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Dibs in Search of Self Mass Market Paperback – June 12, 1986


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

As a former teacher-turned-editor, who read DIBS many times before even coming to work here at Ballantine, I feel very connected to this book. The author is a leading authority on play therapy and the treatment of emotionally disturbed children. Dibs is one of these lost children. The story takes us through his long journey from being labeled as "mentally defective," to emerging as a gifted and lovable young man. Whether you're a teacher, a parent, a psychologist, or just someone who loves to actually feel what they're reading, DIBS is for you.

--Laura Paczosa, Editorial Assistant

From the Inside Flap

The classic of child therapy. Dibs will not talk. He will not play. He has locked himself in a very special prison. And he is alone. This is the true story of how he learned to reach out for the sunshine, for life . . . how he came to the breathless discovery of himself that brought him back to the world of other children.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345339258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345339256
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is a fascinating book on play therapy.
"olas"
Virginia Axline's moving 'Dibs in Search of Self' has probably impacted my life more than any other book I have read.
Paul
First read this book when I was perhaps 12 years old.
"austin_ed"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Wong Ee Lynn on October 2, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What could have caused a 5-year-old child with an IQ of 168 to clam up and stop talking, playing or laughing? Virginia Axline, author of 'Play Therapy' finds out as she records the progress of Dibs in this book that has since become a child therapy classic. A review in Amazon.com held forth that Dibs is autistic, but it is clear to me that he is not. Dibs is a child who deliberately withheld speech and affection as a means of self-defense against his cold, unloving, high- achieving and demanding parents and their battery of tests to prove him gifted. He does not suffer a neurological disorder nor is he autistic.
This remarkably moving and honest book gives credit not to the therapist/author for having worked a miracle, rather, it is the child and his inner strength and resolve that are given praise. The amazingly articulate child acts out his anger through his play of dolls. In a poignant part, Dibs reverses the parent-child role and 'makes' a 'mother' doll build a mountain upon the instruction of the 'boy' doll.
"It is too hard to do," said Dibs. "Nobody can build a mountain. But I'll make her do it. She'll have to build the mountain and do it right. There is a right way and wrong way of doing things and you will do it the right way."
After some thought, he decided he would help the 'mother' and not impose such an onerous task on her. He talks of love and caring for his mother and sister. This shows that Dibs, despite his frustration, fear and anger, has great capacity for compassion, empathy and forgiveness. The therapy sessions with his non-judgmental therapist helped Dibs be aware of his feelings and of matters within and without his control.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By eric h kraut on March 4, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a practicing oncologist I deal with peoples struggles for their life.This is another story about an individual's struggle to take control of their life.In some other reviews of this book I think the readers missed the basic concept. This is not a book that blames parents for their childrens psychological problems, rather it points out the power of conversations and actions on another human beings emotional well being. Especially the power during early childhood when the individual is developing his or her self concept.It should remind us all that the conversations we have about people including ourselves can alter a life. The pivotal point for Dibbs was acceptance of his self expression by a talented psychologist then himself and finally his parents. In the epilogue the letter Dibbs writes points it out beautifully.I recommend it highly for all those interested in the triumph of the human spirit.
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95 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Susan Shedd on May 18, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
...of an inaccurate perspective. In terms of writing quality and emotional "pull," this book deserves 5 stars. And, like Freud, it is important to read -- in the correct context. Axline was a pioneer of play therapy (for individuals and groups), and I think there is no doubt that it is a fruitful method for interacting with troubled children. In my practice as a psychologist, I have certainly found play therapy to be extremely productive because a) it is the natural "language" of children, and b) it is also one of the most important ways children learn.
So...yes, I believe Dibs (as presented by Axline -- we do have to rely on her description) closely fits the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome, a syndrome on the autistic spectrum where very bright children capable of complex thinking may be quite impaired in basic social, motor and communication skills. And I do believe her therapy with him was very helpful because she provided a model for social interaction, one-on-one (group situations were probably too overwhelming) that allowed him to increase his positive interactions with others (which, in turn, increased their positive response to him).
I sympathize with reviewers who are outraged at the use of "refrigerator mother" theory in the book -- and with the reviewers who experienced the pain of unloving or abusive parents. No, an unloving or uninvolved parent cannot "cause" autism. However, it is also true that no autistic child was ever helped by a lack of love or being locked away from others.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrea VINE VOICE on August 26, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is about a little boy named Dibs. He is very intelligent. However, he appears to have a social disorder, is withdrawn, and afraid. His therapist helps him overcome this through psychotherapy (in the form of play therapy.) She shows him lots of love and concern, but not judgement or condemnation; her method extremely helps him.

I don't think there is anything "wrong" with Dibs. God made us all different. Some people are naturally bubbly and confident; some people have difficulty interacting with other people. I think God made us all different for a reason: there are many different jobs and missions in this world that have to be done, and different jobs require people of different personalities in order to be able to get them all done. No one should tease or judge someone for being "withdrawn" or "introverted". God has great plans for that "withdrawn" person, as well as He does for the bubbly loudmouth.

This book was written in 1964, but I feel it is still a wonderful book. A more recent book that might be of interest to people who loved this book is "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron. (And by the way, her book tells us the same thing that I said in my earlier paragraph, about different personalities are required for different jobs.)

This is a well-written, true account.
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