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Garber, B. (1988). The Emotional Implications of Learning Disabilities: A Theoretical Integration. Ann. Psychoanal., 16:111-128.

(1988). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 16:111-128

The Emotional Implications of Learning Disabilities: A Theoretical Integration

Benjamin Garber, M.D.

I. Introduction

For years child psychiatrists and psychoanalysts were divided into two camps, those who felt that psychotherapy and/or psychoanalysis could cure all learning problems and those who felt that the presence of organic factors precluded psychological intervention (Giffin, 1968).

The psychoanalytic literature about the learning process and its interferences has been sporadic in recent years as most of the significant studies were published prior to 1970. In the 1950s and 1960s the prevailing impression in the psychoanalytic literature was that most interferences with learning were psychologically based (Pearson, 1952).

Since the last ten to twenty years have brought an increasing appreciation of the heterogeneity of neurologically based learning deficits (Hallahan and Cruickshank, 1973) there has been a corresponding diminution in psychologically oriented research. With the increased emphasis on the neurological determinants of learning disabilities, developmental and educational psychologists have come to the forefront of the important research on learning. While pediatricians and pediatric neurologists have maintained an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of the learning-disabled child, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have drifted into the background.

It is equally significant that behaviorists, and educators steeped in behavior-modification techniques, have been dominant in the work with learning-disabled children (Hallahan and Cruickshank, 1973).


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