Psychologist says 'jungle girl' responds to others

25th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

25 January 2007, OYADAW, CAMBODIA — The Cambodian "jungle girl" who apparently spent 18 years fending for herself in the wild, began interacting with others, claimed a Spanish psychologist.

25 January 2007

OYADAW, CAMBODIA — The Cambodian "jungle girl" who apparently spent 18 years fending for herself in the wild, began interacting with others, claimed a Spanish psychologist.

Hector Rifa, of the University of Oviedo doctor of psychology, spent 24 hours at the home of the family that took her in as their long-lost daughter.

He said she "mumbles words, though they are not understood, (and) fixes her gaze at times, whereas before she shied away. I've even gotten her to give a little bit of a smile."

Rifa travelled to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital on Wednesday, but has plans to come back to the remote northeastern town within a week for another session with the woman, who apparently got lost in the jungle at the age of 10.

In the first session, the psychologist ran several tests on her, using objects like a mirror and two teddy bears "that she held in her arms while sleeping at night," he said.

"First she had to get to know herself (in the mirror). She mumbled to herself and then I (went beside her) so my image was reflected too and a link was established. It's a matter of breaking the isolation; you make gestures and she copies you," the psychologist said.

At the sensory level, two teddy bears "of different sizes" were used, he said, so that she could express her emotions, caress them "so she could imagine that one is the mother and the other the son, or whatever she wants."

He added that "it is very important that now at home she has something that is hers: her mirror and her teddy bears".

He also played music for her "although I don't know how she perceives it" because, according to the specialist, the young woman spent the time holding onto the cassette player.

Rifa said that Rochom Pngieng, the name of the 28-year-old woman who apparently went missing while tending cattle at the age of 10, "already walks upright, (as he confirmed) by walking with her in the countryside, with her mother, with her sister," although he added that "her muscles are very weak".

Indeed, Rifa said he doubts an initial report indicating that, at the time of her discovery, she was crawling on four legs and grunting.

"From what the family has told me, she was walking like an elderly woman, stooped over because of weakness, and I haven't heard her grunt."

To determine her physical condition, Rifa asked her to be examined by a health worker with the public medical service, who by palpating her liver ruled out the possibility that she has "asymptomatic malaria".

Rifa said: "The idea was that she not be taken to the hospital as some NGO's had wanted, but rather that she remain at home adapting to the community," he said.

He said she was now eating very well and through better nutrition and physical exercise "she will progressively recover".

Rifa, who lives in Phnom Penh, where he is leading a Psychologists Without Borders project funded by Spain's Asturian International Cooperation Agency, said he wants to return within a week for another session but did not want to stay any longer with the family "because the idea is not for me to be part of the story".

"What I've done is encourage the mother and a brother, who are the most active, to continue providing sensory stimulation for the girl, who is responding to her environment," he said.

The goal, he added, is that "in two or three more sessions she continues improving, is happier more of the time and smiling and not like now, where she spends most of the time with a far-away look."

The story of the "wild girl" has catapulted the small town where the family lives into the spotlight and, according to Rifa, there is a constant stream of journalists and curious visitors.

The psychologist said: "I have a ton of doubts. I don't have any proof of where she comes from, what she has done all these years; there are things that don't add up."

But he added: "I prefer not to get into what happened before. I prefer to focus on the girl and her problems and do so objectively, scientifically."

According to those first reports, the woman was found on 13 January, naked, malnourished and incapable of speech by some loggers when she was trying to steal food.

She was subsequently identified by local policeman Sao Loo and his wife, as their long-lost daughter.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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