Abandoned toddler rescued and raised by feral dogs | 60 Minutes Australia

It's an extraordinary story a little girl neglected rejected abandoned by her parents

For comfort she snuggles up in the farmyard kennels with the dogs. That becomes her home

They become her family for the next six years

They protect her feed her maybe even love her and in return she begins to act like them

It's a remarkable case one that startled the world of science

Especially when the doctors tried to teach her to be a normal child

in fact the film you're about to see

Reignites the whole nature versus nurture debate and it could make you think twice about the way we bring up our kids

At first this looks like some kind of strange hoax

Ukrainian girl Oksana Malaya running jumping eating and barking just like a dog

But this is no fraud

Oksana's behavior is the result of the most cruel childhood neglect neglect that began when she was three

Mum had too many kids we didn't have enough beds. So I crawled to the dog and started living with her

Her parents were alcoholics and one night too drunk to care. They left their infant daughter outside in the cold

Looking for warmth Oksana crawled into the farm kennel curling up with the mongrel dogs. Probably saved her life. I

Would talk to them they would bark and I would repeat it. That was our way of communication

The next six years from the age of three to eight the kennel was Oksana's home and the dogs her family

She had very little human contact and when finally discovered it was obvious, they'd been catastrophic

consequences for Oksana's development

She was more like a little dog than a human child

Your worship refused to show a tongue that she's so water and she used to eat with the tongue and not her hands

Oxana is now 22 and lives in a special care home

Remarkably, she is able to speak able to communicate some feelings and that some progress

Well, I remember her when she was initially brought here. She wasn't like a human being she was like a small animal

About half a year later. She had completely changed

But certain situations still trigger deeply ingrained responses

When I feel lonely, I find myself doing anything I call on all fours. This is how lonely I am

Because I have nobody I spend my time with dogs I go for walks and do anything. I want to

Nobody notices that I crawl on all fours

When we're talking about how does a child learn to live with dogs

There's obviously no deal and such but this give and take so the dogs are giving

their love their attention their acceptance in a sense

And what the child must give is that they've got to learn to adapt to the dog?

Situation and if that means eating raw meat and scavenging a rubbish tip

That's what they're going to have to learn to do because otherwise they're not going to survive

I'd like you to ask Oksana if this house is a particular place she knows

using drawings child psychologist Lynn fry

tries to determine what damage the years spent with dogs have done to Oksana's intellectual and social development a

drawing of a person has always been taken as quite a good judge of

Basic ability if you like and her drawing was very similar to you would expect from a six-year-old

Cognitive tests also show this 22 year old has the mental age of a 5 or 6 year old and

Because Oksana missed out on so much human contact during her early years

She also missed out on the chance to learn basic human skills

Psychologists believe she'll never be able to catch up. I

Don't think that she's ever going to learn to read or do anything else there?

That's that's going to be useful not now because I suspect she was reluctant to learn that in the first place

Cases like Oksana Malaya provide extraordinary opportunities for scientists

Opportunities that could never otherwise be replicated because of their cruelty in this day and age

Experimenting on newborn babies is obviously unknown

So the so-called feral children are like little bit an experiment. They give us an insight into the age-old debate

Nature versus nurture are we a product of our genes or are we a product of our experiences?

Back in the 1930s

they weren't the same ethical concerns about children and

American scientists Winthrop Kellogg used his own 18 month-old son Donald in an experiment with the chimpanzee

The idea was that by spending lots of time together every day

the chimpanzee would take on human characteristics learnt from the child and

That happened but unexpectedly the child also began barking and yelping like the chimp mimicking it

by accident

Kellogg had shown the vulnerability of early childhood how infants adapt to changes in their environment

The question that's always been asked by people who have studied these children in the past

It's about what does it really mean to be human?

we look at the development of language what happens if you don't get language up to a critical period and that critical period is

I think now generally accepted that if you haven't got language by about five, you're not going to get language at all

Officials have taken custody of a 13 year old girl

And they say was kept in such isolation by her parents that she never even learned to talk

Perhaps most inexplicable of all these feral children is Janie Wylie found not in some poverty-stricken

third-world country

but right in the heart of middle-class, Los Angeles

The girl still wore diapers and was uttering infantile noises the social worker discovered the case two weeks ago

But the authorities are hoping she still may have a normal learning capacity for the first 13 years of her life

