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Sinkkonen, J. (1996). Healing ego defects: Onset of communication in a deaf boy. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 19(1):103-113.

(1996). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 19(1):103-113

Healing ego defects: Onset of communication in a deaf boy

Jari Sinkkonen

Origins of Communication

Although it is nowadays a widely accepted fact that the human infant is“object-oriented”, it has no clearly definable communicative pattern in the first weeks of life. A baby needs someone who acts as if their behavior was communicative (Schaffer, 1977). According to Winnicott (1960), the‘good-enough’ mother responds to the infant's omnipotent gestures in a way that makes sense of them. Edgcumbe (1984) argues that the mother recruits the infant's somatic expressions into the service of communication by responding appropriately to them and putting words to the child's somatic expressions of feelings and ideas.

In the beginning, communication is more or less one-sided. The infant gradually learns that dialogues are two-sided and based on interchangeable roles. During the first 6 months, communication is preoccupied with intersubjectivity, mutual intentionality and sharing mental states. These shared initiatives lead to playful rituals and predictable sequences of events (Trevarthen, 1977). This kind of playful atmosphere enhances the creativity of both partners which, in turn, is expressed as the emergence of the so-called transitional objects and phenomena (Winnicott, 1971). According to Dore (1985), words can also be regarded as transitional phenomena. They are given to the infant from the outside, but the infant has the thought for them. Words are the child's own creations, lying somewhere between the infant's subjectivity and the mother's objectivity.

In order to learn a language, the child needs a more-or-less intact ego apparatus and an intact language capacity.

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