I was thinking about the perception of the world from the point of view of two different populations.
What does a child with developmental delays understand about the world? They are often anxious and jittery and their speech is usually delayed. Sometimes they are initially thought to be deaf. But the world to them is, for the most part, a scary, overwhelming place to retreat from even when they are in their own homes.
What does a deaf and elderly person understand about the world? Without hearing aids they get a very superficial perception of their world. If they live in a familiar environment and are free to come and go from their own home they can often get by just by habit, but certainly if they are removed from that familiar environment a form of panic sets in when they are surrounded with strangers who may not even speak their language.
The mental faculties of both are reduced by their fears and lack of connection (attachment) to those around them.
Deaf and elderly adults retreat into a world of only hearing so much and forgetting that there is communication going on all around them. They hear barely enough to get by on a daily basis and so do not inhabit the same world as the rest of us.
Likewise, developmentally delayed young children aren’t in our world; they tend to live in a world of their own and are easily disrupted by any changes. They also miss out on the conversations going on around them.
These two populations suffer from a similar malady – that of being reclusive in their daily lives. In each case the reclusive lifestyle creates a form of stability and control in their lives.
I have recently been reading two books about attachment. I believe that in both the deaf elderly population and young developmentally delayed children many issues could be resolved by gently bringing each of them into the real world so that they are no longer fearful.
This can be accomplished if they each form attachments to one special person. In the adult’s case it may be a much-loved friend if it can’t be a son, daughter or loving grandchild. If the adult accepts the need for hearing aids and accepts the loving care they will be more involved in the daily lives of those around them and also ensure that their memory works to maximum capacity, thus avoiding Alzheimer’s for as long as possible.
In the child’s case it truly needs to be a loving mother or permanent mothering figure. In time all children recognize a loyal mothering figure in their lives. They begin to physically lean on that person during story time. They easily cooperate with the regular stable caregiver and as a result the child becomes cheerful and communicative and will be judged ‘normal’.
I can write about both populations because I have regularly been a caregiver in several families with each of these issues. In the cases where progress has been made it has largely been due to old fashioned TLC which caused an attachment to be formed between the patient and the caregiver. When such a relationship endures for several years exemplary (beyond diagnosis or expectations) progress is made in every case.
There have been many studies on the importance of attachment.
They all confirm the same thing - being emotionally attached is what makes the difference.