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De Hirsch, K. (1975). Language Deficits in Children with Developmental Lags. Psychoanal. St. Child, 30:95-126.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 30:95-126

Language Deficits in Children with Developmental Lags

Katrina De Hirsch


This paper attempts to describe a group of atypical children whose sometimes severe physiological deficits represent one aspect of a pervasive organismic immaturity that is reflected in difficulties with integration on all levels—perceptuomotor, linguistic, cognitive, and in terms of the ego's organization. The specific constellation varies from child to child. The impact on the child's functioning depends on his ability to mobilize his adaptational resources. The child's genetic endowment, including his greater or lesser vulnerability to stress; his prenatal, natal, and postnatal history; the emotional climate in which he is raised; the social scene of which he is part—all interact in complex ways.

The crucial role of the home and, more specifically, of the nature of the mother-child bond has not even been touched upon and is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that at the very earliest ages the characteristics of the children discussed here tend to alter the normal response patterns of the mother (Thomas et al., 1963); (Weil, 1970a), which in turn modify the child's perception of self and contribute to his pathology. I refer here to what Weil (1970a) calls the "multifaceted complimentary series of interactions."

The premium our society places on success is another factor that enters the situation in the case of learning-disabled children. It is against the background of the mother-child communication—nonverbal and verbal—and the demands of the larger society that these children's difficulties have to be assessed.

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