Charles Pekow's arzicle "The Other Doctor Bettelheim" {Outlook, Aug. 26} is a courageous expose' of negative aspects of the great child psychologist that have been discussed privately among some who knew him. The fact that Mr. Pekow personally observed the "dark, violent side" displayed during his years of residence at the Orthogenic School makes his case compelling.

However, as a former counselor at Dr. Bettelheim's Orthogenic School (for a year in 1969-1970), I would like to add some of what I personally observed in the hope of presenting a fuller picture of the man and his school.

I disagree with Mr. Pekow's statement that "children in {Dr. Bettelheim's} care who suffered from neurological disorders didn't get treated." I worked closely with a boy who had epilepsy in addition to psychiatric problems. He was taken for regular pediatric care at the University of Chicago and was given his anti-seizure medication regularly at the school.

I would agree that "time has shown" that there are important additional and different treatments available to help severely troubled children. As a child psychiatrist, I prescribe medications that can have a tremendously beneficial impact on the disordered emotions and behavior of some children and adolescents. But these medications only began to be viewed as appropriate and helpful for children after Dr. Bettelheim's tenure at the school.

I am not in a position to question Mr. Pekow's observations of punitive treatment by Dr. Bettelheim. I witnessed one occasion when an adolescent boy cursed at a female counselor. Incensed upon learning of this, Dr. Bettelheim proceeded to slap the boy two or three times across the face, while telling him sternly never to speak that way to a woman again. This was the only such incident I observed or heard of during my year at the school, and it should be noted that until fairly recently, the near-consensus against corporal punishment in schools did not obtain.

One would assume from Mr. Pekow's account ("a world of terror," a "climate of fear") that the Orthogenic School was a dismal place with frightened, unhappy "inmates." This is not at all what I saw in my year at the school. I worked with or had occasion to observe most of the children in a variety of settings including the dormitory, classrooms and dining room and at school activities like movies and field trips. I saw children demonstrating a rather normal range of emotions, including enthusiasm and excitement as well as sadness and anger. In general, morale -- in both children and staff -- appeared quite good.

The Bruno Bettelheim I knew was a passionate man who cared deeply about children. I often witnessed him conversing with, putting his arm tenderly around, and playing chess with various children. He also was a man who, for whatever reasons, was capable of intense anger on occasion. He was a unique, full person who I believe greatly helped many of the children I came to know there. I never saw him treat them as psychiatric patients or objects. Rather, he related to the children as full human beings, with loving as well as hating sides of their personalities. I believe that a key reason for his success was the strength and depth of his and his staff's relationships with the children they treated.


The shock of Bruno Bettelheim's suicide was no greater than the shock of learning from Charles Pekow of Dr. Bettelheim's ''dark, violent side.''

How many children must have been seriously damaged in his Orthogenic School, which was supposed to be an institution of healing. What a pity -- a tragedy, really -- that this information was kept quiet and that parents sent their children to what they thought was an outstanding school run by an outstanding psychologist. We learn now that, instead of receiving the nurturing and love they required -- and that Dr. Bettelheim publicly advocated -- emotionally disturbed children were subject to beatings and other forms of mental and physical abuse.

Mr. Pekow -- and the many others who must have been aware of these facts -- would have done well to have spoken out during Dr. Bettelheim's lifetime.