The case study illustrates the usage of helping children through play therapy.
One criticism of the text is that not all children will have such a miraculous recovery. Still, Altman states that the book offers hope for those working with children: "I realize not every case will be as successful as Dibs' story. But every once in a while you will get that one client that makes you realize that this is why you do what you do as a helping professional."1 The positive message distilled in the book serves as an inspiration for helping professionals by illustrating a positive case study.
A child labeled mentally defective learns, through psychotherapy and play therapy to connect emotionally. The transformation is miraculous: Dibs transforms from a mute to a speaking child through the process. Once considered "mentally retarded", his true intelligence comes through during the play sessions.
Dibs' behavior was unpredictable: at times his actions were disturbing, yet he also exhibiting signs of brilliance. Author Virginia Axline offers hope and help for parents as well as therapists of mentally disabled children through the use of play therapy.
Even though Dibs comes from a wealthy family, his family is stymied by the choices for his rehabilitation. Instead of receiving therapy, he is locked in his room. The home life of the child is illustrated through Dibs' dialogue. For Dibs, home life was one of solitude and rejection. Dibs' home "treatment" consists of being locked in his room. The only family member with which Dibs is close is his grandmother.
Both of Dibs' parents rejected not only his problems, but also Dibs himself. Without receiving the normal love and nourishment every child, especially a developmentally handicapped one, deserves, Dibs wasn't offered a place of growth at home.
Overwhelmed by the pressures of the world, Dibs' creativity and intelligence shine through with the use of play therapy. Axline describes this inner turmoil, "the security of his world was not wholly outside himself, but that the stabilizing center he searched for with such intensity was deep down inside that self."2
By treating the child with respect, Axline offers a safe place for Dibs to play and explore. The book gives the reader a solid, hopeful illustration of successful therapy.
Axline teaches that play therapy is "based upon the fact that play is the child's natural medium of self-expression."3 By offering therapy to a child through the natural use of playtime, Axline provides a safe place for self-expression.
One criticism of the book is the possible fictional use of compiling patient identities is expressed by Waltz. He shows the book as a case study of a child "whose symptoms are consistent with an autistic spectrum disorder." Waltz states that the study is based on a composite of several children treated by Axline and that, "many elements of the narrative are probably fictional."4
Waltz's also notes that the book is written solely for the professional with a "parent-bashing" mode. Waltz does state that, regardless, the parent can still gain a message of hope from the book. Also, the happy ending of the book offers a positive message of hope for all.
This happy ending and the positive message of the book are the main comments repeatedly seen in criticisms of the book. By offering a happy ending, the author gives the reader hope as well as a possible outcome.
In addition to the possibility of a fictional character ensemble, there is also an element of fiction to the