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Miller, J. (1989). The Analysis of a Nonverbal Latency Boy. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 12(4):309-329.

(1989). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 12(4):309-329

The Analysis of a Nonverbal Latency Boy

Jill Miller

While the subject of silence in the analysis of adults is one which has been dealt with by many authors, there is an absence of literature pertaining to this phenomenon in children. The case of Arlo illustrates the functions which silence can serve, as well as the technical problems which it poses.

Arlo was a difficult child to assess as he was quiet, inhibited in his play, provided bleak responses to the T.A.T. cards, and was withdrawn and anxious. The diagnostician stated, ‘…until we know more of Arlo's inner world…the picture remains unclear’. Through his analysis this boy told me about his inner world, much of which was silently communicated through his art. It was George Eliot who said,

If we had keen vision of…human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.

Middlemarch (1871-1872)

This paper is an attempt to share the roar that was on the other side of Arlo's silence.


Arlo was a humiliated and vulnerable boy, crippled by anxiety. Through analysis he slowly developed the means to talk about himself and to gain internal controls and confidence, which in turn strengthened his ego and improved his self-esteem. In the course of treatment he made crucial developmental steps which had previously been delayed. He terminated his five-times-weekly analysis after two years, a termination which I supported even though certain areas remained unanalyzed, since I felt that to keep him in treatment would have worked against his developmental needs.

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