"Home was a nightmare, and school was a nightmare," Michael says.

A new imaginary friend named 400-the-Cat moved in. He told her to kick and hit other people. "We realized she didn't control her imaginary friends. They controlled her," Michael says. Many phantoms populated her mind now: two little girls named 100 Degrees and 24 Hours; 200-the-Rat; Magical 61-the-Cat; and 400.

Susan, 39, was laid off from her job in September, and although money was tight, she felt almost relieved. Jani needed constant supervision.


Get developments in medicine, nutrition and fitness delivered to your inbox with our The Health Report newsletter. Sign up »

Woodall decided to try a new drug, Haldol, 1 milligram, twice a day. It seemed to calm Jani, and 400-the-Cat went away.

The Schofields made another attempt at first grade, sending Jani to school Jan. 12. But that day, the muscles on the left side of her body locked up, and the school called paramedics. She had developed dystonia, a movement disorder that causes involuntary contractions of muscles. It's a side effect of high doses of some psychotropic medications.

On Jan. 16, Michael dropped his daughter off at school again. "She seemed fine that morning," he said. She was taking a lower dose of Haldol plus medications to quell psychosis and stabilize mood.

But at 9:15, she began screaming that she wanted to see her brother, Bodhi. She threw her pencils and shoes, tried to jump out of the classroom window, then ran down the halls. The assistant principal called Michael and told him to come and take his daughter home.

Michael was drained.

"I knew if we took her home we couldn't get any help anywhere," he says. "We were fed up with nobody believing us, nobody helping us."

He refused.

The principal called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and reported that the parents had abandoned their misbehaving child. Three school psychologists were summoned by the assistant principal, and a sheriff's deputy called for a team of emergency psychiatric workers.

Jani was locked in an empty office playing with 24 Hours. The experts concluded she was psychotic and took her to UCLA.

--

Each day, before the Schofields visit, they stop at a Burger King for lunch and order take-out for Jani.

"So many people just thought we had a bratty kid," says Michael, feeding Bodhi as he squirms in a high chair in the restaurant. "UCLA was the first to tell us: 'It's not your fault -- there is something wrong with her brain.' "

When her family arrives, Jani looks surprised to see them although they visit every day. She is wearing a lime-green T-shirt and pink skirt with turquoise rubber shoes. Her hair is tousled. Her legs carry the last traces of baby fat. Susan dabs toothpaste on a toothbrush and runs it over her daughter's teeth for a few seconds -- the only dental care Jani will allow.

"I'd rather be 16," Jani says, putting a hand on her hip and tossing a flirty look over her shoulder. "I'm 14 on weekends, Thursdays, Wednesdays and Tuesdays."

She pauses. "All except for Mondays."

She loves Littlest Pet Shop toys, miniature animals with houses and furniture, and stacks them on a shelf in her room.

Although she can't sit still long enough to read a book, she is a voracious learner. She's also bright -- her IQ is 146. Over the years, Michael and Susan have entertained her by feeding her information well beyond her years: specifics of evolution, the Roman Empire, the periodic table of elements.