In 1882 a baby girl caught a fever that was so fierce she nearly died. She survived but the fever left its mark — she could no longer see or hear. Because she could not hear she also found it very difficult to speak.
So how did this child, blinded and deafened at 19 months old, grow up to become a world-famous author and public speaker?
The fever cut her off from the outside world, depriving her of sight and sound. It was as if she had been thrown into a dark prison cell from which there could be no release.
Luckily Helen was not someone who gave up easily. Soon she began to explore the world by using her other senses. She followed her mother wherever she went, hanging onto her skirts, She touched and smelled everything she came across. She copied their actions and was soon able to do certain jobs herself, like milking the cows or kneading dough, She even learnt to recognize people by feeling their faces or their clothes. She could also tell where she was in the garden by the smell of the different plants and the feel of the ground under her feet.
By the age of seven she had invented over 60 different signs by which she could talk to her family, If she wanted bread for example, she would pretend to cut a loaf and butter the slices. If she wanted ice cream she wrapped her arms around herself and pretended to shiver.
Helen was unusual in that she was extremely intelligent and also remarkably sensitive. By her own efforts she had managed to make some sense of an alien and confusing world. But even so she had limitations.
At the age of five Helen began to realize she was different from other people. She noticed that her family did not use signs like she did but talked with their mouths. Sometimes she stood between two people and touched their lips. She could not understand what they said and she could not make any meaningful sounds herself. She wanted to talk but no matter how she tried she could not make herself understood. This make her so angry that she used to hurl herself around the room, kicking and screaming in frustration.
As she got older her frustration grew and her rages became worse and worse. She became wild and unruly . If she didn’t get what she wanted she would throw tantrums until her family gave in. Her favourite tricks included grabbing other people’s food from their plates and hurling fragile objects to the floor. Once she even managed to lock her mother into the pantry. Eventually it became clear that something had to be done. So, just before her seventh birthday, the family hired a private tutor — Anne Sullivan.
Anne was careful to teach Helen especially those subjects in which she was interested. As a result Helen became gentler and she soon learnt to read and write in Braille. She also learnt to read people’s lips by pressing her finger-tips against them and feeling the movement and vibrations. This method is called Tadoma and it is a skill that very, very few people manage to acquire. She also learnt to speak, a major achievement for someone who could not hear at all.
Helen proved to be a remarkable scholar, graduating with honours from Radcliffe College in 1904. She had phenomenal powers of concentration and memory, as well as a dogged determination to succeed. While she was still at college she wrote ‘The Story of My Life’. This was an immediate success and earned her enough money to buy her own house.
She toured the country, giving lecture after lecture. Many books were written about her and several plays and films were made about her life. Eventually she became so famous that she was invited abroad and received many honours from foreign universities and monarchs. In 1932 she became a vice-president of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the United Kingdom.
After her death in 1968 an organization was set up in her name to combat blindness in the developing world. Today that agency, Helen Keller International, is one of the biggest organizations working with blind people overseas.
随着年龄的增长她的怒气越为越大。她变得狂野不驯。倘若她得不到想要的东西就会大发脾气直到家人顺从。她惯用的手段包括抓别人盘里的食物以及将易碎的东西猛扔在地。有一次她甚至将母亲锁在厨房里。这样一来就得想个办法了。于是，在她快到七岁生日时，家里便雇了一名家庭教师 —— 安尼·沙利文。