ONE CHILD by Torey L. Hayden


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When Torey Hayden began teaching the ""garbage"" class--eight severely disturbed children, from suicidal to autistic--in her Iowa school district, she had little idea that the mid-year would bring Sheila. Placed ""temporarily"" in the class on her way to a state institution, six-year-old Sheila had tied a three-year-old companion to a tree and critically burned him. The account of how Hayden ""tamed"" this self-dubbed ""crazy kid"" into a warm and loving little girl is really a story of lots of cuddling and surrogate mothering rather than of teaching per se--though Hayden did unearth Sheila's intellectual giftedness, later confirmed by IQ tests. Daughter of a migrant worker, unwashed and unkempt, Sheila had been abandoned to die on the highway by her mother, and carried the scars of child abuse. Convinced that she was worthless (by contrast with brother Jimmie, whom her mother took along in her flight), Sheila responded with awe to the simple gift of hair clips: ""Ain't nobody be nice to me on purpose."" Not all was rosy, of course. In the beginning, Hayden and her aides had to cope with having the goldfish's eyes poked out and other teachers' classrooms torn apart. And after much progress, Hayden one day discovered that Sheila was quitely hemorrhaging--the result of an uncle's foray into her vagina with a knife. But gradually, the transformation was more or less completed; Hayden had won a court battle to keep Sheila out of institutional hands, and placed her in a friend's ""normal"" third grade class for the following year. There are times when Hayden seems almost too good to be true--as when she soliloquizes about the uncle who was as much a ""victim"" as Sheila--but the rehabilitation of a six-year-old makes for engrossing reading, and Sheila's very pluckiness will win points.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam