One Child

Last updated
One Child
One Child.jpg
First edition
AuthorTorey L. Hayden
CountryUnited States
Subject child psychopathology, child abuse
Publication date
ISBN 978-0-399-12467-9
Followed byThe Tiger's Child (1995) 

One Child is a memoir by American author and psychologist Torey Hayden. It was first published in the United States in 1980, becoming a best seller in the 00s. [1] This book has been translated into 27 languages and dramatized as an interactive opera. It was also loosely adapted as the 1994 Lifetime television film Untamed Love, starring Ashlee Lauren, Lois Foraker and Cathy Lee Crosby. [2] Goodreads rated the book 4.26 out of 5. [3] The book has inspired people to move into Special Educational Need careers. [4]


The book opens with Hayden, a special education teacher, reading a newspaper article about a six-year-old girl named Sheila who didn't speak sometimes, was silenced by abuse and abandonment and beat up and burned a three-year-old boy a couple of days prior. As there was no place for her at the hospital, she has a reactive attachment disorder as a student in Hayden's class and as a result of getting abused and abandoned in Hayden's class, where she remains for about five months.

A sequel to this book, The Tiger's Child , was published in 1995.


At the beginning of the year, Torey is given a long, narrow, carpeted classroom with a single window at the end – very inconvenient for a special education class. Her teaching assistant is a Mexican migrant worker named Anton who didn't finish high school.

The students at the beginning of the year are as follows:

At age four, Sheila's abusive then-eighteen-year-old mother left and took Sheila and two-year-old brother Jimmie with her; however, on the highway, Sheila's mother opened the door and pushed Sheila out, leaving her behind. Since then, Sheila has lived in poverty with her neglectful and verbally abusive father. When she joined Torey's class, Sheila's dad did not have enough money to get water to wash themselves or the one set of clothes Sheila owned. Thus, she came to school dirty and smelly every day.

Sheila is angry and violent to have a reactive attachment disorder is a result of getting abused.

Sheila joins the group just after Christmas vacation. At first, she refuses to participate in the class and refuses to speak to anyone. She stays sitting in one chair. On her first day of school, at lunch, Sheila takes all of the goldfish from the aquarium and stabs their eyes out with a pencil. Torey and Whitney, a shy fourteen-year-old girl who assists the class, chase Sheila into the gymnasium, and Torey eventually soothes the terrified girl into coming back to class.

After a few days, Sheila and Torey begin to trust one another, and Torey takes to giving her a bath every morning and massaging her body with baby lotion so she won't smell offensive. Torey also shampoos Sheila's hair and styles it with kiddie barrettes, giving the child a chance to enjoy feeling beautiful and learn how delightful it is to feel appreciated and cared for, although Sheila fears that the pretty new hair decorations will be confiscated by her dad.

After Sheila began participating in class, there were still a few issues. First, she was focused on revenge. At one point, a teacher scolded her in the lunch room, so she went into the teacher's room and caused $700 worth of damage to the classroom. Also, Sheila refuses to do paper work. However, when given other mediums to work with (stacking blocks, for instance), she reveals that she is incredibly smart and talented for someone who only had a few months of first grade; her I.Q. is later tested, and comes to a total of 182, which is, according to Torey, around 1 in 10,000 for a six-year-old. Sheila remains obsessed with showing people that she matters, and terrified of abandonment.

At one point, Torey goes to California for a few days for a conference. The students were given plenty of notice, but Sheila interpreted it as abandonment by the one person who had shown her love, and misbehaved through the whole trip.

In the middle of the year, Torey is notified that a space has opened up at the state hospital for Sheila. Torey is horrified and cries, seeing that this girl with all her improvement should not be put into an institution. Torey brings the case to court, with the help of Torey's then-boyfriend Chad, a lawyer, and wins. Afterwards, Torey and Chad take Sheila out for pizza and buy her a dress.

One day, Sheila comes to school looking pale and poorly. She uses the bathroom twice in the first half-hour. Torey takes Sheila on her lap, and then notices she's bleeding. Sheila eventually discloses that her uncle Jerry had tried to rape her, and when she was too small, he cut her genitalia with his knife. Sheila is rushed to the hospital after losing a lot of blood and has to have surgery to repair the damage. In the 1995 sequel, The Tiger's Child, it is revealed that because of this incident, Sheila is infertile. Sheila deals with the traumatic experience remarkably well, though she refuses to wear dresses for a while afterward.

At the end of the year, Torey introduces Sheila to next year's teacher. Sheila will be going into third grade, because Torey feels she can deal with the harder material and that it's more important at this point that Sheila's teacher be loving and understanding. Torey knows this teacher personally and knows she would be.

Research and reception

The book has been used as the basis of research by Appalachian State University, by Michael Marlow & Gayle Disney. [5]

Bookrags has provided a One Child Summary & Study Guide for educational purposes. [6]

Reviewing the book for the Australian Journal of Human Communication Disorders , Mandy Brent concluded that "this book is an interesting but undeveloped narrative and is of limited use to the practising clinician" . [7]

The book is used as a reference in the book Inquiry and Reflection: Framing Narrative Practice in Education by Diane DuBose Brunner. [8]

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  1. "One Woman". 1 June 2005. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  2. Scott, Tony (3 August 1994). "Lifetime World Premiere Movie Untamed Love".
  3. "One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out by Tory Hayden". Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  4. "A Day in the Life of Miss Wendy, a foot soldier for Special Education". Chalkbeat . 8 March 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  5. Marlowe, Mike; Disney, Gayle; Jo Wilson, Kayce (2004). "Classroom management of children with emotional and behavioral disorders A storied model: Torey Hayden's One Child A storied model: Torey Haydenapos;s One Child". Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. 9 (2): 99–114. doi:10.1177/1363275204045731. ISSN   1363-2752. S2CID   142548759.
  6. "One Child Summary & Study Guide". Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  7. Fisher, John; Block, Susan L.; Major, Megan E.; Brent, Mandy; Gough, Florence; Block, Susan L.; Clezy, Gillian; Green, Ginnie; Bucher, Barbara S.; Powell, Patricia L.; Reid, Judy M. (1983-06-01). "Reviews". Australian Journal of Human Communication Disorders. 11 (1): 89–98. doi:10.3109/asl2.1983.11.issue-1.08. ISSN   0310-6853.
  8. Diane DuBose Brunner (January 1994). Inquiry and Reflection: Framing Narrative Practice in Education. ISBN   9780791418697 . Retrieved 25 June 2020.