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Alston, R. Sosland, R. Tuohy, A. Weiler, N.A. Zeitlin, D. (2015). The Same Fish: Creating Space for Therapeutic Relationships, Play, and Development in a School for Children with Special Needs. Psychoanal. St. Child, 69:316-345.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 69:316-345

The Same Fish: Creating Space for Therapeutic Relationships, Play, and Development in a School for Children with Special Needs

Richard Alston, LCSW, Rachel Sosland, LCSW, Anne Tuohy, LCSW, M.S.ED., Nori Anna Weiler, LCSW and Diane Zeitlin, LCSW

This paper represents and attempts to describe psychoanalytically informed work applied in a school setting with children with special needs. While many therapists at the Parkside School are trained in analytic techniques and principles, these ideas have not traditionally been applied to children with language-based learning difficulties. Over the years, we have found that analytic ideas such as transference, countertransference, projective identification, containment, and attachment are especially salient to our understanding of these very complex children. Despite being in a school—a nontraditional setting for psychoanalysis—children are seen in individual and group therapy, often more than once a week. We believe that therapeutic relationships and play (sometimes bringing a child to a place of being able to play) are especially mutative with children with language-based learning challenges. Play and relationship provide a holding environment that, over time, allows for the reorganization of a child's often immature developmental capacities into a sense of agency that captures more clearly a child's innate potential. This article includes case studies of children with complex language-based learning difficulties, including autism spectrum disorders.

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