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One Child

Torey L. Hayden’s, One Child, is written by Hayden, a teacher of severely handicapped children. One such child is the focus of this book, a six-year-old severely emotionally disturbed girl named Sheila. Hayden encounters Sheila when she is awaiting placement in a state mental hospital on the orders of a juvenile court decisions. The child is not only emotionally disturbed, but she has been abandoned and abused. While working with Sheila, Hayden discovers that the little girl is not only exceptionally gifted, but she also possesses a genius Intelligence Quota. The book takes us through several tense situations that evoke outrage, pathos and respect (like the little girl’s determination and courage to survive pain and the most severe indignation despite her abuse).

The book is extremely emotionally disturbing in the sense that we are enraged and shocked over the description of Sheila’s uncle’s savage and near-deadly sexual molestation of her. On the other hand, Sheila’s quiet descriptions of her anger, fear and self-doubt are moving, especially as we see her slowly recognize the potential inside of herself. The horrors of her upbringing, her poverty-ridden existence and the appalling degree of neglect she received from anyone who is responsible for her care. Perhaps, though, the most moving aspect of the book is the way in which Sheila was not only abandoned by her care-givers, but also in the way she was abandoned by the system; the courts, teachers, etc. It is only due to Hayden’s unique ability to draw this little girl’s personality out of the abusive cave she buried it in that allows us to see the bright human being inside of what many considered a truly monstrous, emotionally-disturbed child.

Question One: What does this book tell us about the juvenile court system?

Answer: It lets us know that decisions are often made that are short-sighted and without proper te


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One Child. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:23, February 26, 2017, from