A year or two back, one of my daughters was obsessed with playing 'grandma'. Both of her grandmothers had died before she was born, and she was acutely aware of the deficit in her life. So day after day, for months on end, she'd announce me that I was grandma and ask me to tie a scarf on my head; then she'd provide the script: 'Now you say, 'hello darling, would you like some cake?'', and I'd dutifully parrot the words, holding a plate, while she worked out her next move. That play was incredibly important as she processed a grief she couldn't otherwise articulate, and I thought of it recently as I re-acquainted myself with Dibs.http://lostinastory.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/dibs-in-search-of-self.html
I first read the story of Dibs while I was in high school, and he touched my heart. While he never quite left me, it's only this year that I found my own copy of the book. It was wonderful to re-read it now I'm an adult with her own young children.
Dibs was an almost wholly uncommunicative little boy. He did not play with other children in his pre-school; he would not communicate with his teachers or his parents except by way of tantrums. He refused to do anything for himself; he sat passively under tables or on the outskirts of the group, ignoring everything that went on; he did not speak. Some, including his parents, feared he was intellectually impaired; others suspected he was intellectual capable, but stuck in an emotional quagmire.
So Dibs was sent to play therapy. The book is the non-fiction account of his time there, drawn directly from transcripts and the observations of his play therapist, Virginia Axline. Dibs visited the play room weekly, and at each visit teased out a little more of emotions which suffocated him. As he became relaxed in the room, his imaginary world unfolded: he buried a father doll, locked up the mother and sister doll, and developed a great imaginary city in which he acted out his experiences, worked out how he felt about them, and developed his sense of self.
While Dibs worked, the therapist sat with him quietly reflecting back to Dibs his comments in a non-committal way. This makes the book a little stilted at times: 'I did it!' said Dibs. 'You did it,' remarked the therapist. It looks rather idiotic when transcribed; and yet it is clearly liberating and affirming for the young boy to have his comments and actions noticed but not judged....