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problems communicating with others. But Virginia and Grace Kennedy are an exception.

Identical twins from Linda Vista, Calif., Virginia and Grace were brought to Children's Hospital at the age of 6 by befuddled parents; apparently the girls could not communicate in English and had instead created their own language. Doctors soon learned that the girls spent most of their time with their maternal grandmother, who baby-sat during the day and spoke to them very rarely, and then only in German. The girls hardly ever had visitors and spent little time with their parents, who were often looking for work. As a result of this insular environment, the twins developed in a similar way to autistic children.

Virginia and Grace had never attended school, and they were only brought to the hospital after their father informed his unemployment officer that his children literally couldn’t speak to others. The officer then strongly encouraged the father to seek help for them.

Children's Hospital doctors were told that the girls had suffered seizures after birth — this may have caused previously unknown brain damage. But their isolation during a critical period for language development could alone explain their speech problems. Though therapy eventually cured Virginia and Grace of their secret language, they are still developmentally disabled. Now approaching 30, the twins continue to experience speech problems and mental delays. Grace, who has achieved a higher level of functioning than her sister, works at a McDonald's cleaning tables and mopping. Virginia works at a job-training center and performs assembly-line work..

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Pictures: Deborah Roundtree/The Image Bank |
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