Jeannie endured almost total sensory and social deprivation

Isolated in her bedroom by day. She was strapped onto a potty chair by night chained to her bed

Detective Franklin Lee was one of the first people to say her when she was discovered in

1970 a child duck obviously had been

Severely mistreated after she was still in diapers couldn't walk. She had no verbal skills at all at that point

It was Janie's dominating and mentally unstable father Clark Wiley who cut his daughter off from the world

Even from her own mother and brother

Jeannie had never learned to speak so scientists. Wondered if she could ever be taught

Looked after in foster care. She also became a living experiment for linguists like Susan Curtis

she was

Extremely interested in everything around her. She wanted to know the word for everything around her

She wanted to engage people all around her

she was not mentally deficient her lights were on and everyone who worked with her from teachers to

Therapists to me knew that she was not retarded

The conventional thinking was that language would be impossible but early on Jeannie

confounded the scientists as she began to learn more more words hundreds of words much more rapidly than

I ever imagined and swinging them together. I began to think maybe I will be wrong

Maybe she will be the one that will prove that this hypothesis is incorrect

But then things changed for the worse haunted by her traumatic upbringing Janie's development stopped

She learned tons of words. She has an enormous vocabulary

But language is not words language is grammar



How do you make a sentence what can be a sentence?

Ingenious brain the left part of her her brain

They her cortex that that has those neural systems responsible for speech and language at 18 Janey Wiley's life

Took another strange and tragic twist

She left the care of foster parents and moved back in with her mother back into the house where she'd endured 13 years of neglect

People wouldn't listen to me people who needed to intervene did not listen to me

And so I spent lots and lots of time on the phone pleading with people to intervene and save this

person who had had the worst

experience of deprivation and isolation in all the Kurdish medical history who was now in a

crisis situation


You'd expect her condition quickly deteriorated

Her mother couldn't cope and Jeanie was put into an institution

she was also lost to science a court order stopping people like Susan Curtis going anywhere near her I

Went from being asked to be her guardian

- one week later being prevented from seeing her or phoning her and ever since then I've been

Prevented from having any contact at all

Janey's almost 50 now. She's still

Institutionalized and still not allowed contact with the scientists. Her present condition is unknown

We are continuing to learn more and more about how to help these children more and more about how these

neglectful experiences influence their brain, but we're just on the

very very very cusp of

Being able to be helpful because to date we haven't done a very good job with that

We just haven't understood the brain of brain development in ways

That would allow us to be as good as we can be and I think that that's changing

Why feral children like Jeanne would ever want to be reunited with their parents is perhaps explained in the

1960s experiments of notorious psychologist Harry Harlow

he took newborn monkeys from their mothers and gave them a choice between a cold wire surrogate with milk or a

Soft warm surrogate without they chose comfort above food every time

So maybe we've been hardwired to expect comfort from our biological parents no matter what they do to us

parlors work was really seminal in this entire field because he showed the crucial importance of the caregiving relationship between

a mother and an infant and how the physical stimulation literally the physical contact

with the caregiver has

profound impact on health and development

That same desire burns in Oxana

14 years after being freed from her parents appalling Cruelty

She's made some remarkable advances her speaking and language are far better than her caregivers ever imagined possible

Now she makes the decision she wants to find and meet her mother and father I

Want to see them with my own eyes so desperately because I've been told I have no parents, but actually I do have

Her mother has long since disappeared but her father Alexander agrees to a reunion

He leaves his farm and makes a 350 kilometres. Ernie - Oksana and

There's another surprise

For support he brings along Mina Oksana's half-sister. She didn't even know existed

It's an awkward meeting a first father and daughter just stand there staring at each other

Then a few tentative steps closer

Even was video

The villa mining trail we are live in like a rough

You know Gotama is just divine

For these children because they have not had the experiences that help their brain

Organize systems to make sense of the world the world never makes sense

Despite all the suffering and the damage it's done to her brain

Oksana does have an undeniable spirit and the truly remarkable

human gift of forgiveness

We should look at these children not with pity. But with awe, I mean they're just

It's fascinating

That you could go through something like that and that you would still be willing

After what human beings have done to you that you'd still be willing to put your hand out and touch a new person

Hello, I'm Tara Brown thanks for watching to keep up with the latest from 60 minutes, Australia

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