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An ethnographic study of profoundly mentally retarded deinstitutionalized adults Lee, Calvin


This study was concerned with the behaviours, actions, and patterns of interaction of profoundly mentally retarded non-verbal deinstitutionalized adults (PMRs). The methodology utilized field research techniques which are observations of participants in their natural setting. The observations were of five profoundly retarded deinstitutionalized adults and took place over a three month period in the participants' group home and day program. The observations were recorded daily in a field note book and were later transcribed into a protocol format. The protocols were then coded. The coding categories were developed by the researcher through abstractions which emerged from the data. The coding categories revealed insights into the PMRs. The participants exhibited a heirarchical social order, displayed consistent seating patterns, and understood property ownership. The participants were noted to anticipate daily-routines such as meals, outings, and bedtimes. The researcher observed preferences by the individual participants for specific staff members. One participant appeared to display a heterosexual erotic preference for one staff member. Autoerotic sexuality was observed in three participants. Individual preferences for food, music, activities, and people were also displayed by the participants. Stereotypic behaviours were prevalent behavioural patterns exhibited by participants who had individual and unique stereotypic motions. The coding of the stereotypic behaviour revealed that emotional responses were present during stereotic movement. The researcher hypothesized that stereotypic movement was an observable response to the inner thoughts or ideations of the participants. The literature on sensory deprivation suggests that individuals when exposed to a montonous environment develop their own sensory data (hallucinations) in the reticular area of the brain. Stereotypic behaviour appears to be an adaptation by the individual to monotony through self generated stimuli. The data from this study suggests that the degree of environmental stimulation influences the prevalence and incidence of stereotypic behaviour. There were data to support the hypothesis that the participants' stereotypic movement was interactive with the degree of environmental stimulation and the specific like or dislike of the participant to the stimulation.

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