to simplify and enrich our interplay with our surroundings. At the same time the technology which is surrounding us in the society of today can be experienced as hard to understand and hard to handle. The aim of technology and aids as a school subject is to create a certain familiarity with the technology that is present in our every-day life. This area also covers knowledge about special aids that can compensate for the reduction of talent.

Within this area, the development of the technology and its function in society,and the changes in the environment it has created, is dealt with. To create familiarity it is of crucial importance that the pupils have the possibility to try, observe and construct.

Different kinds of practical works where the pupils can laborate with building kits of simple construction, try different techniques and technical solutions and find out how they work, is very important for the teaching."

Also within the training-school there are a lot of aspects that make you think of using different kinds of technological aids. For example to reach communication. From the curriculum of the special school:

"Teamwork and communication are the keys to the world and important tools in all teaching. To be understood and to understand is one of the absolute most important conditions for developing yourself and it increases every individuals possibility to influence experiences, enlarges your knowledge and makes you understand the world around you. To be able to interplay with your surrounding is the basic for all social life and participation.

Teamwork implies that the participators have one, more or less, mutual language. At the same time teamwork between people is a condition for developing a mutual language. Fundamental for communication is experience on how you in different situations make contact, contain and finish the contact.

The teaching area contains the basic skills the pupils need to be able to interplay and communicate to other people. The area treats partly the pupils' social abilities, partly knowledge about communication and language. By communication we mean transmission (mediation) of information between people. The transmission can be done in many different ways, for example communication "person to person", which demands a very actively participation from both parts, or via TV, books and similar. The communication can be done through different kinds of body-languages, mimicry, gestures, signs, pictures, speech or other symbol-languages. A lot of communication forms can be used parallel, for example using pictures and signs as support, drawing, writing and reading. Pupils who have another native language than Swedish can be stimulated to develop this language as well as the Swedish language."

Consequently there is a new LSS-law, new school-law and new curriculum. A transmission of the leadership of the welfare from county council to municipality is in progress. There are, so to speak, a lot of things that have happened since county councils should liberate the elementary schools from the mentally deficient fifty years ago. But we have not been able to change the tools until now.

In 1944 the conception of a safety- and freedom- system as Isaac for differently abled people had not been possible. The impossibility was not mainly that the Isaac- technology was science fiction but that it was a (conscious and unconscious) forbidden thought that people who were mentally retarded should have the right and the possibility to be free in the society, work, earn money, go shopping etc. Now, 1995, there are other forbidden thoughts. Partly the future ones, which we cannot yet imagine. Partly the old ones which we dissociate ourselves from.

Let us, for the sake of the comparison, study the caramel-experiment in the 1950s at the hospital Vipeholm. It is one of the more innocent experiments but still, it is unveiling for thier patterns of thoughts. Under the surveillance of a scientific guidance they gave differently abled people "candies"-to see what happened to their teeth! The project was later under hard attack in the press. Today it would have been impossible, and it is therefor no use to raise that old discussion. On the contrary, we want, by extract from a scientific magazine, "Odontologisk tidskrift" (Odontological magazine) 1952 page 338-345, in a concrete and un-commented way just illuminate how people were thinking and acting forty years ago. (see next page)

Pictures from an individual's life

The caramel-experiment gives us second thoughts to think about. And so do insights in the personnel-crew at the time. Told by a keeper: "we were two keepers to take care of 37 patients, then you understand how much time we had for pedagogy or care."

How it really was is hard for us to imagine. You cannot see the entirety because of all the little examples, for example that the patients were not called by there first name. The second name became their first name and their birth-place became their second name, e.g. Persson Frostviken, Smith London or Thatcher Birmingham.

The strongest impression and the biggest value of entirety is in the story of individuals, e.g. Åke Johansson in The Book of Åke (see reference page 149). Stig Nilsson, one of the principal character in this book. He can either speak, write or read. But through pictures he can tell us about his life.


    founded in 1893

    The King in Council has given to the national board of health and welfare in consultation with the institution of the dentists' teaching counsel to carry out a comprehensive investigation concerning actions that should be taken to decrease the prevalence of the most common tooth-diseases'in the country. Due to this task an investigation work on how the task should be carried out was started with a number ofspecialists. It has earlier been given an account for how this committee-work gradually contributed towards a decission to start an investigation on the diets relation to tooth-status at the hospital of Vipeholm in Lund. These investigations include not only the real diet investigations but also a lot of other problems concerning the conection between diet and dental caries, which were brought to the fore during the time the work was carried out.

