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.