Nature / Nurture
Danielle – Dani was almost seven years old when detectives Mark Holste and his partner were called in to investigate the child abuse case. At only 46 pounds and anemic, this malnourished little girl had seemingly suffered from parental neglect for a long time. Their home was a rental house surrounded by an overgrown yard.
She was first seen by a neighbor three years later when the neighbor noticed the face of a small girl in the window. The detectives who arrived at the scene almost lacked the words to describe the deplorable conditions the house was in. They found out that all the walls in the room where the girl was were covered with human, cat and dog excrement (Lane 3).
The air was stuffy and stunk of stale cigarette smoke and rotting excrement. Almost all the glasses on the windows were broken, the gaping holes sealed off using cardboard and old comforters, and the tattered curtains were murky from cigarette smoke.
Trash was everywhere, from the worn-out couch to the kitchen counter and this had, in turn, attracted a legion of roaches that literally crawled all over the house. The police officers on their search found Dani in a walk in clandestine place down a tapered foyer, and she was sleeping on a worn out moldy mattress. She had insect bites all over her ashen skin and her tousled hair was wriggled with lice, (Lane 6).
A doctor named Kathleen was the first psychologist to observe Danielle. She carried out extensive medical tests and found nothing wrong with Dani genetically. She diagnosed Dani with a condition called “environmental autism” brought about by lack of human interaction for an extended period during early childhood. Dr. Armstrong was later quoted saying, (Lane 3)
“In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed. Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language and for them to communicate well they need that system to relate to the world.”
Dani’s inability to speak was essentially due to the lack of human interaction. It is very likely that no one talked to her at home. She had never been to school nor had she experienced basic human emotion. She did not make eye contact or portray any facial expressions. Dani suffered from severe neglect that led to the loss of her ‘humanness’.
Continuity / Stages
When Dani was found, she was six years younger than the feral children that had been discovered previously. This doctor hoped that being young would give her an upper hand when it came to learning, for it meant she could be teachable.
The doctor also realized that Dani did not have enough time to learn how to speak, but still, there was at least some hope that she could be taught how to communicate in other different ways, (Lane 12). Dr. Armstrong was however not too optimistic and her highest hopes were that Dani would maybe be able to feed herself, be able to sleep comfortably on a bed, be out of diapers and if things went really well, she would end up in a nursing home.
According to Dani’s case, development is a gradual continuous process. However, early childhood development in a sense provides the platform for rapid later-stage development. Dani was born healthy and her mother’s neglect was what led to her disposition. If Dani had had human interaction from an early stage, she could have been a normal, healthy 7-year-old girl, keeping all other factors constant.
If development were in fact a sequence of stages, it would have been highly unlikely that Dani would ever make any substantial progress. To the contrary, Dani in her new family has now grown taller and she had increased in weight thanks to a balanced diet. Her had has turned golden brown and she can also swim independently, (Lane 15).
Dani is can now subtly understand human emotions. She can also feed her self and she does not need diapers anymore. She now listens and understands simple commands and can communicate albeit subtly.
For instance, if she needed to go to the bathroom she pulls at her pants to illustrate so, if she wants more juice, then she tapped her box and she also learned how to push buttons which on the speaking board, she also uses symbols to demonstrate if she when she’s angry or wants a book. She is also able to mimic her speech therapist Leslie Goldenberg’s lip movement. All this provides overwhelming evidence to support the theory that development is actually a gradual continuous process.
Stability / Change
At first, Dani was intimidated by her new environment. The first day she arrived at Bernie and Diane’s home, she bit off the hands of a doll she was given then moved on to trash the rooms. She also displayed temper tantrums and bit her arms whenever she was agitated. For a while, she was restless and confused, still not comfortable with her new environment.
This later subsided when she was weaned off the psychotic medication she was on. Gradually, she has come to be at ease with her new surroundings and adjusted quite well. She is now comfortable walking on the beach, something she could not do before, and she lets her foster parents brush her teeth. She seems to be learning the difference between right and wrong and can now know whether her actions have disappointed her foster parents, (Lane 20).
Dani can also communicate simple messages like going to the bathroom or when she wants some food. Bernie and Diane’s last-born son, William seems to have a significant impact on how well Dani is coping.
Although her talking is yet to develop well, she has somebody to put into practice language with, somebody ready to listen. It is safe to say Dani is coping well with the changes in her environment. Even though she cannot sleep on a bed yet, the current Dani is surely a different Dani from the one who came in from the group home in Land O’Lakes, (Lane 30).
Lane DeGregory, The girl in the window, Times Staff Writer. Web.