In the van…

 

Pierre Jacobs

Antenne 110

 

At Antenne 110, we are continually confronted with the following questions:

How to do with the children we have at our disposal? How to accompany them, while at their arrival they often present themselves as closed to the Other, deaf to every discourse, and the paths of bonding, of learning, of desire seem obstructed?

What inventions do they find to be able to register themselves minimally in the world, in the field of the Other? Moreover, from our side, how can we listen to what they have to tell us? How can we welcome and be interested in their uniqueness, in their way of being that often seems so strange?

Paradoxical as this may seem, the clinical experience with the children attended in the Antenne 110 for more than 40 years, does not fail to show that it is when we get to grasp the tools that the subject tends to us, making a place to these most singular aspects (their relation to certain objects, their centers of interest, their apprehension of the world) ; when we accept letting ourselves be guided and directed by what the child shows and does, it is then, when he evolves, he takes risks in the exchange with the other, socializes and opens to the world.

The Antenne 110 therefore determines its work through the introduction of the one-by-one dimension. This is something that is hold at the heart of the institutional program. The so-called symptomatic behaviors are not contemplated at the outset as problems to be evacuated, such as dysfunction, but rather as an attempt at solution from which a path is possible and opens for and with the child. The child is not reduced to an object of care, treatment, but we confront him from his relationship to the world, and it is from there that we seek the encounter and build a response on our part, a welcome to measure of each subject.

Oscar enters the Antenne at the age of 4 years old. He wanders alone, in his bubble, protecting himself from all solicitation of the Other. He does not talk and always wears his coat, his cap, his pacifier, and his shoes that he does not take away under any pretext. The Other is completely out of play.

Instead, the world of letters and words, numbers and colors will reveal themselves as unique partners for this child. I will have the opportunity to accompany Oscar in this universe made of signs, in a contingent way, during our rides in the van. Once outside, Oscar spends long moments turning around, searching for all the written strokes that can be found there. The acronym and the word Renault, the numbers and letters of the number plates, the colored stars of the European flag, etc. Oscar, for example, locates each place where the acronym Renault appears (doors, trunk, tires, etc.), and comes and goes jubilantly among those different places. I decided to accompany him by naming and pointing out what he was observing. Sometimes he took my hand to make the outline of the signs in question. It is around that material that I was able to become an Oscar partner for the first time.

In the Antenne 110, Oscar embarks on a writing job. Draw strokes on different subjects: his hands, walls, leaves … Trace the edges of some letters, the feet of the Playmobil characters, surround the mouth and eyes of the dolls. Then he will write some letters. First, those of his name, before extending this to other letters and combinations of letters that refer to words in French or English in areas that interest him (food, the world of colors, etc.). With the computer, first he mix letters, numbers, typographic signs, then he work on bounded units: associations of letters and numbers, words or sequences of words. He is interested in the appearance and disappearance of the words he writes from the “enter” key on the keyboard. Explore possible variations of writing in horizontal, vertical, leaving spaces between letters, etc. He then compares and seeks to reproduce what he writes on the computer with manipulable letters.

In his writing, it is not so much about effects of signification or communication, but rather on the satisfaction that the inscription seeks him, the singular codification of words, letters, numbers, signs he writes.

Parallel to this work, Oscar also undertakes the way of a meticulous and solitary study of the body and its representation. First, from his body and the image, his or the characters (double) that he goes to look at the books, on the screens. Then, from the living beings around him, at the same time that they began to acquire an “existence” for him.

Look at his reflection in every object that returns his image. Look for books and cartoons, characters that he observes meticulously and from which he discovers his own body. He can explore, for example, his own mouth, his teeth, his lips, looking at himself in the mirror after having seen a cartoon of “Tchoupi goes to the dentist”. From strokes of circles, he will draw faces, first rudimentary, then each time with more details, to end up drawing characters. He observes, compares, superimposes his drawings with each other or with other images. He is interested in the faces, of which he studies the expressions in the books, in the screens. Try to reproduce the expressions of those faces in his face while looking in the mirror. In the drawings, he is interested in the missing parts of the body and completes them. Uses applications on the computer that allow him to make various shapes, colors, add or delete various attributes to the body. He seeks to see, looking in the mirror, the parts of the body inaccessible to the look.

His partners’ letters or words, numbers and colors, his double characters, his work on the body and its image, will not be without effect in the constitution of a subjective space and the setting in of his world. His writing work is increasingly connected to reality. For example, a colleague told us that Oscar had written the name of another boy from the Antenne after he had entered the room. It is not possible to see there the premises of an opening to the world where he can be heard and interacted with the other?

He no longer needs his body covered from head to toe. Taking off clothes is no longer experienced as a pullout. Rather than plug the openings of his body, Oscar now seems to have a body and a representation of this. After being interested in the face and its expressions, he is now also interested in the sexual apparatus, in his own but also in the animals one. He discovers, observes, and spends long periods in the bathroom, experimenting with the operation of the toilet flush and “the thing” that disappears in the hole of the toilet. Having not yet achieved sphincter control, he leaves a little pee every time he goes to the bathroom.

The other, child or adult, exists today for Oscar. Our presence counts and the exchanges with us have become possible. There is encounter, around his privileged partners, his work of writing, his body, the objects he invests, etc. There is also encounter from what he locates in the other and that he goes back again. In addition, there is encounter from that which could be called a study of the other “alive”, of its voice, its expressions, its glance, and its reactions. Oscar can, for example, stand before us and laugh with the facial expressions we make, seek to repeat them, and direct us new ones. Now there are many moments of bonding and exchanges to which Oscar seems to say yes.

Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis