While a mother was escaping an abusive relationship in search of welfare assistance, she took her thirteen-year-old daughter along with her. “Genie,” as she was called, intrigued the social worker in the welfare office. She was mesmerized by Genie’s posture, size, and stance. Curiously enough, the worker thought Genie might have been a case of unreported autism in a possible six- to seven-year-old (Rymer 1993). As a result, the worker notified her supervisor, who contacted the police.
When Genie was first brought to the hospital for tests, she weighed only fifty-nine pounds. She was incontinent, could not chew solid food, could barely swallow, and could not focus her eyes beyond twelve feet. She salivated persistently and spat erratically. In addition, she could not hop, skip, climb, or even stand erect. Most importantly, she could not speak, only whine.
If I had been the first person to find Genie, I would have attempted to communicate with her in some way. I may have tried signing to her or using child-directed speech. More than likely, I would not have made much progress with either of those, so it would be likely that I would have done exactly what the social worker did…call the police for help and possibly an ambulance for medical attention.
Since Genie was denied human contact for most of her childhood, one of the first things she needs is one-on-one contact with a person. Vygotsky’s idea of the zone of proximal development would be beneficial so Genie could learn how to interact with someone, while learning how to master certain skills. Genie would also need to understand that certain behaviors (i.e., urinating, spitting, etc.) are not socially acceptable. Additionally, it would be helpful for Genie to be engaged in the imitation and reinforcement for promoting her language development, according to the Behaviorist perspective.
Not long after being admitted to the hospital, Genie seemed to recognize only her name and the word “sorry.” She scored as low as normal one-year-olds on maturity and preschool attainment scales. According to Piaget, there are six substages contained with the Sensorimotor stage of development. It seems as if Genie may have passed up substages three through six of the Sensorimotor stage. Throughout her first seven months of instruction, she identified hundreds of new words and began to speak. Eventually, Genie began using two-word phrases, much like most eighteen-month-olds do. Then, in turn, she progressed to using three-word phrases. She had a referential style of language learning since most of the words she used were ones that referred to objects. Furthermore, Genie never asked questions and didn’t comprehend a great deal of grammar. She never had a speech “explosion” like most children after reaching the two-word stage. Her language was in no way fully-developed.
One of the theories that best explains the pattern of language that Genie demonstrated is the Behaviorist perspective....