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Val123's avatar

Were the things that Helen Keller accomplished, with help, anything short of miraculous?

Asked by Val123 (12684points) February 23rd, 2010

When you really, really think about it, it’s quite mind boggling. Here is the link to Helen Keller

Something I think is important was that she was 19 months old when she became sick with the illness that took her sight and hearing (and sense of smell, too, I think.) It’s a reasonable assumption that she had knowledge of speech, and some residual memory of it. Some memory of associating things with names.

If she had been born blind and deaf, do you think Anne Sullivan could have ever gotten through to her?

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17 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

They were entirely short of miraculous. They were human accomplishments achieved with the assistance of great teachers. There are congenitally deaf-blind people who are now taught to communicate, and they had no prior memory of language.

marinelife's avatar

Still it was an amazing accomplishment, dpworkin.

dpworkin's avatar

People are capable of a great deal. People with physical and developmental disabilities who manage to live a quotidian life do not wish to be admired, or to be considered “miraculous”. They want not to be discriminated against.

Considering their accomplishments to be “miracles’ is a way of devaluing them as human beings. I know this because my physically disadvantaged friends (including my blind girlfriend, who knows deaf-blind people) tell me this.

ninjacolin's avatar

may as well take @dpworkin‘s side for now. :)

@Val123 how do you define the term “miracle” ??

Val123's avatar

@dpworkin Building on the work discovered by others is much, much different than pioneering that work. Alright. Forget that I used the word “miracle.”

@ninjacolin I was afraid that would come up too. I didn’t use it in the supernatural sense. I used it to convey what I feel was “more than amazing.”

Now, can we stick to the subject at hand for just a little while before we start picking it apart over silly things like words?

dpworkin's avatar

I didn’t mean to pick anything apart. I meant to give Helen Keller more credit for her accomplishments than allowing it to have been a “miracle” does. She had good assistance, but those were her accomplishments. And are you belittling the accomplishments of today’s deaf-blind because now there is a better protocol? You should really think this through.

Val123's avatar

@dpworkin Thank you! We’re back on track! I didn’t mean to detract from what she accomplished, or how she was able to finally understand. You can’t help but wonder if she was close to a genius level, especially given all that she accomplished after that.

Now why in the world would you jump in with the idea that I’m now belittling other people? Geez! The leaps of assumption you’ve made twice now! OK, without suggesting that I’m belittling others, today the educators of the blind and deaf benefit from the experiences of the educators who’ve gone before them. At this point, those who have gone before have weeded out what doesn’t work, and polished and perfected what DOES work. The educators today go into that field as a specialty and they learn.

When you have two people starting from scratch and addressing an overwhelming handicap like that, I again state, it’s a whole different animal. Doing what she was doing, all by herself, figuring out how to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish, without having the benefit of instructors before her, and the fact that Helen Keller “got it” in the end, made both Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller very unique people.

tinyfaery's avatar

Miraculous? No. A great accomplishment, yes.

dpworkin's avatar

We’ll just have to disagree. I really don’t want to continue to argue with you, but you are doing no one with any disability any favors with this kind of thinking.

Factotum's avatar

Amazing – perhaps slightly less amazing as we know now that the brain is wired for language – but still solidly no-kidding amazing.

Comparably amazing was the teacher’s invented methods.

Grisaille's avatar



Literally about to type the exact same thing as @tinyfaery

It’s a great accomplishment. Which is why the story is still told to children.

Trillian's avatar

@Val123 She did have a residual memory of speech. That was how she first made the connection that everything had a name.
Miss Sullivan was spelling “water” into her hand, and running the water over her hand at the same time. Helen had a ‘click’, remembered “wah-wah’, and made the connection . It all came together for her in that moment. That was when she started running from object to object, demanding the spelling for each. The ‘click’ is what instructors live for.
I don’t know that it was really miraculous, she was blind and deaf, but she had use of her mental faculties. The difficult part was communication. Helen was truly incommunicado. Once the ability to communicate was established, nature was able to take its course.
If there was a miracle, it was on the part of Miss Sullivan who had to not only teach and reach an unruly brat who terrorized the whole house, she had to overcome the tendencies of the family to indulge the child so that she could be an effective teacher.

JONESGH's avatar

Miracles are entirely opinion. So, you choose.

MrsNash's avatar

Misses Heller and Sullivan were awesome!

Kraigmo's avatar

I think Miss Sullivan should be more famous. Both women are very important in their contributions to humanity.

Val123's avatar

@Kraigmo I agree! I think I’ll go research her now. As @Factotum said, she pioneered the concept, the method, of reaching people with those handicaps.

@dpworkin Well, it’s like this. Thousands of people understand the concepts of time/space warps. Thousands of people understand the concept of string theory. That does not, however, put them on par with Einstein or Hawkins. If I was really motivated to, I could fully understand the concepts too after it was taught to me, but that’s a million light years away from coming up with the theories on my own.
I can not believe the way some people are focusing on the word “Miracle!” Silly.

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