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Garber, B. (1991). The Analysis of a Learning-Disabled Child. Ann. Psychoanal., 19:127-150.

(1991). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 19:127-150

The Analysis of a Learning-Disabled Child

Benjamin Garber

There is a rich heritage of psychoanalytic literature that has addressed the whole spectrum of learning problems in children. Beginning with Blanchard's (1946) delineation of the pertinent dynamics of reading disabilities in children, numerous psychoanalytic studies have made important contributions to the understanding of the learning process. The comprehensive survey by Pearson (1952), the clinical studies of Hellman (1954), the etiological studies of Buxbaum (1964), and the sophisticated observations of DeHirsch (1975) and of Berger and Kennedy (1975) have been instrumental in the understanding of what interferes with the child's competent performance in school. In spite of these contributions there has been a noticeable hiatus in the psychoanalytic exploration of learning disabilities in children.

This gap in psychoanalytic thinking has partly coincided with the emergence of neuropsychological models in the understanding of learning deficits; consequently, interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of learning problems were relegated to a secondary position. It is equally plausible that an increasing reliance on test scores and other numbers as indicators of academic competence has not been compatible with the more global, subjective approach of the psychodynamic observer.

Only recently have child psychoanalysts once again begun to explore this somewhat neglected area (Abrams, 1970, 1980; Abrams and Kaslow, 1976; Shane, 1984). How much of this interest is due to the challenge from other disciplines and how much is related to shifts in psychoanalytic theorizing is difficult to determine. Nevertheless, the recent studies began to consider the impact of the child's learning problems on parental narcissism and how that narcissism, in turn, contributes to the psychopathology of the child.

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