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Thread: Feral Children - The Outcome of Extreme Neglect

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    Default Feral Children - The Outcome of Extreme Neglect

    Oxana Malaya, Ukraine

    For six years, Oxana Malaya spent her life living in a kennel with dogs. Totally abandoned by her alcoholic mother and father, she was discovered behaving more like an animal than a human child. She ran on all fours, panted with her tongue out, bared her teeth and barked, just like the dogs she had been living with.


    Feral Oxana

    Dr Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas tells us “One of the central questions, in all of science, that have to do with humans is: Are we a product of our genes or a product of our experiences, the old nature or nurture issue.


    Oxana's kennel

    The doctors attempting to rehabilitate Oxana first want to learn the facts of her story. The information was sketchy. Oxana was born in November 1983 in Novaya Blagoveschenka, Ukraine. She weighed 5lb 11oz and had no abnormalities. Her parents were alcoholics and, one night, too drunk to care, they left their daughter outside. Looking for warmth, the three year old crawled into the farm kennel and curled up with the mongrel dogs who probably saved her life.

    A concerned neighbour finally reported Oxana’s case to the authorities when the girl was eight. By then the effects of her time with the dogs had created serious consequences for Oxana’s development.

    Anna Chalaya, director of the Odessa Institute recalls “She was more like a little dog than a human child. She couldn’t speak, or could hardly speak. In Fact, she didn’t seem to think it was necessary to speak at all”.

    Lyn Fry an educational psychologist observers “When we’re talking about how a child learns to live with dogs, there’s obviously no deal, as such. There’s give and take, the dogs give their love, attention, and acceptance in a sense, while the child has to adapt to the dog’s situation. If that means eating raw meat and scavenging the rubbish tip, then that’s what has to be done in order to survive”.

    Oxana did not know what a mirror was and showed no recognition of the reflected image of herself. This lack of self-awareness makes her, in some respects, more like an animal than a human.



    Raised by wolves, the mythical brothers Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, are perhaps the best-known feral children, but real cases are extremely rare and the process of learning how to rehabilitate such children has been slow and difficult.

    The first scientifically documented case has a direct bearing on understanding Oxana’s condition. It occurred in 1800 in France. Two hunters had been out tracking deer in woods near Aveyron in the South West of France. For years, villagers had talked of a wild child who lurked in the forest. News of the capture spread fast and sent shockwaves throughout Europe. The young boy was taken to Paris where he was named Victor. The general medical profession thought him little more than a savage. Dr Jean Marc Gaspard Itard was the only man prepared to investigate the astonishing case in front of him. Confident he could civilise the boy, he began work.

    Linda Blair a clinical psychologist explains “Dr Itard’s benchmarks for studying what makes us human were empathy and language. I think nowadays we would still agree, but I think we would add to that a sense of self, an awareness of self. Dr Itard was already there because empathy, caring for others, can’t really happen unless you have an awareness and a feeling of safety or peace within yourself”.

    Although progress was slow, Dr Itard and his housekeeper, Madame Guérin, persevered. One lunchtime, as Victor was laying the table, he noticed that Mme. Guérin was crying; she had just lost her husband. Quietly he removed a place setting. This was the breakthrough for which Itard had been waiting. At last Victor was showing real human compassion, or empathy.



    Michael Newton the author of Savage Girls and Wild Boys noted “By doing that, he was showing his ability to put himself in the position of another human being. Something which when he was first brought to Paris would have seemed impossible”.

    Victor’s empathy satisfied Itard’s first test of humanity. He had taught the boy to feel, but could Victor now learn to speak? Itard knew that Victor would have to master vowel sounds, the building blocks of language. This time, Victor was at a loss. For him, it was all no more than a game. If the boy couldn’t discriminate between sounds it was likely that he would never learn to talk.

    For the next 20 years, Victor would live with Mme. Guérin, happy but abandoned by the man who tried to civilise him.

