One Child

One Child

4.8 91
by Torey Hayden
     
 

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Finally, a beginning . . .

The time had finally come. The time I had been waiting for through all these long months that I knew sooner or later had to occur. Now it was here.

She had surprised me so much by actually crying that for a moment I did nothing but look at her. Then I gathered her into my arms, hugging her tightly. She clutched onto my shirt so that

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Overview

Finally, a beginning . . .

The time had finally come. The time I had been waiting for through all these long months that I knew sooner or later had to occur. Now it was here.

She had surprised me so much by actually crying that for a moment I did nothing but look at her. Then I gathered her into my arms, hugging her tightly. She clutched onto my shirt so that I could feel the dull pain of her fingers digging into my skin. She cried and cried and cried. I held her and rocked the chair back and on its rear legs, feeling my arms and chest get damp from the tears and her hot breath and the smallness of the room.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780380542628
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/28/1981
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
178,183
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)
Lexile:
820L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I should have known.

The article was a small one, just a few paragraph' stuck on page six under the comics. It told of a six-year-old girl who had abducted a neighborhood child. On that cold November evening, she had taken the three-year-old boy, tied him to a tree in a nearby woodlot and burned him. The boy was currently in a local hospital in critical condition. The girl had been taken into custody.

I read the article in the same casual manner that I read the rest of the newspaper and felt an offhand what-is-this-world-coming-to revulsion. Then later in the day it came back to me while I was washing the dishes. I wondered what the police had done with the girl. Could you put a six-year-old in jail? I had random Kafkaesque visions of the child knocking about in our old, drafty city jail. I thought about it only in a faceless, impersonal manner. But I should have known.

I should have known that no teacher would want a sixyear-old with that background in his or her classroom. No parent would want a child like that attending school with his or her child. No one would want that kid loose.

I should have known she would end up in my program. I taught what was affectionately referred to in our school district as the "garbage class." It was the last year before the effort to mainstream special children would begin; it was the last year to pigeonhole all the odd children into special classes. There were classes for the retarded, classes for the emotionally disturbed, classes for the physically handicapped, classes for the behaviorally disordered, classes for the learning disabled, and then there was my class. I had the eight who wereleft over, the eight who defied classification. I was the last stop before the institution. It was the class for young human refuse.

The spring before I had been teaching as a resource person, supplying help to emotionally disturbed and learning disabled children who attended regular classrooms part of the day. I had been in the district for some time in a variety of capacities; so I had not been surprised when Ed Somers, the Director of Special Education, had approached me in May and had asked if I would be interested in teaching the garbage class the next fall. He knew I had had experience with severely disturbed children and that I liked small children. And that I liked a challenge. He chuckled self-consciously after saying that, aware of how contrived the flattery sounded, but he was desperate enough to try it anyway.

I had said yes, but not without reservations. However, I longed for my own classroom again with my own set of kids. I also wanted to be free of an unintentionally oppressive principal. He was a good-hearted man, but we did not see things in the same way. He objected to my casual dress, to my disorderly classroom, and to my children addressing me by my first name. These were minor issues, but like all small things, they became the major sore spots. I knew that by doing Ed the favor of taking this class, allowances would be made for my jeans and my sloppiness and my familiarity with the kids. So I accepted the job, confident that I could overcome any of the obstacles it presented.

My confidence flagged considerably between the signing of the contract and the end of the first day of school. The first blow came when I learned I was to be placed back into the same school I had been in and under the same principal. Now not only did he have to worry about me but also about eight very peculiar children. Irnmediately we were all placed in a room in the annex which we shared with the gymnasium and nothing else. We were totally isolated from the rest of the school. My room would have been large enough if the children had been older and more self-contained. But for eight small children and two adults, plus ten desks, three tables, four bookcases and countless chairs that seemed to mate and multiply in the night, the room was hopelessly crowded. So out went the teacher's desk, two bookshelves, a file cabinet, all but nine little chain and eventually all the student desks. Moreover, the room was long and narrow with only one window at the far end. It had originally been designed as a testing and counseling space, so it was wood-paneled and carpeted. I would have gladly traded all that grandeur for a room that did not need lights on all day or for a linoleum floor more impervious to spills and stains.

The state law required that I have a full-time aide because I was carrying the maximum load of severely disturbed children. I had been hoping for one of the two competent women I had worked with the year before, but no, I received a newly hired one. In our community, which had in close proximity a state hospital, a state prison and a huge migrant workers' camp, there was a staggering welfare fist. Consequently, unskilled jobs were usually reserved for the unemployed listed with Social Services. Although I did not consider my aide position an unskilled one, Welfare did, and the first day of school I was confronted with a tall, gangly Mexican-American who spoke more Spanish than English. Anton was twentynine and had never graduated from high school. Well, no, he admitted, he had never worked with children. Well, no, he never especially wanted to. But you see, he explained, you had to take the job they gave you or you lost benefits. He dropped his gargantuan frame onto one of the kindergarten-sized chairs, mentioning that if this job worked out, it would be the first time he had ever stayed north all winter instead of following the other migrant workers back to California. So then we were two. Later, after the school year started, I acquired a fourteen-year-old junior high school student who devoted her two hours...

One Child. Copyright © by Torey Hayden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Torey Hayden is an educational psychologist and a former special education teacher who, since 1979, has chronicled her struggles in the classroom in a succession of bestselling books. She currently lives and writes in North Wales, U.K., with her husband and daughter.

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One Child 4.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 91 reviews.
rbyLal More than 1 year ago
I hardly read books unless, its based on a true story,I dont if this book is but it really sounds as if it is. i love this book n the story it held inside it captured my mind since day one. i actually felt touched...i even cried i dont think i have ever read a book so touching as this one...i as a young reader think that not everyone would be capable of highly understanding this book unless you are mature enough...other than that its an amazing storyy!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book along with all the others was increadible.. there was a movie i saw when i was younger based on this book if anyone knows what it was called please email me. Torey's books are increadible they truley inspire me.
CalaveraRae More than 1 year ago
Fyre369 More than 1 year ago
I keep seeing that people don't know whether or not this story is true. I have read MOST of Torey Hayden's work about 20 years ago. I can tell you that YES they are all true. She changes all the names, and maybe some locations or minor details (hair color, skin color, gender, etc. But I can assure you that these are real kids, with real troubles. And furthermore for those of you not happy with the ending, read The Tiger's Child, and encounter Sheila as an adult. Other teenagers were reading romance novels. I was reading Torey Hayden. I first took an interest in these stories after the movie A Circle of Children and Lovey, based on books by Mary MacCracken. Yes they too are true. I am 46 years old and have been reading or watching these stories since I was 7 or so. My wife has asked me for years how I deal with her bi-polar tantrums and how I keep my calm so well most of the time, I recently told her where all my insight comes from, and you are reading her reviews right now. Torey Hayden. Mary MacCracken, and many others who have either taught or adopted special needs and disturbed kids. If you don't think these books are appropriate for young readers, I beg to differ, read them with your child and discuss them, you may be surprised what your child takes away from them, and how your child deals with others afterwords, Maybe just by being a friend to someone who needs one.
Books4Tomorrow More than 1 year ago
The first thing I want to tell you is how much this book made me cry. Buckets full. Maybe even enough to fill an ocean. Ugly cry, even. Unashamed, let-it-all-out, bawling. That’s how much. I’m not even exaggerating. This is significant, because tearjerker movies get me to cry often, but in contrast, only a handful of books have managed to dissolve me into tears. With One Child, I cried often, and I cried long and hard. It’s not only Sheila’s circumstances that made me cry, but also because I was so grateful that there is a teacher who cared enough to save this little girl whom everyone had given up on.  Let me share a little about Sheila. She is a six-year-old girl who committed a terrible crime. It wasn’t her first crime, but it was probably her worst. At the age of six she had already had run ins with the police three times, and after her last crime the courts had decided that she should be placed in a state institution for mentally disturbed patients. Unfortunately for the state, but fortunately for Sheila, there wasn’t space available to accommodate her in the local state institution, and she was placed in a classroom for handicapped, abused, and mentally disturbed children. The teacher for that classroom at the time was Miss Torey (the author of this book). According to state regulations, Torey could only accommodate eight children in her classroom due to the severity of their conditions. Yet, she had no choice but to accept problem-child Sheila into her classroom. When I say Sheila is a problem-child, I don’t mean it lightly. The things she does is incredibly shocking, but here I also want to mention that she is no ordinary child. She has an IQ of over 170. Obviously, until Sheila has landed in Torey’s classroom, no-one has figured it out yet because Sheila is such a difficult child who goes out of her way to make herself unlovable. She lives in poverty with her alcoholic, ex-convict father, in a one-room shack in a migrant camp. You might wonder where Sheila’s mother is, and I can only tell you that that is another heartbreaking part of Sheila’s life. No acceptable excuse can be made for what Sheila’s mother did to her. It’s just too appalling.   Anyway, the entire story centers around Miss Torey and Sheila forming an unbreakable bond and how they changed each others’ lives, and also how it changed Sheila. This little girl who never cries and who only knows rejection, abuse, and abandonment, has to learn to love, be accepted, deal with her anger, and adjust to normal society - what is socially acceptable, and what is not. Often I found myself smiling about how Sheila perceives the world and her surroundings, and how she tries to make sense of her life. The other kids in the same classroom also crept into my heart. So many times did I go “aaawwwhhh” because of something or other that Sheila, Torey or any of the other kids did or say, and then the tears would start all over again. I’ve read many abuse stories, whether it’s written in books or news articles, but never have I been as shocked as when I read what Sheila’s uncle did to her. You think you’ve heard it all with regard to the extent of human depravity, and then you read something like that...  The story has a good ending, but not, in my opinion, a satisfying one. I desperately wanted a different ending for Sheila at home. I didn’t agree with the welfare system’s opinion of Sheila’s home life. I appreciated every single effort Torey made to improve Sheila’s life and I am grateful that there are teachers who really care about their students. One Child is a book worth reading, albeit not an easy one because it plays havoc with your emotions. Whether this really happened or not, it is a reminder that the world is filled with people who have no limits to the cruelties they bestow on defenseless little children (and animals, for that matter). At the same time it also showcases that, once in a while, a gem such as Torey comes along who dedicates her time and all of herself to protecting, loving, and making a difference in the lives of little ones who can’t fend for themselves.  As much as I want to recommend this book to everyone, I also have to issue a warning that it contains content of a disturbing nature. Sheila’s story needed to be told and I’m grateful to Ms Hayden for sharing it with us. However, read it at own risk (such as crying buckets of tears and having your heart break into tiny little pieces over and over again).    
Maranna More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book, I would defiantly recommend you read it. It’s a true story about a little girl named Shelia. Shelia is a six year old at the time when her teacher Torey writes about how she tries to turn her life around. Shelia gets into quite a bit of trouble throughout the whole story. It isn’t always easy for her to adjust to her new school because she gets put into a class for mentally disturbed children, while they wait for a spot in the mental hospital to open. If you like true stories about children you will greatly enjoy reading it you will find out really how horrible this little girl’s life really was. Honestly, I laughed, cried, and was shocked through the whole story. If you enjoy this book after you read it, I know you will want to read more. So you should read the second book about Shelia called, The Tiger's Child.
Lauren-Milano More than 1 year ago
The book one child is about a disturbed child who moves into a new school. Torey Hayden is the author and also the teacher in the book, this story is based on her life as a teacher and one special student she once had. This is a book about trust and friendship and the patience she had to do whatever it took to reach out to one child. As I was reading the book I could never put it down, page after page is detailed information about her daily life. Everyday something horrifying comes along. As you read the book you learn that the terrifying young girl, Sheila, is really brilliant and she just needed a chance from someone to take the time to get to know her. She is abused and faces terrible experiences and she is only a young child. Torey learns more and more about this troubled girl. She also proves to all the other teachers that it takes patience and kindness to reach out to anybody, no child is unteachable. Torey made the biggest impact on Sheila, and Sheila probably wouldn’t be where she is today without her. This book is about love and connection that no one can destroy. Torey and Sheila grow a relationship that nobody has ever had with the child. This book really captivates what a teacher means to this world.
Lauren_Milano More than 1 year ago
One Child is an outstanding book about a violent child and her patient teacher who reaches out to her, something no one in her life has ever done. Torey Hayden was a teacher who taught disturbed children. When she read the newspaper about a little girl who burnt a boy in a fire, she knew that the girl would soon be in her class. The day Sheila came she didn’t talk to anyone, and ripped all the worksheets Torey gave her. Throughout the book, Sheila becomes closer to Torey and Torey finds out more about Sheila and the terrible experiences she has faced. Yet soon, Torey realizes that she has been facing an experience of a lifetime by teaching Sheila. Torey Hayden is the only person in Sheila’s life that gave her a chance and an opportunity. She proved to everyone that nobody is unteachable; you just need to reach out to them. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading inspirational novels. It is based on a true story and Torey Hayden is an incredible teacher who deserves more respect than anyone else. This book is for any age, it really captivates what a teacher really means to this world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ONECHILDLOVER More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the most riveting and heart-breaking books I have ever read. It made me want to scream, dance in excitement, but mostly cry. I suggest that everyone who has a chance to read it, to do so. It may seem like just another bitter-sweet story, but it changes the way you look at life.
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chelsealizabeth More than 1 year ago
i chose this book for my senior seminar class and i am glad i did so. i wanted to read a non-fiction book i could sort of relate to, now i had abuse and such in my home when i was growing up but no nearly as much as Sheila. this book is such an amazing read. the illustrations are just put in your head with no pictures in the book. how the author Torey Hayden just put her lifes work into a book for everyone to see how having someone work with you and be you friend can help you get through a lot. Sheila and Torey get through a lot in the class that Torey teaches to severly retarted kids. i recommend this book to everyone how loves a happy ending and for some knowlegde..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I read it in just a few hours- couldn't put it down! I never was interested in teaching special education until I read this book. It is graphic but it is real life and if you have any interest in emotionally disturbed and special needs kids this book is great!
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Missy49 More than 1 year ago
Torey Hayden's book One Child is a book about a small child who comes from an abusive family. This book teaches one to learn and trust and also the importance of friendship. If you enjoyed the depressing and horrifying true storey of A Child Called It, then you will love this book. Also if you are a teacher, do not pass up the opportunity to read One Child. Hayden does a fantastic job of portraying the topic; this book goes in great detail, giving you the impression that you are there page after page. Sheila, the abused girl, refuses to talk or do any assignment that requires writing. However underneath her shell you find out how brilliant she truly is. Sheila's intelligent mind often gets her in trouble and you may just find yourself laughing at her innocents. Because she was abandoned by her mother she is terrified of being left alone, and just as things start to look better, Hayden throws the book through a loop and the situation worsens. One Child brings you roller coaster of teaching, and the irritation of the social services. Hayden knows that Sheila is being abused and tries to get the social services to remove her from the abusive environment, during that process Sheila is paying for it at home. When the social service people investigate the situation you will be horrified at what they do. This book is unpredictable, and heart wrenching. This book will make you laugh and cry. You won't be able to put it down, it's so gripping I'm sure you'll be reading it page after page. Abuse happens every day, and it's time we start doing something about it. The author, Torey Hayden, writes many nonfiction books based on her own experiences. She is a psychologist, and also was a special educational instructor. Her real life experiences have given her the ability to write extremely successful books.
xteci_x More than 1 year ago
I just finished the book last night and can't wait to read the continuation of this story (very happy to hear that there is one). This story is a "page turner", I could not put it down! It's truly a story about how great life really is, how resilent childern are, and the power of love that conquers even the toughest, hardest shell. Hayden is an awesome story teller, bringing you inside her world isn't hard. She grabs you until the very end! Absolutly LOVED IT! And to Sheila: WOW, you ARE an AMAZING PERSON!