By: Leah R. (06/10/17)
My favorite person who had an impact on deaf history and ASL is Helen Keller. Not only was she deaf, but she was blind as well. She was born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama. After being struck with a severe disease in 1882, she was left blind and deaf. Martha Washington, daughter of the family chef, began finding ways to communicate with Helen. They developed over 60 signs before Helen was 7 years old. During this time, Helen would throw tantrums, kick and scream when she was mad, and the family found it to be getting out of control. They met with Alexander Graham Bell and he referred the family to educator, Anne Sullivan. Anne started the teaching process by introducing Helen to finger spelling. The very first word she spelled was doll, and then gifted her with a doll that she had brought for her. At first Helen was not interested in the things Anne wanted her to learn, but after a while she wasn’t as defiant. Even after she started learning, Helen couldn’t make connections between the words spelled on her hand and the real life objects. Anne kept hard at work. They moved to a small cottage so that Helen could focus on learning different words. By the end of the night, she had learned 30 new words. Helen later attended college and learned many new forms of communication to make it easier for other people to understand her. With help from Anne, Helen wrote a book called “The Story of My Life”. Following the death of her teacher Anne, Helen began finding ways that she could help and influence the lives of others. She was gifted many rewards and honors. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1986 in her sleep. I chose to research Helen for this assignment because I had heard a lot about her story and found it really inspiring. I can’t imagine not being able to hear or see both at the same time. I understand better now why she would get so frustrated, because it would be extremely difficult to learn without 2 of your senses. I’m sure her and her family were very thankful, and lucky, to have been able to find someone like Anne who would be able to teach Helen all that she needed to know.