In the 1880s the law classed individuals both deaf and blind as idiots. A physician who examined her, however, believed that Keller’s intelligence could be developed, and her parents had hope for her. They had read Charles Dickens’ report of the aid given to another blind and deaf girl, Laura Bridgman. When Helen was 6 years old, her parents took her to see Alexander Graham Bell, famed teacher of the deaf and inventor of the telephone. As a result of his advice, Anne Mansfield Sullivan began to teach Helen on March 3, 1887. Sullivan had been almost blind in early life, but her sight had been partially restored. Until her death in 1936 she remained Helen’s teacher and constant companion.
Sullivan was able to make contact with Helen’s mind through the sense of touch. She used a manual alphabet by which she spelled out words on Helen’s hand. The initial breakthrough came when Sullivan pumped water from a well onto Keller’s hand and then spelled out the word for water. Gradually, the child was able to connect words with objects. Once she understood, her progress was rapid. At ten, she pleaded to relearn how to speak. Initially this seemed unattainable, but Sullivan discovered that Keller could be taught sounds by putting her fingers on Sullivan’s throat and feeling the vibrations. The touching sto...
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...w courage to blind people.
Keller’s writings reveal her interest in the beauty of things taken for granted by those who can see and hear. Her other books include: Optimism, or My Key to Life (1903); The World I Live In (1908); The Song of the Stone Wall (1910); Out of the Dark (1913); My Religion (1929); Midstream: My Later Life (1930); Journal (1938); Let Us Have Faith (1940), and The Open Door (1957). Her books have been translated into more than 50 languages.
The motion picture Helen Keller in Her Story (1954) was about Keller’s life. William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker (1959) (which won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize) and its motion-picture adaptation (1962) described how Sullivan made contact with Keller through the sense of touch. Her life has once and for all proved that the only “handicaps” a person possesses are ones that are mentally self-imposed.
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