Analyzing the Psychological Development of Helen Keller

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Helen Keller was diagnosed with Rubella, at19 months old, and suffered from meningitis or scarlet fever. After her illness she never regained her sight or her ability to hear. This condition is now labeled Deafblindness (Royal New Sealand Foundation of the Blind, 2006). Living approximately five years of her life without sight and being deaf, many friends advised the Kellers' to institutionalize Helen. Because the Keller family were  affluent with numerous well educated men of their time such as Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, to name a few, of their close friends. Not wanting to give up on their child, the Keller's would try anything just to communicate in some small way with their daughter. It took a woman, once blind, to teach Helen how to learn to use her sense of touch for Helen to understand she could make others understand her, and in turn, she could understand others. This was the awakening to her consciousness of language.

Emotional attachment to the sense if touch

Robert Allott writes in his article, "Helen Keller: Language and Consciousness," (2006). Keller's condition left her "functionally dumb," and existing in "black silence." Although Helen had an amazing teacher in Anne Sullivan, Helen would have to realize her own consciousness before she could move forward in her learning of how to communicate with the world around her. Sullivan was the perfect teacher for Helen. Having been blind and alone early in life, Sullivan understood the loneliness Helen was suffering. Sullivan would help Helen come out of the darkness. However, Helen would have to realize for herself exactly what that would entail.


Helen would have a hard time reconciling herself to her new teacher. However, from Keller's writing she acknowledged that in a very short time after her "teacher" came to her she realized though not exactly understood how this woman who was with her was to benefit her in some way, though in the beginning she did not understand what that meant.

In her own autobiography, "The Story of My Life," (Keller, 1903) Keller speaks of dropping a doll and felling it shatter at her feet with no emotion. She merely ignored the fact that she had broken her doll. She did not understand the feeling of attachment. She only felt the silent darkness. It was not until Helen began to learn the sense of touch did she understand the emotions that would come along with the senses of feeling, awareness and language of consciousness. (Royal New Sealand Foundation of the Blind, 2006). Once Helen learned this lesson she would later write, "When I learned the meaning of 'I' and 'me' and found that I was something, I began to think. Then consciousness first existed for me", Helen Keller Day Celebrating  a Unique Disability, (Allott, 2006).

Learning this simple yet unrecognized sense would open more doors for Helen than she or anyone around her could have ever imagined. Helen would learn finger spelling from Anne Sullivan in combination with her sense of touch Helen would begin to understand the world around her. Having a family show so much love and concern for Helen, and the attentive caring teachings of Anne Sullivan enabled Helen Keller to become a confident educated, well-written, well-rounded person.


On November 4, 1891 when Helen was 11 years old, she sent Michael Anagnos, (the man who sent Anne Sullivan to the Keller's years before), a short story written by Helen called, "The Frost King." A short time later, it was discovered the story was plagiarized. Not remembering hearing the story before, Helen rewrote the story originally penned by Margaret Canby the name of the original writing was "Frost Faries." This would call into question and remain so for years weather or not Helen was able to think for herself, or if everything she knew was fed to her and she alone had no original ideas of her own, (Royal National Institute of Blind People, 1995-2008). Year's later after being educated at Radcliffe College and writing about her life experiences, this notion of Helen now being able to have original thoughts of her own would pass and be forgotten.


An associate of Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler believed that Teleology is the answer to a person's personality, this is the theory which states, all things are designed for or directed toward a its final result, and an inherent purpose or final reason for all in existence (Encarta, 1997-2008). This reasoning would help to answer why Helen was born to this world, and by the very essence of being born she had a reason for living. Which almost sounds as though Adler was spiritual, interjecting via his psychological education to explain why imperfections in those who are not perfect. Though nothing is wrong with this idea, it seems to be a catchall for any psychological problem and not much of a theory to base any type of conclusion.

According to Ross Thomson, (Encarta, 1993-2008) the longitudinal research, tests the theory that from childhood through adulthood personality and developmentally the subject will grow in intelligent, maturity. This research helps to identify a later consequences of how early influences affect the subject throughout his or her life. This test is normally given to a crisscross group of individuals over time, since death and other obstacles are factored into the equation. Although during Helen Keller's life, she had no individuals to cross-reference her life experiences.

Keller did show the strength her family, Anne Sullivan and other friends gave her to achieve her education, and many social issues of her time that she often spoke of, and stood up for to become a strong moral, well-adjusted person she wanted for herself.


In my opinion, longitudinal research fits Helen Keller perfectly. She came from a well adjusted loving home, one that was well educated and wanted to keep Helen with them instead of institutionalizing her as so many of the time advised them. This alone gives Helen a terrific start in life. For the Keller family was luck that Michael Anagnos sent Anne Sullivan to teach Helen. This was fate and though Teleology may explain this portion of what Adler expressed. Many who do not believe in a higher power would simply refer to this as luck. Observing Helen through the years eliminates the thought she was unable to have original thoughts, so I have concluded that longitudinal research fits Helen Keller's life perfectly.


Encarta, (1997-2008), Alfred Adler, Teleology Encarta online Encyclopedia 2008, Retrieved July 31, 2008

Royal National Institute of Blind People,(1995-2008), The life of Helen Keller, Retrieved July29, 2008

Royal New Sealand Foundation of the Blind,(June 2006). Helen Keller Day Celebratinga Unique Disability, Retrieved July 23, 2008

Thompson, Ross, A, (1993-2008), "Child Development" Encarta online Encyclopedia2008. Retrieved July, 31, 2008

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