“The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or heard-they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller
I have worked with many children and adults diagnosed with severe nonverbal autism. They taught me that merging consciousness renders language impairments based on linear thought obsolete. Subconscious knowing appears, as a mutual flow of ideas come to the fore. Unconditional love, trust, and expectation of competence open up this channel. A sense of balance is established. We are in communion. By linking souls, our individual perceptual realities become entangled. 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 fever. Age of onset is similar to reports of parents who say their autistic child was developing normally and suddenly regressed. Due to her illness, and loss of hearing and sight, Helen’s typical sensory processes were disrupted.
Helen was 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 worked demonstrated atypical sensing such as telepathy. Helen and Annie’s relationship was noted as having extra-sensory elements, according to Dennett’s (1998) article titled, “Helen Keller: did the deaf blind genius posses ways of sensing beyond normal?” I speculate that Annie and Helen merged consciousness. Perhaps syncing brain waves and sensory systems was the initial “key’ unlocking Helen’s understanding. I suspect, I join consciousness with severely autistic kids. I suspect Helen and Annie also merged consciousness. Perhaps this merging helped Helen experience information through Annie’s sensory system? Lawrence Hutton stated. “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 have had many children select the word or picture I sent them using a form of telepathy. I have also had students type letter for letter and word for word based on my conscious thought alone. I have also had students with limited verbal capability say the words that I sent them via telepathy.
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. It is natural to develop a different perceptual reality when one has atypical sensory experiences. This surely would have an altering effect on perceptual reality and ability to interact with the world.
The article mentions Mark Twain’s fascinating 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 experienced instantaneous knowing with my students. Fleeting anticipatory thoughts often resulted in immediate responses.
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. They are more in touch with the subconscious knowing and the spiritual side of life. Their souls have not totally integrated with their bodies. This lack of integration leaves the soul in a unique position, unlike those who have fully integrated, resulting in a greater connection with the subconscious or spiritual self. This lack of grounding leaves 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 severely autistic children and adults. Some seemed to even being directing their bodies from outside themselves.
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! My students, who are actually my teachers, have been patiently leading me toward that awareness.
It appears Helen eventually was fully independent of Annie, functioning in this world without giving up her gifts of telepathy, thought sharing, remote viewing, or spiritual connection. 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? Atlantis Rising 17,