Feral child

From Academic Kids

A feral child is a child who has lived isolated from human contact starting from a very young age and who has remained unaware of human behaviour and unexposed to language. A feral child is an extremely rare phenomenon. Around 100 cases over the past few centuries are documented at http://www.feralchildren.com.

Feral children may be separated from society by being lost or abandoned into the wild. The category also includes children who have been purposely kept apart from human society, ex. kept in a room in solitary confinement. Sometimes abandonment is due to parents rejecting a child's severe intellectual impairment or physical disability, and some feral children experience severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned.

Some feral children who end up in the wild are reared by wild animals such as wolves or bears or may become integrated into animal groups. Despite being normally considered hostile to humans, such animals may in fact adopt abandoned human babies as their own, particularly if they have lost their own young.

Many fictional stories and legends depict feral children and integrate the theme of adoption by animals. Perhaps the best known example is that of the legend of the twin boys Romulus and Remus, reputed by myth to be the founders of Rome, who were abandoned at birth and raised by wolves. Other famous examples in fiction are Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan, and the American tall tale of Pecos Bill. (See also Feral children in mythology and fiction.)

Fictional feral children are often depicted as growing up with relatively normal human intelligence and skills and an innate sense of culture or civilisation, coupled with a healthy dose of survival instincts; their integration into human society is made to seem relatively easy. In reality, however, feral children lack the basic social skills which are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may eat with their hands at a great rate, be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning a human language.

It is essentially impossible to convert a child who became isolated at a very young age into a relatively normal member of society. Such individuals need close care throughout their lives. As they are "discovered", feral children become the subject of lively scientific and media interest. Once the excitement dies down and their limitations in terms of learning culture and social behaviour become obvious, frustration can set in and they often spend the rest of their lives passed from one caregiver to another. It is common for them to die young.


Contents

Real-life cases

Of the approximatively 100 cases often cited, few of them have been confirmed or well studied, many of the cases lack detail and many may have been exaggerated and embellished. Here is a limited list of cases.

Case study: Genie

Genie is the name given to a young girl discovered in Los Angeles on November 4 1970, a lifelong victim of bizarre child abuse.

Genie was born in April of 1957; she was the fourth (and second surviving) child to unstable parents. Her mother was partially blind due to cataracts and a detached retina, and her father (who was 20 years the mother's senior) was mentally unbalanced, particularly due to a deep depression over a hit-and-run accident which killed his mother.

At the age of 20 months, Genie was just starting on the road to language when a doctor told her family that she seemed a little bit slow, possibly mildly retarded. Genie's father took the opinion into extreme, believing that she was profoundly retarded and subjected her to severe isolation as well as ritual ill-treatment (this was his idea of "protecting" her). Upon her discovery, Genie (13 years and 7 months) was tied to a potty chair and wearing diapers. She possessed no language skills and could only babble like an infant. It was also reported that her father would beat her every time she vocalized and would bark and growl at her like a dog to keep her quiet; he also even forbade his wife and son to ever speak to her. She was 13 years old, and for over a decade had been completely restrained, left alone in her room without any sort of human interaction whatsoever.

The discovery of Genie occurred when Genie's mother finally gained enough courage to desert her domineering husband. She managed to successfully run away from her home and take Genie with her. Genie, her mother, and her maternal grandmother came into a welfare office in Temple City, California to seek benefits for the blind. A social worker at the office discovered Genie and thought that she was 6 or 7 years old and had autism. When it was revealed that she was actually 13 going on 14, the worker immediately called her supervisor who called the police. Genie was immediately sent to Children's Hospital for malnutrition and rehabilitation, and her parents were charged with willful gross neglect of a minor. On the day that her parents were to appear in court, Genie's father shot himself to death. The charges on the mother were dropped when it was revealed that she, too, was a victim of domestic abuse.

When released for the first time, Genie affected a strange "bunny walk", held her hands up in front of her like paws, and constantly spat and clawed. She was almost entirely silent. Through sleep studies, scientists were able to detect abnormal brain waves, so it seemed that Genie was brain damaged. (They were unsure of whether this was the result of her years of isolation or if she had actually been born that way.)

After spending a brief time in a rehabilitation center, Genie was cared for in a foster home and attended special schools. She developed relationships with many people and learned many different activities such as sewing, drawing, etc. She not only learned spoken language, but she also learned sign language as well. Though initially showing great progress, Genie soon hit a wall in her language acquisition. She never really learned language structure and only got so far as phrases like "Applesauce buy store". Linguists and scientists wanted to learn whether language could be learned past puberty (see Lenneberg's Critical Age Hypothesis), but because Genie was brain-damaged, the studies were not nearly conclusive enough. In addition, much controversy arose as to the validity and usefulness of many of the experiments conducted on the girl, and funding was cut off.

While people did all they could to help Genie, Genie's mother was also given professional help and even had surgery which removed her cataracts and largely restored her sight. When Genie was 18, she returned to the care of her mother. However, after a few months, her mother found her too difficult to handle, and Genie was placed in a series of foster homes. In one of the homes, she was severely punished for vomiting, which caused her to be afraid to open her mouth for several months. Today, Genie lives in an adult foster home in southern California where she is hidden away from the eyes of the public. Her mother (once again blind, this time from glaucoma) currently resides in a nursing home in southern California. Her older brother is also still alive today.

Further reading on Genie can be found in the book Genie: a Scientific Tragedy (ISBN 0060924659) by Russ Rymer.

An independent film entitled Mockingbird Don't Sing (2001) is based on Genie's life.

[1] (http://www.feralchildren.com/en/showchild.php?ch=genie) [2] (http://si.unm.edu/bern_2003/autumn/aut_tl/tl.html) [3] (http://www.psychology.sbc.edu/cesarz.htm)


you suck!!

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Bibliography

nl:Wolfskind fi:Susilapsi fr:Enfant sauvage

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