Helen Keller lived from 1880 until 1968. Although she was born with both sight and hearing, Helen lost both as the result of illness when she was just 19 months old. She is famous for learning to read, write, and communicate in spite of her impairments, and for many other exceptional accomplishments!
Having grown up without sight or hearing from such a young age, Helen had no way of communicating with the world around her until 1887, when Anne Sullivan (later Anne Sullivan Macy) began working as Helen's teacher. Anne tried to teach Helen the names of things by tracing their spelling into her hand, but it was difficult for Helen to make the connection between the finger-spelling and the objects. (What would you think if someone drew meaningless shapes into your hand? It probably wouldn't have a whole lot of significance!) Even though it didn't work right away, Anne persisted, and Helen eventually came to understand the system for communication! Helen then learned at a rapid pace that exceeded that of most other people of the time who had the same or similar disabilities.
In addition to the finger-spelling system, Helen learned to read (raised print and Braille), write (using traditional and Braille typewriters), and to understand others while they spoke by touching their throat and lips.
Helen became the first deaf-blind person to ever enroll in a higher learning institution, and the first to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, too. Following school, Helen (with Anne by her side) spent time writing books about her experiences, advocating for other people with seeing and hearing disabilities, and traveling to help fundraise for institutions like the American Foundation for the Blind.
Have you ever looked at Braille type, which is what many people with visual impairments use to read? You'll often see Braille beneath the words or numbers on signs in public places. Have a grown-up help you find some books on reading Braille, and see if you can learn some letters or words!
Helen was able to go through college thanks to the help of Anne, who finger-spelled every single lecture and every single book into Helen's hand!
Up for discussion
What do you think would have happened to Helen if it weren't for Anne who helped her? Do you think she would have found her way with her persistence and grit?
Why do you think people admire Helen so much? What inspires yo uabout her story?