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Sandler, A. Wills, D.M. (1965). Preliminary Notes on Play and Mastery in the Blind Child. J. Child Psychother., 1(3):7-19.

(1965). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 1(3):7-19

Preliminary Notes on Play and Mastery in the Blind Child

Anne-Marie Sandler and Doris M. Wills

I. Introduction

In his paper on Female Sexuality (1931, p. 236), Freud remarked:

“It can easily be observed that in every field of mental experience, not merely that of sexuality, when a child receives a passive impression it has a tendency to produce an active reaction. It tries to do itself what has just been done to it. This is part of the work imposed on it of mastering the external world … Children's play, too, is made to serve this purpose of supplementing a passive experience with an active piece of behaviour and of thus, as it were, annulling it.”

It is obvious that the blind child, lacking as he does a major sensory modality, will meet with special difficulties when attempting to respond in an active fashion to a passively received impression. It is obvious too that his attempts to master his world will follow a different path from that of the sighted. It is the aim of this paper to comment on some aspects of the blind child's attempts at mastery. In this we will assume throughout that there is an intimate relation between processes of mastery on the one hand and what we normally call “play” on the other.

For a number of years the Hampstead Clinic has undertaken work with blind children. Besides maintaining a day nursery school for blind children, Clinic workers have undertaken the analytical treatment of some blind children, have discussed the development of their blind child with mothers and have visited young blind babies in their

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