Anne’s efforts to teach Helen to communicate began with spelling words into Helen’s hand. For example after Helen had been playing with a doll for a while Anne would spell the word “d-o-l-l” into Helen’s hand. Helen was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it but didn’t know that she was spelling a word or even that words existed. Helen's big breakthrough in communication came weeks later, as she described in her autobiography:
Helen spotted a Signal:
“Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other hand the word “w-a-t-e-r” – first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.”
She discovered her Lightbulb:
“Suddenly, somehow, the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave me light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”
It was a Gamechanger for her:
“In the summer of 1887, I did nothing but explore with my hands and learn the name of every object that I touched; and the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world.”
And a Lifechanger:
The ultimate implication of that Lightbulb was the total transformation of Keller’s life. She learned to speak and was the first deaf, blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. In her career she also went on to become an active
author, speaker, advocate and suffragette. Her relationships also flourished especially the ongoing 49-year professional relationship and friendship with Anne Sullivan, as well the growth of other relationships at the highest levels of society, literature, politics.
Research has shown that the first 3 years of life are those of a human’s greatest learning. Helen Keller spent half of that period without the stimulation of sight, hearing or speech. Her story is an incredibly inspiring example of the human capacity for learning against all odds.
So, in the spirit of Helen Keller and curiosity, ask yourself:
What keeps my curiosity and love of learning alive?
Can I experiment with aspects of my life to better understand who I am?
How can I become an explorer in my world?
How can I explore my internal world?