The Silent Child: Communication without Words

Editor : Jeanne Magagna

The Silent Child: Communication without Words

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : 2012
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 400
  • Category :
    Child and Adolescent Studies
  • Catalogue No : 26190
  • ISBN 13 : 9781855755185
  • ISBN 10 : 1855755181

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The Silent Child: Communication without Words describes a way of understanding and communicating with children who are not speaking, but rather using their bodies and somatic symptoms to express states of mind. Jeanne Magagna has worked for 45 years trying to find ways of helping these children, varying in age and symptoms. Using infant observation methods of understanding primitive states of mind expressed through gestures of eyes, hands, body posture, she has worked in in-patient or out-patient settings with contributors: a group of psychiatrists, psychologists, family and child psychotherapists, physiotherapists, nurses, therapeutic care workers, teachers, parents’ groups and work discussion seminar members in out-patient and in-patient settings. In their chapters, the professionals and a parent show how they use their observation, empathy and countertransference experiences to promote understanding in the silent child and his/her parents and siblings.

This book is particularly important for mental health professionals, teachers and parents who are encountering ‘a child communicating without words’. It will assist them in being curious and nurturing rather than paralysed by the experience of having to think without the child’s verbal response.

Reviews and Endorsements

'The silent child who has turned away from life represents a challenge to those dedicated professional teams who seek to bring her (or him) back into the world of relationships, learning, and healthier development. This significant book advocates, at all times, a multidisciplinary approach, recognising that no single profession can work with the children and their families. It also underlines the need to use the imagination, coupled with vitality and a sense of hope in order to reach children and young people who have refused to walk, to talk, or to eat. Teams need to work closely and honestly together, in order first to understand, and then to be of use in bringing these desperate young people back into a more ordinary developmental path. This remarkable book is essential reading for teams and individuals working in eating disorder units, adolescent psychiatric units, and in Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams, who are trying to work with this group of young people. The book is moving testament to the efforts of individual professionals and teams where the struggle to work effectively and collaboratively is severely tested by children who are "pervasive refusers", and where the greatest success is achieved by being watchful of their own emotional responses and impulses, which are used as a central guide to states of mind and perceptions of the young people in their care.'
- Trudy Klauber, Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

'This is a most valuable and welcome book that combines insightful and compassionate understanding of the situations of children who do not speak with a rich variety of practical examples of effective work. It is creatively compiled and edited by Jeanne Magagna, who uses her extensive knowledge and experience of this challenging work, both from her clinical practice and through supervision of a range of professionals. The book is striking in many ways, not least because it is written by clinicians from a number of disciplines who are directly and actively involved in working day to day with children who do not speak and sometimes also do not eat or walk, and with the children's families. These clinician-authors bring a strong, most helpful practice-based perspective, including how they manage the effect of the work on themselves so that they can continue in a positive and therapeutic way. It is essential reading for all engaged in this work.'
- Hilary Davies, Family Therapist, formerly from Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, England

'Anyone who has worked with children and adolescents knows how difficult it is when they will not speak or play. This invaluable publication addresses this issue with a wonderful clarity, suggesting ways of thinking and working that are imaginative and thought provoking. Magagna and the other authors, through their thoughtful and delicate use of interpretation (or not interpreting), display a technical virtuosity, which will engage and excite all workers in this area. A must-read book!'
- Peter Blake, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Director of Training of Institute of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, Sydney, Australia

'Many words come to mind for The Silent Child - multidisciplinary, international, comprehensive, and passionate. Many dedicated professionals are represented among the authors - psychotherapist, counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, teacher, therapeutic care worker, physiotherapist, and artist - some bringing years of clinical experience, others the fresh perspective and energy of the trainee. All contribute to a broad understanding of what it is like to be that child or young person in hospital, in the therapy group, in the family, and in the classroom. Written by a parent and professionals from the United Kingdom, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Securely based in a sensitive attunement to the needs of the infant in the preverbal year, the authors reveal great empathy for children and adolescents who are in retreat, not speaking, not eating, not thinking, and constructive support for their parents and helpers. The various chapters show what can be done to enter the child's state of mind through sitting with the quality of silence, imagining, playing, drawing, writing, and moving creatively with the child. They discuss the therapists' need to listen, share their experiences in work discussion groups, and fi nd the words to connect to and release the child from the prison of silence.'
- Jill Savege Scharff MD, Co-founder, International Psychotherapy Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown University, Washington DC

Contributors: Jeanne Magagna, Nancy L. Bakalar, Melanie Bladen, Sarah Dixon, Alex Dubinsky, Jo Guiney, Bryan Lask, Natalie Le Clézio, Tara Pepper-Goldsmith, Cynthia Rousso, Ankur Sharma, Michelle Scott, Naomi Simon, David Wood, Charlotte Wormald

About the Editor(s)

Jeanne Magagna was Head of Psychotherapy Services at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children for twenty-two years. She also worked for ten years at Ellern Mede Centre for Eating Disorders in London. She received professional qualifications as a child, adult and family psychotherapist and a doctorate from the Tavistock Clinic. Formerly, Jeanne was the vice-president and joint coordinator of training for the Centro Studi Martha Harris Tavistock model trainings in Florence and Venice. She edited Universals of Psychoanalysis and jointly edited Psychotherapy with Families and Intimate Transformations: Babies with their Families (Karnac Books, 2004). Her special interest is applying the understandings of infant observation to work with children suffering from communication difficulties and anorexia nervosa.

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