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"Secret of the Wild Child"PBS Airdate: March 4, 1997ANNOUNCER: Tonight on NOVA, the Emmy Award-winning story of a girl who spent her childhood locked in a bedroom.WALTER CRONKITE: The girl reportedly was still wearing diapers when a social worker discovered the case two weeks ago.ANNOUNCER: Raised inisolation, "Genie" was a wild child, uncivilized, barely able to walk or talk.SUSAN CURTISS: The indications are that she was beaten for making noise.ANNOUNCER: With footage never before seen on television, NOVA follows the controversial efforts to unlock the "Secret of the Wild Child."NOVA is funded by Prudential.Prudential. Insurance, health care, real estate, and financial services. For morethan a century, bringing strength and stability to America's families.And by Merck. Merck. Pharmaceutical research. Dedicated to preventing disease and improving health. Merck. Committed to bringing out the best in medicine.The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And viewers like you.STACY KEACH: Once in a great while, civilized society comes across a wild child, a child who has grown up insevere isolation with virtually no human contact. This is the story of such a case. The story begins in Los Angeles on November 4, 1970.WALTER CRONKITE: Officials in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia have taken custody of a thirteen-year-old girl they say was kept in such isolation by her parents that she never even learned to talk. Her elderly parents have been charged with child abuse.STACY KEACH:This is the scene of the crime. The child was locked in a room and tied to a potty chair for most of her life. Completely restrained, she was forced to sit alone day after day and often through the night. She had little to look at and no one to talk to for more than ten years.WALTER CRONKITE: The girl reportedly was uttering infantile noises and still wearing diapers when a social workerdiscovered the case two weeks ago, but the authorities are hoping she still may have a normal learning capacity.STACY KEACH: Here was a thirteen-year-old who seemed like an infant, a girl who'd be known as "Genie." Genie was taken to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles where she immediately won the hearts of doctors and scientists.SUSAN CURTISS: She was fragile and beautiful, almost haunting, and so I waspulled, I was very drawn to her, even though I was nervous and had no idea, in many respects, what to expect.STACY KEACH: Genie was about to test an idea important to science and society: that a nurturing environment could make up for even the most nightmarish of pasts.SUSAN CURTISS: If you make up a sentence in your head, or you write it down, and it has, say, ten, twelve words in it, chancesare you can listen for the rest of your life for someone else to say the sentence. You can go to the library, and look for that sentence.STACY KEACH: Here at UCLA, Susan Curtiss teaches students about a crucial human trait, the ability to learn language.SUSAN CURTISS: And chances are, you will never come across that sentence.STACY KEACH: The students begin their study through a famous case.SUSANCURTISS: The case name is Genie. This is not the person's real name, but when we think about what a genie is, a genie is a creature that comes out of a bottle or whatever, but emerges into human society past childhood. We assume that it really isn't a creature that had a human childhood.STACY KEACH: Susan Curtiss has a special connection to the story she's telling. Twenty years ago, she was askedto join a team working to rehabilitate Genie.SUSAN CURTISS: I was literally at the right place at the right time. I was a new graduate student interested in language acquisition, unencumbered by family ties or responsibilities, and they asked me if I would be interested.STACY KEACH: When Curtiss first joined the case, Genie had a strange bunny walk and other almost inhuman characteristics. Genie...
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