Genie:The Wild Child : Chapter 2

Genie:The Wild Child : Chapter 2

Genie:The Wild Child : Chapter 2


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This article should be cited as : "Genie:The Wild Child", at, by Will Johnson,, Professional Genealogist.  Copyright 2007-9, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Genie:The Wild Child : Chapter 2

The case not only interested medical doctors and psychologists, but also linguists.  Noam Chomsky had theorized that the ability to learn a language must be hard-wired into the infant brain.  That is, the structure for learning any language is already present in the infant brain, and as you learn that language, you merely hang the syntax and semantics into this pre-existing structure.  The theory, based on studying how bi-lingual children learn two languages and comparing them to how an adult attempts to learn a second language continues that there is a point at which the ability to smoothly learn the language is cut-off.  If a child were to pass this point in age, without learning a language, then they would never be able to learn one as well as a native speaker at least, and possibly never at all.  This was the state of the theory at the time Susan was discovered.  Susan would be a great test for this theory.  If Susan had a normal brain, and she could be taught to speak, the theory wouldn't be valid.  If she could not, it would be.

After charges against Dorothy Wiley were dropped, she allowed her abused daughter Susan M Wiley to become a ward of the state and Susan went to live at the nearby Children's Hospital for a time.  While there, doctors observed her and took copious notes and film of her behavior.  She could not live at the hospital permanently and so one of the scientists, Jean Butler, took her to her own house, and applied to be her foster parent.  Susan Curtiss, another researcher later charged that Jean tried to control access to Susan, stating "I'm going to be the next Annie Sullivan", in reference to the teacher who taught Helen Keller to understand language.

Her foster-parent application was denied, and Susan was again returned to the hospital.  Another doctor and his wife, David and Marilyn Rigler, in 1971 then applied to be her foster-parents and also applied for a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, which was accepted.  Susan Curtiss, a graduate student in linguistics came to stay near Susan and study and teach her.  Susan made some progress, learning how to feed herself, dress, act more appropriately in company, and learning many new words.  The grant from NIMH however eventually dried-up after the agency complained that the progress they were seeing, the tests that were being conducted and the reporting of the situation did not qualify any longer for their grant process.

At this time, Susan was again returned to the hospital.  Her mother Dorothy, by this time, after having an operation to remove her cataracts, decided to take Susan back to live with her.  This however didn't work out and Susan was once again returned to the hospital and then placed into a group home.  Susan's linguistic therapy stopped.

Many years later in 1979, Dorothy sued the hospital and the doctors and therapists who had worked with Susan. (Los Angeles Times, 18 Mar 1979 "Retarded Girl Used for Profit, Suit Alleges").  The suit was settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum.  Dorothy Wiley died in 2003, probably while living in California.  John Wiley, Susan's brother is still living and was interviewed in 2008, due to my story bringing his existence back to the front page.  Susan Curtiss, the graduate student who taught Susan how to speak is now a professor of linguistics.

Susan M Wiley "Genie: The Wild Child" is still living, somewhere in southern California in a group home.  Her exact whereabouts have never been publicly disclosed.

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