Sullivan: When I saw Helen Keller first, she was six years and eight months old. She had been blind and deaf and mute since her 19th month as the result of an illness. She had no way of communicating with those around her, except a few imitative signs that she had made for herself. A push meant “go,” and a pull meant “come,” and so on.
She had observed that we did not use the hands when we were talking to each other, and I let her see, by putting her hand on my face, how we talk with our mouths. She felt the vibration of the spoken words. Instantly, she spelled, “I want to talk with my mouth.”
That seemed impossible. But after experimenting for a time, we found that placing her hand in this position—the thumb resting on the throat, right at the larynx, the first finger on the lips, the second on the nose—we found that she could feel the vibration of spoken words. For instance, the throat: she feels the g, the hard g. And on the lips, she feels the k sound. On the lips, she feels the b and p. And with the second finger on the nose, the nasal sounds, the [n], the [m].
The first word she learned to articulate was the little word it. With the hand in this position, I made the vowel [i]. She felt it. Then I made the t. She feels it with the finger on her lips—on my lips. Then I put the two letters together to form the word it.
Sullivan: And the first word was learned. After her seventh lesson, she was able to speak the sentence word by word: “I am not dumb now.”
Keller: “I am not dumb now.”
Source: Transcript of the Video Clip
Newsreel from 1930, Public Domain