The Myth of the Miracle Worker: Helen and her family

Helen Keller is probably the best know person with a severe developmental disability in the United States. The gap between the public story told in the play The Miracle Worker, and also in most biographies, and the true story has a great deal to tell us about cultural misunderstanding of disability, especially of people with disabilities and their families.


1. Know that Helen Keller’s parents, particularly her mother, were powerful advocates and also support to Helen in her adult life as well as her childhood.

2. Know that Helen herself acquired her disability after age 2, having acquired spoken language and shown herself to be an extremely gifted child.

3. Re-evaluate, without diminishing, the role of Annie Sullivan in Helen Keller’s life.  4. Understand the ways in which Helen did and did not achieve a self-determined life.

5. Consider the ways that the Helen Keller story continues to shape public perception of severe disability.