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When Curtiss started working with Genie, she began by simply spending time with her or taking her to visit places, in order to establish a relationship.She took Genie to the supermarket, where Genie walked around the store and examined the meats and the plastic containers with some curiosity.
She salivated and spat constantly, so much so that her body and clothing were filled with spit and reeked of a foul odor, as Curtiss recounts.
When excited or agitated, she urinated, leaving her companion to deal with the results. Nevertheless, Genie was decidedly human, and her delight at discovering the worldas well as her obvious progressmade the struggle worthwhile.
From the age of 20 months, when her family moved into her grandmothers house, until she was 13 and a half, Genie lived in nearly total isolation. At night, when she was not forgotten, she was put into a sort of straitjacket and caged in a crib that had wire-mesh sides and an overhead cover. When Genie arrived in Childrens Hospital in November 1970, she was a pitiful, malformed, incontinent, unsocialized, and severely malnourished creature. She salivated a great deal and spent much of her time spitting. Various physicians, psychologists, and therapists were brought in to examine her during those first months.
Curtiss book and newspaper reports describe Genies life at the time: naked and restrained by a harness that her father had fashioned, she was left to sit on her potty seat day after day. Although she was beginning to show signs of pubescence, she weighed only 59 pounds. Shortly after Genie was admitted as a patient, she was given the Vineland Social Maturity Scale and the Preschool Attainment Record, on which she scored as low as normal one-year-olds.
A third child was rescued and cared for by his grandmother when he was three years old and is still alive. The task fell largely on Genies brother, who, following his fathers instructions, did not speak to Genie either.
Genie, the fourth child, was denied such help, however, because shortly after she was born, her grandmother was hit by a truck and killed. He fed her hurriedly and in silence, mostly milk and baby foods. Her mother and brother spoke in low voices for fear of her father.
Although the boy was not deaf, and despite Itards work, the child never learned to speak.
In 1970, a wild child was found in California: a girl of 13 who had been isolated in a small room and had not been spoken to by her parents since infancy.
As a result, new research is now in progress on the surprising language ability of some mentally retarded children.
As described in Curtisss book, Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child (Academic Press), Genie is living proof of human resilience. Her father apparently hated children and tried to strangle Genies mother while she was pregnant with her first child.