(The Times Virginian is featuring weekly installments of an article written by Barbara Pickett, who in 1967 became the first official school nurse at Appomattox County Public Schools. An article about Pickett’s views on the COVID-19 pandemic and advances in medicine first appeared in the July 1 edition. Today, Pickett discusses, in her own words, dealing with mentally disabled students during her time as school nurse.)

Mental Disabilities 

By early October 1967, I sent an exploratory letter to the Virginia Department of Education regarding the availability of psychological testing and the closest existing facilities for the mentally handicapped or “slow learners.”

Also, I wrote to the Lynchburg Training Center as to how they could service Appomattox citizens. I found that the parents could make application for placement of a severely mentally handicapped child in Lynchburg Training Center with a maximum fee of $140 per month. 

The State Board of Education informed me that they could reimburse localities for psychological services in the amount of $10 for each mentally handicapped child placed initially in an appropriate special education class and for whom psychological evaluation was provided at the expense of the school board. Identification was to be determined only after careful examination of cumulative records, environmental factors, and the results of individual and psychological evaluations.

Only two classifications were recognized: “trainable” (IQ 30-50 range) and “educable” (IQ 75-90 range). Buckingham County had just started a program for severely mentally handicapped children, and it was suggested they might be consulted regarding possible reciprocal services. No school system within the state at that time provided services for any educable children except their own. 

There’s more to this story in the current issue of the Times Virginian newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services to view the full article in the e-edition version.