Children without Language: From Dysphasia to Autism

Children without Language: From Dysphasia to Autism

Children without Language: From Dysphasia to Autism

Children without Language: From Dysphasia to Autism

Synopsis

Communication and language disorders are often considered from one particular point of view - either psychological or neurological. Danon-Boileau argues that this is a serious mistake. He emphasizes that a child's trouble can stem from a variety of causes: neurological problems similar tothose of aphasia, cognitive impairments, and psychological disorders, and, thus, the interaction of these elements needs to be taken into account. In precise case studies, Danon-Boileau describes the situations he has confronted and traces the causes of changes in the child when they happen. Combining linguistic, cognitive, and psycholanalytic approaches, Children without Language provides a unique perspective on speech and communication disorders in children and will be an essential volume for speech therapists, developmental psychologists, linguistics scholars and anyone wishing toreflect seriously on why we speak and how communication occurs.

Excerpt

By the age of two or three, most children in the world have learned to talk. Not all of them, though: about 10 percent have what are called “communication and language problems.” Fortunately, many such children will overcome these problems without great difficulty, though they may require the assistance of a speech therapist. There is, however, a minority—how many is difficult to estimate—who remain more profoundly affected. Some of them suffer from acute hearing disorders or even minor brain damage. The pathology in such cases is straightforward, if severe. But there are other children who, for reasons that may be a complete mystery, never speak at all. There may be whole range of different causes, such as language disorders or communication disorders, or both. The diagnosis may be imprecise, but the choice usually comes down to profound dysphasia (sometimes also called audimutism) or autism.

I am a professor of general linguistics and language pathology at the Sorbonne and a psychoanalyst, and these are the children I have been working with over the past fifteen years. The very first requirement of such work is to abide scrupulously by the old injunction primum non nocere: every therapist must endeavor not to harm the patient. In these cases, not harming entails being aware of the need to wait. There are times when the waiting can be protracted: some of these children can take three or four years before they start to speak. Regular monitoring of the progress made can be very instructive for the theorist. One learns how diverse reality can be, for even if two individuals are affected by the same disorder, the differences between them remain essential. Each case evolves in its own particular manner. When progress starts to happen, it can be this . . .

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