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Case 11

Elaine C. was brought by her parents on april 12, 1939. at the age of 7 years, 2 months, because of “unusual development”: “She doesn’t adjust. She stops at all abstractions. She doesn’t understand other children’s games, doesn’t retain in stories read to her, wanders off and walks by herself, is especially fond of  animals of all kinds, occasionally mimics them by walking on all fours and making strange noises.”

Elaine was born on February 3, 1932, at term. she appeared healthy, took feedings weel, stood up at 7 months and walked at less than a year. she colud say four words at the end of her first year but made no progress in linguistic development for the following four years. Deafness was suspected but ruled out. Because of a febrile illness at 13 months, her increasing difficulties were interpreted as possible postencephalitic behavior disorder. Ohers blamed the mother, who was accused of inadequate handling of the child. Feeblemindedness was another diagnosis. For eighteen months, she was given anteriorpituitary and  thyroid preparations. “some doctors,”struck by Elaine’sintelligent physiognomy, “thought she was a normal child and said that she would otugrow this.” At 2 years, she was sent to a nursery scholl, where “she indepeneently went her way, not doing  what the others did. she , for instnte, drank the water and the plant when they were being taught to handle flowers.”She developed an early interest in picures of animals. Though generally restless, she colud for hours concentrate on looking at such picutres, “especially engravings.”

When she began to speakat about 5 years, she started out with complete though simple sentences that were “ mechanical phrases”not related to the situation of the moment or related to it in a peculiar metphorical way. She had an excellent vocabulary, knew especially the names and “classifications”of animals. She did not use pronouns correctly, but used plurals and tenses well. She “could not use negatives but recognized their meaning when others used them.”

There were many peculiarities, in her relation to situations:

She can count by rote. she can set the for numbers of people if the names are given her or enumerated in any way, but she cannot set the table “for three.”If sent for a specific object in a certain place, she cannot bring it if it is somewhere else but still visible.

She was “frightened”by noisesand anything moving toward her. She was so afraid of the vaccum cleaner that she would not even go near the closet where it was kept, and when it was used, ran out into the garage, covering her ears with her hands.

Elaine was the older of two children. her father, aged 36, sudied law and the liberal arts in three universities (including the Sorbonne), was an advertising copy writer, “one of those chronically thin persons, nervous energy readily expended.”He was at one time editor of a magazine. the mother, aged 32, a “sef-controlled, placid, logical person,”had done editorial work for a magazine before marriage. the maternal grandfather was a newspaper editor, the grandmother was “emotionally unstable.”

Elaine had been examined by a Boston psychologist at nearly 7 years of age. the report stated among other things:

Her attitude toward the examiner remained vague and detached. even when annoyed by retraint, she might vigorously push aside a table or restraining hand with a scream, but she made no personal appeal for help or sympathy. at favorable moments she was competent in handling her crayons or assembling pieces to form pictures of animals. She could name a wide variety of pictures, including elephants, alligators, and dinosaurs. she used language in simple sentence structure, but rarely answered a direct question. as she plays, she repeats over and over phrases which are irrelevant to the immediate situation.

Physically the child was in good health. Her electroencephalogram was normal.

When examined in april, 1939, she shook hands with the physician upon request, without looking at him, then ran to the window and looked out. she automatically heeded the invitation to sit down. Her reaction to questionsafter several repetitions-was an echolalia type reproduction of the whole question or, if it was too lengthy, of the end portion. She had no real contact with the persons in the office. Her expression was bland, though not unintelligent, and there were no communicative gestures. At one time, without changing her physiognomy, she said suddenly: “Fishes do’t cry.”After a time, she got up and left the room without asking or showing fear.

She was placed at the Child Study Home of maryland, where she remained for theree weeks and was studied by drs. eugenia S. Cameron and George Frankl. while there, she soon learned the names of all the children, kenw the color of their eyes, the bed in which each slept, and many other detalis about them, but never entered into any relationship with them. When taken to the playgrounds, she was extremely upset and ran back to her room. She was very restless but when allowed to look at pictures, alone with blocks, draw, or string beads, she could entertain herself contentedly for hours. any noise, any interruption disturbed her. Once, when on the toilet seat, she heard a knocking in the pipes; for several days thereafter, even when put on a chamber pot in her own room, she did not move her bowels, anxiously listening for the noise. She frequently ejaculaet stereotyped phrases, such as, “Dinosaurs do’t cry”; Crayfish, sharks, fish. and rocks”; “Crayfish and forks live in children’s tummies”;“Butterflies live in children’s stomachs, and in their panties, too”; “Fish have sharp teeth and bite little children”;“There is war in the sky”; “Rocks and crags, I will kill”(grabbing her blanket and kicking it about the bed) ()) “Gargoyles bite children and drink oil”; “I will crush old angle worm, he bites children”( gritting her teeth and spinning around in a circle, very excited); “Gargoyles have milk bags”;”Needle head. Pink wee-wee. Has a yellow leg. Cutting the dead deer. Poison deer. Poor Eliane. No tadpoles in the house. Men broke deer’s leg”9 while cutting the picture od a deer from a book);“Tigers and cats”; “Seals and salamanders”;“Bears and foxes.”

A few excerpts from the observetions follow:

Her language always has the same quality. Her speech is never accompanied by facial expression or gestures. She does not look into one’s face.

Her voice is peculiarly unmodulated, somewhat hoarse;she utters her words in an abrupt manner.

Her utterances are impersonal. she never uses the personal pronouns of the first and second persons correctly. she does not seem able to conceive the real meaning of these words.

Her grammar is inflexible. She uses sentences just as she has heard them, without adapting them grammatically to the situation of the moment. When she says, “Want me to draw a spider,” she means, “I want you to draw a spider.”

She affirms by repeating a quetion literally, and she negates by not complying.

Her speech is rarely communicative. She has no relation to children, has never talked to them, to be  friendly with them, or to play them. She moves among them like a strange being, as one moves between the pieces of furniture of a room.

She insists on the repetition of the same routine always. Interruption of the routine is one of the most frequent occasions for her outbursts. Her own activities are simple and repetitious. She is able to spend hours in some form of daydreaming and seems to be very happy with it. She is inclined to rhythmical movements which always are masturbatory. She masturbates more in periods of excitement than during calm happiness.... Her movements are quick and skillful.

Elaine was placed in a private school in pennsylvanis. in a recent letter, the father reported “rather amazing chances”:

She is a tall, husky girl with clear eyes that have long since lost any trace of that animal wildness they periodically showed in the time you knew her.

She speaks well on almost any subject, though with something of an odd intonation. Her conversation is still rambling talk, frequently with an amusing point, and it is only occasional, deliberate, and announced. She reads very well, but she reads fast, jumbling words, not pronouncing clearly, and not making proper emphases. Her range of information is really quite wide, and her memory almost infallible. It is obvious that Elaine is not “normal.”Failure in anything leads to a feeling of defeat, of despais, and to a momentary fit of depression.









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