    Oxana Malaya was rescued from the wild at a younger age than Victor, but the question still remained as to whether the years spent living with dogs have damaged her chances of ever becoming a socialised human being.



    There are few cases of feral children who have been able to fully compensate for the neglect they’ve suffered. Oxana is now 22, but her future still hangs in the balance. Have scientists learned enough from previous cases to rehabilitate her?

    Oxana has made good progress; she has learned to talk which is unusual in cases of feral children. Linda Blair offers an explanation “Oxana had to have heard language on a regular basis. It may not have been directed to her, but she had to have been exposed to it and also to have seen humans talking to each other”. Victor never learned to talk and Genie Wiley, the wild girl from Los Angeles, although able to learn words, never mastered grammar so was unable to hold any kind of conversation.

    In order to get a clearer sense of Oxana’s intellectual capacities Dr Lyn Fry asks her to draw a picture of her home with herself in it. “A drawing of a person has always been taken as a good judge of basic ability and her drawing was what you would expect from a six year old”.

    Dr Fry has also brought some standard cognitive tests to assess Oxana’s verbal and non-verbal skills. After an exhaustive session, Oxana only manages to demonstrate the ability of a five year old.

    Today, Oxana lives in the Baraboy Clinic in Odessa where she works with the farm animals. Dr Vladimir Nagorny offers his view “She’s only able to live this practical life in this particular community under the supervision of her carers”.


    Source: http://www.mymultiplesclerosis.co.uk...-children.html

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    Genie, The Los Angeles Wild Child

    Locked in her Bedroom for 13 Years



    On the 4th November 1970 a news bulletin announced “Officials in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia have taken custody of a 13 year old girl they say was kept in such isolation by her parents that she never even learned to talk. The girl still wore diapers and was uttering infantile noises when a social worker discovered the case. Authorities are hoping she may still have a normal learning capacity”.

    Among the first to see the child was Temple City detective Sergeant Frank Linley “I already knew that the child was 13½ years old. I took one look at her, she wasn’t much bigger than my daughter who just turned seven, and I really had a hard time conceiving that she was the age she was meant to be. The child had obviously been severely mistreated”.

    This was the home of the family. The father, Clark, turned his back on the world after his mother had been killed by a hit and run driver. Things in their household were never the same again.

    Sergeant Linley continues, “The house was completely dark, all the blinds were drawn and there were no toys, no clothes, nothing to indicate that a child of any age had lived there. The child’s bedroom was at the back of the house with the window covered. The furnishings of the bedroom consisted of a cage with a chicken-wire lid, and a potty chair with some kind of home-made strapping device”.


    Genie's Family Home

    For 13 years, Genie lived like this. Her nights spent locked in bed, her days strapped to her potty chair. During this time, Clark ordered his son John and wife Irene never to talk to her. She lived in almost total isolation.

    During their entire marriage, Clark imposed his will on Irene. Near blind with cataracts, she was too scared to resist. When police interviewed them, neither would talk about any family nor did they even acknowledge that they understood the questioning.

    Clark ensured his silence was permanent. Just before he was due in court to be arraigned for child abuse, he shot and killed himself.

    After life in solitary confinement, Genie Wiley was free at last. Her story would reveal more about feral children than any previous case. Genie is the name given to her by carers. Her real name has always remained private to protect her privacy.




    For 13 years she had endured severe sensory and social deprivation in a city bedroom. Genie was as much without human contact as if she had grown up in the wild. The teenager was the size of a six year old and, worst of all, she had never been taught to speak. The question now, would she ever learn?

    Genie’s case was so important to science that the US Government funded a team to help answer the many questions she posed. The two scientists first on the scene who would become especially significant in Genie’s life were child psychologist Dr James Kent and linguist Susan Curtiss. Neither specialist had ever encountered neglect as extreme as Genie’s.

    Genie was discovered at a pivotal moment in the field of linguistics. For years, theories of language had been little more than guesswork. Now, two scientists, psychologist Eric Lenneberg and linguist Noam Chomsky made a major breakthrough in understanding how we acquire language.

