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Wild Child

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Category: Miscellaneous

Autor: anton 18 November 2010

Words: 906 | Pages: 4

From the diaries of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, The Wild Child is a movie made in 1970, with a setting in France from the18th century, and based on a child who had lived in nature his whole life without any human contact. Itard, a well known French doctor for working with deaf-mutes, had taken in this feral child under his care for the purposes of his studies on the child's intellectual and social education. Given the time period of the movie Itard had taken the "wild-child" in under his own care, and helped teach the child to be more civilized, even though he went against the beliefs of how mentally retarded children were to be taken care of during the 18th century. Although most of the medical doctors who had been in contact with the feral child felt that he, who could not speak, and exhibited violent behavior to others, was mentally retarded and proved to have no hope for becoming civilized. Itard had proven them wrong using both positive and negative reinforcement techniques that helped the "wild-child" improve drastically and become more civilized. Having the ability to teach a mentally retarded child who had not been exposed to civilization was one of the main messages of both the movie and also one of Itard's main goals. Although succeeding at many techniques that he had done with the "wild-child" ranging from identifying everyday objects, dressing on his own, writing words, to spelling words, he still believed he was unsuccessful due to the fact that the child had not been able to speak more than one word. The way Itard had taken care of this "wild-child" may not be valid according to today's society, but during the 18th century Itard had done more than expected for this mentally retarded child. "In the early 1800's education was primarily given to the wealthy Anglo-Saxon children, and

educators were not exposed to the diversity of children that they were soon going to be faced with." (2) Children were mainly taught in the home or in a single room schoolhouse; therefore, children of limited mental capability were not likely to be schooled. "In 1852 the start of mandatory education had evolved, and also the increasing number of immigrants who had had diverse social and cultural backgrounds, as well as something the educators of the previous, homogenous schools had not been forced to deal with." (3) Many of these children showed signs of various learning, developmental, physical, and an emotional/behavioral problem, which is what Itard had to deal with trying to help civilize the "wild-child". Although Itard had succeeded at many tasks with the "wild-child" his reputation had begun to disappear due to the fact that he had not succeeded in helping the child speak. Not being exposed to language at an early age in life is one of the main factors that contribute to the wild-child not being able to speak. According to it crucial that children are exposed to language at the early stages of life. It is thought to believe that if a child is not exposed to language during these early critical times then the child will never be able to develop language skills. The "wild-child" had displayed this certain disability, but according to the movie and the book Itard had succeeded in having the child say milk in French. I had seen this as one of the many accomplishments of Itard, but he did not see his small language skills as a success, either did the rest of the society in the 18th century. In today's society the way things would have been considered a success and a failure are different, and also the ways educators and physicians would treat their patients.

Itard had used both positive and negative reinforcement with the "wild-child" resulting in many accomplishments, such as using hand-over hand technique, and rewarding with water or milk when he had done something good. We still use these techniques today because they do result in continuous good behavior, but as for the negative reinforcements they would be considered different according to different generations. Itard had put the "wild-child" in the closet when being punished, and in today's society that would not be allowed according to many laws. Itard had also rewarded the "wild-child's" temper tantrums by giving him attention when he acted out, therefore rewarding this behavior. I see this as giving him reinforcement for the behavior and allowing him to act out when he did not want to work anymore. I also do believe that Itard had overworked the child at times resulting in these tantrums, but because of these long hours of continuous teaching the "wild-child" had become more civilized. Although the difference in time periods, I believe that Itard had done many great things and despite his views as being unsuccessful I believe that he had accomplished a great amount with the "wild-child" and still to this day help educate people about the learning process and how the early stages of life are the most critical.


1.) Truffaut, F. (1970). The Wild Child- screenplay.

2.) Carlson, Cindy. (1996). Changing the School Culture toward Integrated Services. Journal of Educational Society, 69, 190-197.

3.) Reddy, Linda, A. (1999). Inclusion of Disabled Children and School Reform: A Historical Perspective. Congressional Quarterly, 15, 3-24.

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