The New York Institute For Special Education

Skip to main content
· Serving Students with Special Needs since 1831 ·
These Are Our Children (1957) » Multiple Handicapped

Multiple Handicapped


Student rolls ball on guide. Caption: John enjoys a bowling alley, designed by his teacher to help him maintain correct stance and ensure motivating success. These multiple-handicapped youngsters, our Deafblind and Cerebral Palsy Blind, are the newest members of our growing family of some two hundred children whom we welcome without charge and without distinction of color or religious belief.


It is fitting that this Institute, pioneer in the education of the blind, should assume the leadership in providing for these children the professional care and attention that they need so much.

In the Deaf-Blind Department at the Institute there are fourteen deaf-blind students from seven to twenty years old. Their afflictions range from total deaf blindness through total blindness and partial hearing, total deafness and partial sight to faint vision and slight hearing.

Cerebral Palsy is a brain damage which affects the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles. This condition added to partial or total blindness, creates a challenge to our faculty and staff--a doctor, physical therapist, speech therapist, teachers and attendants. There are fifteen Cerebral Palsy children, from five to twenty years of age. The one to one ratio of staff member to student gives emphasis to the individualized nature of this program. Through carefully supervised exercise and encouragement, many of these children will acquire a greater degree of muscular coordination and mobility. The curriculum, in addition to the regular elementary subjects, includes the reading and writing of Braille, handicrafts and games.

Young boy holds a 4 wheeled walker while assisted by instructor. Caption: Barry learns to walk. The physical therapist helps him toward ambulation. Student works with teacher at a map. Caption: Learning to read a map by touch.


The unit is located in Wood House centrally located on the campus, with a special designed ramp for the safety of the children and to facilitate the use of wheelchairs. The main floor contains dormitories, classrooms, the Speech Clinic and a large living room. The basement contains the dining facilities, therapy rooms and equipment and a large play room. The rooms are filled with especially constructed chairs, tables and desks and many playthings.

Young student at her desk. She has leg braces. Caption: Mildred is working toward Braille readiness through all the channels of touch-training.


An important feature of the deaf-blind department is the music room with its floating floor. About 14 by 16 feet, the floor is completely isolated from the building structure. It rests upon 30 automobile inner cubes, size 30 by 3 ½. They are arranged in six banks of five and kept inflated by a manifold connection. Thus, the floor is sensitive to the slightest vibration. The plans call for loud speakers to be installed under the floor so the vibrations of voice: and music can be most distinctly felt. Funds are not yet available for this improvement, so the teachers use a piano placed in one corner of the room.

They stand in stockinged feet and place their hands on the piano. Thus, they feel vibrations of the music through their fingers and through their feet. With little practice they recognize pitch and tempo and can enjoy the music. Recently old-fashioned music boxes were introduced to the music department. It has been found that the vibrations of the tinkling melodies are more distinct than those of the piano or the guitar. The students hold the smaller boxes in their arms. In so doing they can feel the vibrations throughout their bodies. They seem to receive more accurate impressions of the tunes in this manner.

Student communicating with teacher. Caption: The deaf-blind student is learning the necessary hand signals.Two students reading maps. Caption: Teamwork with one "reading" the table map and telling the other student where his "state" goes on the wall map.

It is believed that it is not outside the realm of possibility to train the deaf-blind, through some such method as the use of music boxes, pianos or electric guitars, to become so sensitive to vibrations as to be able to interpret sound waves as accurately as though their hearing were unimpaired.


Young girl touching music box. Caption: The music from this old music box can now be enjoyed by this multiple handicapped student.