    James Law a professor of language and communication explains, “Chomsky revolutionised the way we saw language. He wrote in opposition to the prevailing orthodoxy, which is that language is something we are taught. Chomsky said ‘Not true, they’re not taught grammar, they acquire grammar’. He said that children develop language because they’re pre-programmed to do this”.



    What would happen to a girl like Genie? A girl who had never had even the smallest amount of language.

    Eric Lenneberg thought he had the answer. Susan Curtiss tells us, “Eric Lenneberg published a book called The Biological Foundation of Language. In this book he proposed the hypothesis that human language is a species specific trait that has a critical period during which it developed and outside of this critical period normal human language would not develop”.

    If Lenneberg was correct it would now be too late for Genie to ever learn a language. Her brain had missed its window of opportunity.

    Incredibly, the 14 year old seemed to be proving the theory wrong. Within a year of being found, she was blossoming. She delighted in the world outside her prison; she was hungry for the names of the new things she was seeing.

    Susan Curtiss, professor of linguistics, tempers this apparent success “She has learned a lot of words, she has an enormous vocabulary, but language is not words, language is grammar, language is sentences. So it wasn’t that she was mentally deficient, she was deficient in the mental faculty we call grammar”.

    Genie had not escaped the effects of her past so easily. She was haunted by her traumatic upbringing, trapped by memories of her ordeal and it seemed she had missed the critical window for learning language.

    When Genie was found, neurology was in it’s infancy. Today, it can give a much clearer picture of cases of extreme neglect.

    Bruce Perry explains that left part of the cerebral cortex in Genie’s brain, which is responsible for speech and language has not received the stimulation required for normal development. This lack of development has left her speech centres irreparably damaged.



    The left hand scan shows the brain of a normal three year old with healthy neural development. The right hand scan shows dark patches where whole areas of the feral brain have shrunk from lack of stimulation.

    Starved of stimulation, Genie’s brain simply did not develop the capacity for language. Now that she is in her teens she will never be able to learn.

    Genie now lives in an adult care home somewhere in Los Angeles and is, following court action by her misguided mother, prevented from seeing the people who once meant so much to her.


    Adult Genie on the right


    Source: http://www.mymultiplesclerosis.co.uk...ild-child.html

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    Vanya Yudin, Russia



    One of the more recent cases of a feral child is Vanya Yudin (referred to by news agencies as ‘the Russian Bird Boy’). It is said that when he was found by Russian caseworkers in 2008, he was 7 years old and unable to speak. He did nothing but chirp and flap his arms as if he had wings, and exhibited a lot of the behavior that you would expect from a bird. He was kept in a two-room apartment with bird cages filled with dozens of birds that were owned by his mother. Galina Volskaya, one of the social workers taking part in the case stated that even though the boy lived with his mother, she never spoke to him and she simply treated him like another one of her pets. When Volskaya attempted to talk to the boy, he didn’t speak, just chirped.

    While he was never abused physically, the boy was still treated with similar methods to others on the list due to the lack of human interaction. He was put into an asylum where he received treatment to allow him to become more human-like. After, he was sent to a center for psychological care to further his journey to becoming more socially aware and accepted.


    Source: http://www.erbzine.com/mag39/3914.html

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    Daniel, The Andes Goat Boy, Peru



    The Andes Goat-Boy was found in the Andes, Peru, in 1990, and was said to have been raised by goats for eight years. He is supposed to have survived by drinking their milk, and eating roots and berries. Being in wild, he developed the obvious feral characteristics.

    He tended to walk with all his 4 limbs, his hands and feet were hardened due to scar formation that acted like his hoofs. He could communicate with goats and could not learn human language.

    After being found, the Andes Goat-Boy was investigated by a team from Kansas University and named Daniel.


