Feral Children (Editorial)
One of the pleasures of attending conferences and scholarly meetings is the opportunity it affords for professional and social interaction with friends and former colleagues. A while ago I had the good fortune to present a lecture at the 5th Annual Conference on Clinical Innovations in Communication Disorders. Aside from the pleasant surrounds at James Madison University with autumn leaves coloring the vistas of the Shenandoah Valley, I met a friend of many years, Allen Boysen, who was the former head of the Audiology and Speech Pathology programs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. We had a pleasant chat about changes in our lives, mutual friends, and of course the glory days of the VA healthcare system. Then an astonishing case was brought to my attention. Boysen shared with me the details of a remarkable story of a 33-year-old man who had not developed language or other socialization skills because of a tragic and incredulous upbringing in isolation from adequate human contact. In Dr. Boysen’s words, through a subsequent email: Not everyday is one consulted for an opinion on a feral child raised in relative isolation from human contact. I could offer little help other than to gather some information about other feral children and about the relative success of attempts to socialize these heartbreaking children and nurture their acquisition of human language. After researching the topic and finding a wealth of written material on the Internet and in the libraries, it became quite clear that the prognosis is as equivocal as the subject is fascinating. This essay is a bit of background on feral children, including some curious and famous cases. Much of the information in this piece has been gleaned from references and links contained on a most notable website overseen by Andrew Ward (2004). This site can be accessed at http://www.feralchildren.com/en/index.php.