National Geographic : 2012 Jan
Separated at Birth For two couples in Canada, the power of DNA to a ect behavior is more than an academic ques- tion. Since 2000 they've been raising identical twin sisters 275 miles apart in a kind of acci- dental science experiment. Lynette and Mike Shaw met Allyson and Kirk MacLeod while using the same adoption agency. e Shaws live in Amherstburg, a rural commu- nity near Windsor, Ontario, and the MacLeods live in Sutton, a suburban town near Toronto. In February 2000 they traveled together to Chen- zhou, a city in China's Hunan Province, with a small group of prospective parents. When they saw the babies they were adopting, they had the rst of many twin moments. "When the girls came off the elevator, we looked at our daughter and the other child, and I went, 'Wow, she looks just the same,'" Mike says. So alike yet so di erent, six-year-old identical twins John and Sam both have autism but function at opposite ends of the disorder's spectrum. While John, who doesn't speak much, aps his hands in excitement, Sam focuses with laserlike intensity on an iPad. " eir cries were the same. eir laughs were the same. You honestly couldn't tell one baby girl from the other," Lynette says. Before coming to China, the couples had seen photographs of the infants, who were six months old at the time, and they'd wondered if they were sisters. When they asked representatives of the orphanage, they were told the girls weren't re- lated, even though they were listed as having the same birth date. In any event, the couples were told, both children would not be given to a sin- gle family for adoption. If the Shaws and Mac- Leods did not adopt them, the babies would be returned to the orphanage and placed with other families. Under such circumstances, the couples feared, the girls might be separated forever. So they took the babies home to Canada with them, determined to do what was best, even if that meant raising identical twin sisters apart.