    The Syrian Gazelle Boy




    Jean-Claude Auger, an anthropologist from the Basque country, was traveling alone across the Spanish Sahara (Rio de Oro) in 1960 when he met some Nemadi nomads, who told him about a wild child a day’s journey away. The next day, he followed the nomads’ directions. On the horizon he saw a naked child “galloping in gigantic bounds among a long cavalcade of white gazelles”. The boy walked on all fours, but occasionally assumed an upright gait, suggesting to Auger that he was abandoned or lost at about seven or eight months, having already learnt to stand. He habitually twitched his muscles, scalp, nose and ears, much like the rest of the herd, in response to the slightest noise. He would eat desert roots with his teeth, pucking his nostrils like the gazelles. He appeared to be herbivorous apart from the occasional agama lizard or worm when plant life was lacking. His teeth edges were level like those of a herbivorous animal. In 1966 an unsuccessful attempt was made to catch the boy in a net suspended from a helicopter; unlike most of the feral children of whom we have records, the gazelle boy was never removed from his wild companions.


    Source: http://www.smashinglists.com/10-fera...ed-by-animals/

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    Rochom Pn’gieng, Cambodia



    On January 23, 2007, a Cambodian woman (‘the Cambodian Jungle Girl’) came out of a jungle located in the Ratanakiri province of Cambodi after spending more than 19 years living in the jungle. A family in a close by village announced that the Cambodian woman was their daughter and that her name was Rochom Pn’gieng, a girl who had gone missing in 1979. When she was found she was naked and terrified. She was discovered after food from a lunchbox went missing and a man went on a hunt to find out who had taken it. The man gathered friends and found the woman in the jungle, captured her, and called police.

    Coincidentally, it turned out that the head policeman was her father- he recognized a prominent scar on her back. At 8 years old, Rochom Pn’gien and her sister got lost in the jungle while herding buffalo (the sister has never been found). After she was discovered many worked with her to try to get her to adjust back to a normal lifestyle. When found she could say the words: stomachache, mother, and father. Her psychologist noted that she seemed to be speaking other words, but that they were unrecognizable. When she was hungry or thirsty she would simply point to her mouth. She also crawled more often than walk and refused to wear clothing. Despite being captured and treated, she has often tried (and sometimes succeeded) to escape back to the jungle.


    Traian Caldarar, Romania



    Another recent case of a feral child, Traian Caldarar (found in 2002) is often referred to as ‘the Romanian Dog Boy’ or ‘Mowgli,’ after the main character in the Jungle book. He had lived apart from his family for 3 years since the age of 4. When he was found at the age of 7 he was said to be the size of an average 3 year old due to a lack of proper nutrition. His mother was a victim of domestic violence who left her husband. It is believed that Traian also ran away from the home sometime afterwards. Traian lived in the wild and when he was found in 2002 in Brasov, Rom?nia. He found shelter in a cardboard box covered with a sheet. Traian had a severe case of rickets, poor circulation, and infected wounds. Because of his age, those who discovered Traian believed that stray dogs helped to keep him alive.

    Traian was only found because a car belonging to a shepherd named Manolescu Ioan broke down and he had to walk through pastures, during which he spotted the boy. When he was found, the body of a dog was found nearby and many assume that he was eating the dog as a way to stay alive. Once he was taken into care, he would sleep under his bed instead of on it and would often want to eat. When he didn’t have food he became very irritable and often slept right after meals.

    In 2007, it was reported that Traian was doing well under the care of his grandfather and in grade 3 at school. When asked about his school, he said “I like it here, coloring, play and learn to write and read. We have toys, cars, teddy bears, and the food is very good,” (translasted from Romanian newsite)


    John Ssebunya, Uganda



    It is said that John Ssebunya, also known as ‘The Ugandan Monkey Boy,’ ran away from home when he was three years old after witnessing his father murder his mother. He fled to the Ugandan jungles where he was said to be taken care of by green African monkeys. In 1991 he was found hiding in a tree by a woman named Millie who was a local tribeswoman. After spotting him she went back to her village to alert the men who then went into the jungle to capture John. While they were eventually successful, John and the monkeys, which had become his protectors, fought back, throwing sticks to defend him. In the end he was captured and taken back the village.

