Writing assignment: 500 words:
“Which were the key incidents that led her out of her ‘prison.'”
Helen Adams Keller, as I’m sure you know, was blind and deaf by the time she was 19 months old. She relied completely on her touch, smell, and taste. Before her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, arrived, Keller mostly communicated with hand signals. A push meant go, a pull meant come, touching her mouth meant she wanted to eat or drink. But she wasn’t able to effectively communicate like a seeing and hearing child could, and this frustrated her very much. In her autobiography, Keller describes this period of her life as ‘her prison’. But then Anne Sullivan arrived, and Keller was slowly released from this prison.
Sullivan taught Keller how to sign with her hands. She learned the letters to spell out simple words like ‘cake’, ‘doll’, and ‘pen’. She learned how to spell the words, but she struggle to understand that the word was connected to an actual object. Sullivan persisted to spell on her hand, and slowly but surely, Keller made the connection between the words being spelled on her hand, and the items that those words represented.
Then Sullivan began to teach Keller to read. She made paper slips with braille written on them, which is a language used by blind people. It is composed of bumps that represent letters. Keller soon learned to read them and understood what they meant. She put them next to each other to make simple sentences such as ‘doll is on bed’, and ‘girl is in wardrobe’. Keller was now able to spell and read with her fingers.
But Keller wasn’t satisfied with just reading and spelling. She noticed that others did not spell with their fingers, and wanted to communicate the way that others did. Of course, this meant she wanted to talk. Her determination and will to communicate is admirable. She really pushed her limits and worked hard to be able to communicate just like seeing and hearing folks.
Due to Keller’s determination to speak, Sullivan tried to teach her using the Tadoma method:
Tadoma is a method of communication used by deafblind individuals, in which the deafblind person places their thumb on the speaker’s lips and their fingers along the jawline. The middle three fingers often fall along the speaker’s cheeks with the little finger picking up the vibrations of the speaker’s throat. It is sometimes referred to as tactile lipreading, as the deafblind person feels the movement of the lips, as well as vibrations of the vocal cords, puffing of the cheeks and the warm air produced by nasal sounds such as ‘N’ and ‘M’. There are variations in the hand positioning, and it is a method sometimes used by people to support their remaining hearing.
“Tadoma.” Wikipedia. 24/10/2020. 1/12/2020 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/tadoma>
Keller’s first spoken word was ‘it’. Her first spoken sentence was ‘I am not dumb now’. She never learned how to speak clearly, and she needed a translator, but Keller was finally able to speak with her lips. After learning this skill, she went on to give multiple inspiring speeches. She met with numerous presidents and famous historical figures.
Learning to spell, read, and talk were all things that brought Helen Keller out of her ‘prison’. She was no longer trapped in the darkness of her own mind, for she could finally communicate with those around her. She was able to speak and write her ideas, as well as read the ideas of others.