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Barrows, K. (1984). A Child's Difficulty in Using His Gifts and His Imagination. J. Child Psychother., 10(1):15-26.

(1984). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 10(1):15-26

A Child's Difficulty in Using His Gifts and His Imagination

Kate Barrows

In order to be able to learn, a child has to be able to use his gifts and his imagination. Without the lively participation of his inner world, learning will be at best dull and by rote, at worst, completely inhibited. By “gifts”, I mean both the aptitudes which nearly everybody has for a variety of things, and more general gifts such as intelligence and a capacity for self-expression. I shall not be focussing on rarer and more outstanding gifts.

The child's ability to use his gifts is deeply linked to his early emotional life, to the kind of containment which he has experienced in the early relationship to his mother, father, siblings and other significant people. The infant is born with potentialities and a particular disposition of his own. We might say that these have already been given to him by nature and the environment of the womb. Yet the first gift from another person is the maternal gift of taking in his feelings, absorbing them, thinking about them and giving them back to him in a way that he can accept. The main point under consideration in this paper is that the development of the child's abilities depends on this first gift from his mother, and on her lively interest in him. However, his innate and individual nature also affects the way in which he is able to make use of his first gift.

Some degree of difficulty in learning is a universal experience, although the difficulties very greatly in their characteristics and in how extreme they are.

The first encounter which I had with a child with a pronounced learning difficulty which made me begin to think about this area was when I was working as a playleader at an Adventure Playground.

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