    Central guidance

    The operations are placed under the national board of health and welfare where matters in this consideration are dealt with by the dental-care office. Since 1948 there exists a committee, the committee for technological scientific research concerning caries, which containes the people below:

    For the national board of health and welfare: director-general J.A. Höjer, medical-office A.B. Maunsbach; for the national board of health and welfare's scientific counsel: professor G. Thoure'n, professor G. Westin; etc.

    For these studies have patients from the hospital of Vipeholm for intellectually retarded and other patients who are difficult to treat been chosen. After a preliminary registration of dental status the question wether the patients were suitable for an investigation of this kind, looked upon from an odontological as well as an medical point of view, was judged. Dental status has after that been registrated at least once a year, groups with an high caries activity have been tested more frequently. Of the hospital'sapproximately 1000 patients, 2/3 have participated in the investigations. These investigations have been going on for 6 1/2 years since 1945.

    The patients received a standard diet, which contained as little refined sugar as possible. The diet was however not "sugar free" due to the natural occurring sugar. Prohibition against any kind of consumption between the meals had been introduced except in certain groups, where the patients receiveda maximized supply of sticky sweets and permission to consume these between the meals. In other groups, a large amount of refined sugar was given with the meals, approximately twice as big as an average Swedish consumption. Bread with sugar constituted supply in certain groups, and certain patients were only given the base-diet and fat as calorie- filling.

    The given sweet-consumption has in two groups been maximazed to 22 and 24 caramels, but the real consumption has been lower, since the patients have had the possibilty to decide wether they would eat the sweets or not. Within two other groups with chocolate and toffee, the highest levell of consumption has been put lower, 65 gram of chocolate and 8 toffee/ day.

    The most important result of the investigations is that it is now made clear that an increase of sugar during certain fixed conditions cause a sure increase of caries activity. This result makes it very likely that sugar has been an essential caries provoking factor even at the indirect caries investigations. On this account the bearing capacity of the biochemical and bacteriological investigations and animal experimentations, that touch upon the sugar's carious effects are strengthen.

    Bengt Gustafsson

Picture documentation using Isaac.


Now it is 1995. History has been revolutionary. To those who thinks that time has run by, we just want to say: now it will go even quicker. And quicker is different.

The problem with speed is that the practised culture does not change as quickly as the ideological one. It is as if the practised culture is one step behind all the time. Before 1944 differently abled people were hidden. But when they in 1944 started to take care of "mentally deficient who are capable of being educated" in institutions, this was certainlyprogress. But the ideology to hide remained, the hiding -places just moved in to institutions.

During the 1970s -80s and -90s group-homes, day-care centres have grown and later on differently abled persons have got apartments of their own for independence and self-realisation. The époque of care and take-care-of has ideologically transferred into a new phase, characterised of respect and support.

A lot of good things have happened, and a lot of people, from outside, are pushing to help the differently abled to give them the tangible assets they have the right to have.

It is more difficult with the non-tangible assets. In the same way that it was difficult to get rid of the hiding-philosophy in the 1940s, it is now difficult to get rid of the take-care-of philosophy. Not only because it exists in a lot of individual's histories and professional pride but that it is still consolidated by education and administration. Personnel within the caretoday get an education called "the programme of care (welfare)" with a preponderance on care, very little art (few hours of colour, form and drama), no special-pedagogy and no technique. Later on their work-title will be keepers or nurses.

The delay creates among other things a polarisation within the personnel. There are people who think that differently abled people now have it too good, while others say that there is no difference, about the important matter- that is, to be looked upon as an individual. Some quotations from people we have had contact with within the Isaac-project:

"The mentally-retarded people have it, in many ways, better than everybody else. They get help much easier. A lot of the normal-talented would, for example, need physiotherapy, but they don't get any. The mentally-retarded get everything. Society takes better care of the mentally-retarded than of old people. We have a high level of personnel. You haven't that any place else in nursing."

"Before they would be combed and ready for the round. Now it is supposed to be IKEA-furnished in the group-homes. But the individuals are almost as invisible now as they were before."

    Key-words and key-thoughts of the chapter

    Earlier there has not existed many tools for teaching, talent-support and talent-compensation. But now they will come.

    The curriculum and the LSS-law will need these tools to be able to realise themselves.

    The important thing is not the technology itself, but how we will live with it.

    More is different. The motorism became not only cars. The IT-ism will not only become information-technology but a whole new way of learning, teaching, thinking and living.

    The caramel-project was a child of its time, the Isaac-project is a child of our time.

    The practised culture is one step behind the ideological one. The way of thinking within the practical care is still deeply rooted.

Next chapter: The special and the general , or back to Table of Contents.