Dibs in Search of Self represents a true story about a young boy who managed to overcome a psychological problem through play therapy. Teachers are reluctant to engage Dibs in the study because of his reserved and indifferent attitude to learning. However, a series of therapy sessions have managed to help the boy overcome the difficulties and understand his needs and concerns. Axline (1964), the physician, has chosen an emotionally neutral approach to Dibs to help him discover personal identity without additional emotional coverage. Unlike other teachers and therapists, the author has defined that Dibs is just different from his peers, but not necessarily mentally retarded (Axline, 1964, p. 86). This conception is also supported by Berger (2009) who states that assuming difference as deficit or deviation, cannot be regarded as a problem. Instead, specific attention should be given to unconventional methods and techniques of treating such children (Berger, 2009, p. 6).
Berger’s reading (2009) is a great contribution to the development of ‘different’ children. It should be mentioned that the ideas presented in this reading are not new, however, they are presented from another angle. The author is sure that mentally retarded children can be deserving members of society, that they can visit ordinary schools, work, and live almost full lives if the treatment in their childhood is appropriate. Having read the book Dibs in Search of Self by Axline (1964) I was really impressed and satisfied with its content. I am proud that there are people who have another vision of the problem. Having a ‘different’ child in a family is a difficult try. The desire of the author to show that there are a lot of children who have a similar problem made Axline (1964) write a book that perfectly meets the needs of society. The book is effective and useful, it helps parents who have children with problems accept them in another way. Moreover, the book gives different children a chance to lead normal lives. Being a fiction in its nature (a boy Dibs never existed), the author has provided a detailed discussion of the problems such children and parents may face. Applying to the play methodology, the author reflects on the issues discussed in Berger’s reading (2009). Here are some of the aspects which seemed related to me.
By introducing play therapy, Axline (1964) has allowed the boy to widen the established boundaries of the psychological environment and has provided him with much space for himself. During the therapy sessions, the therapist realizes that Dibs is an incredibly bright personality who is able to read, write, draw, and express his thoughts. The main essence of the studies was ignorance of emotional support. In such a way, the therapist considers it unnecessary to reveal any attachment to his patients (Axline, 1964, p. 199). This special relationship, however, helps the boy overcome his social problems and discover his talents and gifts that are not typical of children of his age. According to Berger (2009), cognitive development can be achieved by means of both engaging in school curriculum and knowledge obtained from the external environment (p. 7). Therefore, Dibs receives much freedom for making choices in his life he failed to get before. This specific approach helps the boy to understand his place in his life, he manages to see that he can communicate with others. The barriers are ruined.
Play therapy consists in placing dolls in Dibs’s life, as if they are real. In such a manner, the boy can define which roles father and mother dolls should perform and how they should behave (Axline, 1964, p. 18). Playing with dolls allows Dibs to discover his feelings and attitudes toward his parents and peers, as well as to understand what attitude he wants to see from these people toward himself. To explain this issue, Berger (2009) refers to the importance of considering social contexts that play a crucial role in personality development. Specifically, the scholar argues that, “interactions between parents and among siblings are part of the context in which each person develops” (Berger, 2009, p. 12). A multinational understanding is a core in solving problems of developmental deviation among children.
In conclusion, considering Berger’s concept of cognitive development and multidimensional contexts is essential in understanding Axline’s play therapy. Depriving the boy of emotional support, the psychotherapist frees Dibs from the boundaries established in a social environment by his parents, teachers, and peers. Introducing play therapy allowed the body to discover his personality, understand his concerns, and define further steps for perceiving the surrounding world. Specifically, using dolls and a dollhouse, Dibs has managed to define the attitude he wanted to feel from his parents. He could also practice his social and communication skills. More importantly, the therapy provided the boy with possibilities of understanding his inner world, as well as realizing that he is just different, but he is not worse than other children. Axline has managed to notice that the boy turned out extremely intelligent, with higher IQ level.
Axline, V. (1964). Dibs in search of self. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Berger, K. S. (2009). The developing person through childhood and adolescence (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.