    Once back in the village he was cleaned up but his entire body was covered in hair called hypertrichosis, a condition that brings about excessive amounts of hair in places that there usually isn’t hair. Also since he was living in the wild he had contracted a case of intestinal worms that were said to be over half a meter long once they exited his body. He was full of injuries- mainly his knees from imitating how a monkey walks. He was then given to Paul and Molly Wasswa who ran an orphanage, and the two taught him how to speak, though many believe he knew how to talk before running away. Today he sings with the Pearl of Africa children’s choir and exhibits little to no animalistic behavior.


    Kamala and Amala, Bengal




    The story of two young girls, Kamala and Amala, is one of the most famous cases of feral children. Kamala was 8 years old and Amala was said to be 1 ½ when they were found in 1920. Both girls had spent most of their lives abandoned and alone. The two were found in Midnapore, India in a wolves’ den. Despite being found together, those who investigated the case believe that the two were not sisters but were simply abandoned around the same time or taken by wolves. The girls were found after stories spread throughout the village of two “ghostly spirit figures” that were often seen with the wolves that lived in the Bengal jungle. The local villagers were scared of the said spirits and called in a Reverend, Joseph Singh, to get to the bottom of it all. To see what was really going on, Singh hid in a tree above the cave and waited. When he saw the wolves exit the cave he waited and then saw two hunched over figures peek their heads out of the cave. He wrote down what he saw, describing them as “hideous looking with foot and body like a human being.” He said that the girls ran on all fours and had no real traits of being human.

    Singh eventually captured the girls, though he had no experience in rehabilitating them. The girls slept curled together, growled, tore off their clothing, ate nothing but raw meat, howled, and were physically deformed. The tendons and joints in their arms and legs shortened, making it impossible to walk upright. The two also had no interest in interacting with humans. Some say that their senses were impeccable, especially when it came to hearing and seeing, but even their sense of smell was sharp. Amala eventually died due to a sickness, which then caused Kamala to go into a long-stage of mourning. Singh thought she would die but she did not and he started a rehabilitation program to help heal her- she eventually learned to walk upright and say a few words. She died of kidney failure in 1929.


    Source: http://www.listal.com/list/famous-cases-feral-children

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    Can't believe I read it all. Thanks OP for posting them.

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    These two movies are based on child abused.

    1) NELL (1994)
    Nell is a girl who's been brought up in an isolated world. The only people she knew were her mother and twin sister. They lived together in a cottage in the forest. Nobody has ever met Nell. After her mother's death, she's discovered by the local
    doctor Jerome. He's fascinated by her, since she speaks a mangled language, developed by her sister and herself growing up, "twin speak" if you will. But Paula, a psychology student, wants her observed in a laboratory. The judge decides they
    get three months to observe her in the forest, after which he'll decide about Nell's future.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110638/?mode=desktop

    2) MOCKING BIRD DON'T SING ( 2001)

    On November 4, 1970 on The CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite reported on a true, horrific story that was about to rock the country. A 13-year-old girl was discovered in the small Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia who was still in diapers, barely able to walk and unable to speak. Kept in severe isolation by her parents with virtually no human contact for more than 10 years, she was confined to her bedroom, tied to her potty-chair and left to fend for herself. As Cronkite noted, it was one of
    the most horrendous cases of child abuse ever to surface. Much like an animal, the girl spat, sniffed
    and clawed. She had none of the traits or characteristics of conventional human behavior,
    nor could she comprehend such modern societal conveniences as silverware or bathroom etiquette.
    Her emotional development was practically non-existent, and she could not speak.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0273822/?mode=desktop

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    My previous next-door neighbour had a sign on their front door warning people of their feral children. They didn't seem too bad though.

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