A deaf and blind girl born in 1880 said, “Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein to be content.”
Thus, this individual with incapability played and enjoyed her life amid the lack of two senses—ability to hear and see—was able to receive praises and admirations from the people around her. In addition, she was able to contribute to the world important things that even people with senses could not be able to give.
The beginning of her life
As accounted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), it was on June 27, 1880 when Helen Adams Keller, the daughter of Captain Arthur Henley Keller and Kate Adams Keller, got her first glimpse into the world. She was born healthy—with full ability to hear and see—in Tuscumbia, Alabama in the United States.
Based on her writing “The Story of My Life,” Helen at the age of six months could whistle out the words “How d’ye” followed by the word “Tea”. She, like any other normal child, was fascinated with the beauty of the surroundings—its colors and the things composing it.
She insisted on imitating whatever people around her were doing. Likewise, she enjoyed the music produced by the natural world and the noise by other people. She could learn whatever the child of her age could learn. Helen started to walk a day before she celebrated her first birthday (6).
Nonetheless, unlike the other children, her happy days, manifested by her experiences of being able to see and hear, did not last long. The life of the healthy Keller baby, as claimed by RNIB, changed dramatically in February 1882. Helen fell ill with a disease by which the doctor during that time had named as brain fever—an illness which was also assumed to have been a scarlet fever or meningitis.
This illness is still a mystery for the medical doctors of today. The sickness of Helen had led the Keller family in believing that their daughter will die. When, eventually, the fever subsided, made the family rejoiced on the possibility that Helen will become well again.
After the fever has passed, however, Helen’s mother noticed the changes in her daughter’s behaviors—Helen was failing to react whenever she passed her hand in front of her eyes or she was failing to hear and to respond whenever the dinner bell was rang. Later they realized that the fever—the illness that struck Helen—had left her both blind and deaf.
On her account on her life, she mentioned, “Then, in the dreary month of February, came the illness which closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby.”(7) In the young mind of Helen, she realized that something was being taken away from her—her ability to see the colors and hear the noise, again.
This discovery gave the family much worry especially during the following years when taking care of Helen proved to be very hard for them. She became uncontrollable—her attitude and behavior became reasons for her relatives to regard her as a monster and a bad member of the family. This made them thought that the young Helen should be put into an institution capable of handling a child with such behaviors. When Helen reached the age of six, the family became more problematic on handling her.
Though succumbed in the sad situation, the young Helen was been took care of by her mother. As she accounted, her mother gave her a loving wisdom that was bright and good during when she experienced long night. She began to learn some patterns like when to say “No” or “Go away.” At the age of five she learned more things beyond the things that she could see and hear.
Based on the accounts of RNIB, Kate Keller, Helen’s mother had read a book by Charles Dickens entitled “American Notes” which entailed the fantastic work done to another deaf and blind child named Laura Bridgman. Because of her love to her daughter, she travelled to a specialist doctor in Baltimore to seek for advice in regards to the situation of Helen—later she learned that Helen would never see and hear again. However, the child could learned and be taught.
They were advised to see an expert on the problems regarding deaf children—Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Graham Bell pointed that they should write to the director of Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, Michael Anagnos, and asked for a mentor that would guide and teach the deaf and the blind child. Convinced with the hopes and possibilities that Helen would learn, Michael Anagnos, recommended Anne Sullivan, the Institution’s former student, to be the tutor of Helen.
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