Dani Lierow was so severely neglected for the first seven years of her life that some consider her a feral child; the original story of her rescue, recovery, and adoption was both shattering and arresting; it is impossible not to wonder at the silent interior world of an unsocialized mind, a mind both human and not:
She wouldn’t make eye contact. She didn’t react to heat or cold — or pain. The insertion of an IV needle elicited no reaction. She never cried. With a nurse holding her hands, she could stand and walk sideways on her toes, like a crab. She couldn’t talk, didn’t know how to nod yes or no. Once in a while she grunted …
[T]he scene at the house, along with Danielle’s almost comatose condition, led [doctors] to believe she had never been cared for beyond basic sustenance. Hard as it was to imagine, they doubted she had ever been taken out in the sun, sung to sleep, even hugged or held. She was fragile and beautiful, but whatever makes a person human seemed somehow missing…
The most extraordinary thing about Danielle… was her lack of engagement with people, with anything. “There was no light in her eye, no response or recognition… We saw a little girl who didn’t even respond to hugs or affection. Even a child with the most severe autism responds to those.”
A follow-up report by Melissa Lyttle, who took the photo above, details her progress with her extraordinary adoptive parents:
Three years later, Dani, now 12, has grown physically and emotionally. She’s a foot taller and clearly responsive to her dad’s affection. She hugs him back, kisses him and playfully bites his nose.
The photographs are quite moving; the Lierows seem like heroes.