Helen Adams Keller was born in a small town in Northwest Alabama on June 27, 1880. Her family was not a wealthy family. Her dad worked as an editor for a newspaper, and worked on a cotton plantation. Her mom also worked on the cotton plantation, but she saved money by making her own lard, butter, bacon and ham.
Helen was not born blind or deaf. She received her disabilities from an illness she had as a child. When Helen was about nineteen months old she fell ill. The doctor did not know what her illness was, they called it “brain fever”. For many days Helen was very sick and was close to dying. The fever abated, and soon she was well again.
Although Helen appeared to be rid of her illness, she was left with some disabilities. Her mother began to notice changes in Helen. Helen would not respond to things normally; she would not respond to the dinner bell when it rang, and she would not respond when her mother passed her hand by her face. The illness that she suffered from left her deaf and blind.
As time went by, Helen made it very difficult for her family to handle her disabilities. She would have terrible temper tantrums and throw things around the house. Some people in the family believed that Helen should have been put into a hospital. Helen’s mother did not want to give up on her, so she researched ways to help Helen. They traveled to see a specialist for advice; he told them that Helen could be taught to use and adapt to her disabilities. The doctor sent them to see Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone. Alexander Bell was focusing at the time on teaching deaf children. The Kellers also wrote to the Massachusetts Asylum for the blind to find a teacher there.
The teacher they found for Helen was a partially blind woman named Anne Sullivan. Anne moved in with the Keller family and began to teach Helen right away. She began to help Helen spell words with her hands, although she didn’t understand the meaning of any of the words she was spelling. She also worked on improving Helen’s manners. After about a month of teaching, Helen’s manners improved, and she was beginning to spell more words, but it was not until one incident that she understood a word she spelled. Anne took Helen and put her head under the spout of a well. She spelled the word â€˜water’ with her hand while she ran water over her head. Immediately she saw that Helen understood what the word meant. She used the method of touch to help Helen understand more words.
Helen soon began to learn very quickly for someone who could not see or hear. Anne started to teach Helen how to read. She read books with raised letters and Braille. She even learned how to type on a regular typewriter and a Braille typewriter. Her learning ability was considered a miracle. She later attended Radcliffe College. She was the first deaf and blind person to attend a school of higher education. Helen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Helen then began to write books in Braille. One of her most famous books was “The Teacher” which was later made into a play called, “The Miracle Worker”. Helen toured the country telling her story and sending hope to people with disabilities. Her triumphs and her stories helped people understand that having a disability should not stop you from doing what you want to do with your life. Her legacy will live on, and her story will continue to be told.