The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or heard—they must be felt with the heart.” --Helen Keller
That simple quotation reminds me of my former student’ directive: “Open Your Heart and Join.” This directive, I believe, meant to link consciousness together in a state of surrendering self to soul. In this state, language impairments based on a conscious selection of words become obsolete. A higher understanding based on subconscious knowing becomes apparent. Separation of ideas ceases to exist, as a mutual flow of blended communication comes to the fore. Unconditional love, trust, and expectation of competence open up this channel for subconscious blending. A sense of balance is created as we establish a rhythm and move in tandem. I am part of them and they are part of me. We are in communion. By linking souls with individuals with severe autism, I appear less alien to them and they appear less alien to me. I speculate that Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller had a similar link.
Helen had typical sensory experiences until she was 18 months old. At that point, she was struck with brain fever. Age of onset correlates to the many reports of parents who say that their autistic children were developing normally and then suddenly regressed. For whatever reason, I suspect that Helen’s typical sensory processes were disrupted. Nothing seemed as it once was. Try to imagine!
Helen appeared lost until Annie Sullivan came along. I see a correlation between Helen’s journey and her relationship with Annie Sullivan with some of the kids I have worked with. This type of catalytic relationship is both humbling and awe-inspiring.
Many of the students I have worked with have demonstrated paranormal abilities. Helen and Annie’s relationship was also noted as having extrasensory elements, according to Dennett’s (1998) article titled “Helen Keller: did the deaf blind genius posses ways of sensing beyond normal?” I have wondered whether these extreme intuitive elements were a part of the initial “key’ for unlocking Helen’s understanding. Like the severely autistic children I have worked with, was Helen able to tune into Annie? Did this ability help her to understand, through Annie’s sensory system, information that formerly was incomprehensible?
The article quotes author Lawrence Hutton in 1894 as saying: "Miss Sullivan told us that with no conscious movement, no intentional or perceptible 'talking with her fingers,' she could make the child follow her own thoughts, do what she wished her to do, go where she wished her to go, perform any of the acts of 'mind- reading' which the professional psychologists exhibit on stage, or in an amateur way."
I had one former student who acted according to my fears. Otherwise, none have physically acted upon what I was thinking, as Helen did with Annie. Yet, I certainly have served as a catalyst for having children select the words or pictures or type of letter based on my conscious thought. I used a type of telepathy, or image-sending with sub-vocalizations. In addition, I have been able to assist many kids with low-verbal capability to “say” the word I mentally and sublingually suggest, if I limit the field of possibilities, i.e. numbers from 1-10, or shapes and colors.
As Helen has been quoted, “When one door closes, another one opens.” According to Dennett, Sullivan stated: "Helen Keller's development suggest to me that the loss of one or more faculties may, by way of discipline, drive the handicapped person to deeper levels of will-power than is required of normally equipped human beings. I have no doubt whatever that most people live in a very restricted sphere of their potential capacities. They make use of only a small portion of their possible powers and resources of their minds. It is as if, out of all their physical furnishings, they should use only a fraction of each sense.”
I agree with Annie. Typical people, no matter how extreme their cultural differences, have a shared perceptual reality based on information received through their senses. I suggest that it would be natural to develop a different perceptual reality when one has atypical sensory experiences. Imagine being an infant who was having typical sensory experiences for the first eighteen months of life, and then a sudden disruption changes everything forever. This surely would have an altering effect on your perceptual reality and ability to interact with the world.
The article mentions Mark Twain’s meeting with Helen and Annie: “Annie asked, 'What is Mr. Clemens distinguished for?' Helen answered, in her crippled speech, 'For his humor.' Mark Twain spoke up modestly and said, 'And for his wisdom.' Helen said the same words instantly- 'and for his wisdom.'” Twain says: “I suppose it was mental telegraphy for there was no way for her to know what I had said." I have often experienced this instantaneous knowing with my students. Fleeting anticipatory thoughts often resulted in immediate responses. It is a much faster transfer than a communication system based on words.
The article quotes Helen: "It has always been a strong belief with me that there are powers in many animals which can be developed beyond the physical senses, and it is a gratification to note that orthodox scientists are beginning to seek other causes than mechanical ones to explain telepathy...Surely if creatures without the reasoning faculty can perform such wonders, Man endowed with spiritual and intellectual powers can achieve phenomena not to be explained by mechanism but by laws still waiting to be discovered."
Individuals with severe autism have demonstrated to me that they have developed their senses beyond the ordinary. I speculate that they are more in touch with the subconscious knowing and the spiritual side of life. Their souls may not have totally integrated with their bodies. This lack of integration may leave the soul in a unique position, unlike those who have fully integrated, resulting in a greater attunement with the subconscious or spiritual self. This lack of grounding may leave the body unsure of how to direct itself in the physical world. As if in a dream state, the individual has difficulty controlling or categorizing thought. The knowledge itself, however, is vast, covering innate understanding of universal truths lost by the more integrated individual.
Artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum, mentioned in the article, wrote of his meeting with Helen Keller, "I shall never forget that hour with Helen Keller...From it I learned that soul, over and above the body, has eyes." I came to the same realization when working with some amazing autistic children and young adults.
According to the article, Helen appeared to have a profound out-of- body experience. Helen said, "I had been sitting quietly in the library for half an hour. I turned to my teacher and said, 'Such a strange thing had happened! I have been far away all this time and I haven't left the room.' 'What do you mean, Helen?' she asked, surprised. 'Why,' I cried, 'I have been in Athens.' Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when a bright amazing realization seemed to catch my mind and set it ablaze. I perceived the realness of my soul and its sheer independence of all conditions of place and body. It was clear to me that it was because I was a spirit that I had so vividly 'seen' and felt a place thousands of miles away. Space was nothing to spirit! In that new consciousness shone the presence of God, Himself a Spirit everywhere at once, the Creator dwelling in all the universe simultaneously."
My response to that final quote based on my experiences is AMEN!
It appears Helen eventually was fully independent of Annie, functioning in this world without giving up her gifts of thought sharing, remote viewing, or spiritual attunement. I hope that someday individuals with nonverbal low functioning autism will do the same.
Dennett, P.E. (1998) Helen Keller: did the deaf blind genius posses ways of sensing beyond normal? Atla
ntis Rising 17,
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