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When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country’s first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was ...
When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country’s first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was world famous.
Audiences flocked to see her, and she was loved and admired by children everywhere. This fascinating and moving biography shows how Laura Bridgman paved the way for future generations of children with disabilities, making possible important advances in the way they would be educated. As a blind person with some hearing loss, Sally Hobart Alexander lends a unique and intimate perspective to this inspiring account. At last, the story of Laura Bridgman can find its long-deserved place alongside those of Louis Braille and Helen Keller.
Gr 3-6- In the early 1840s, Bridgman was known throughout the world for her educational accomplishments despite her disabilities. Yet she would be so overshadowed by Helen Keller 50 years later that it is now impossible to mention her without drawing comparisons to Keller. In fact, Bridgman's education, undertaken by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind, laid the foundation for Keller's accomplishments (Bridgman taught Annie Sullivan how to fingerspell), and for the education of Deaf-Blind children even today. The authors of this meticulously researched biography convey Bridgman's world of touch and sensation in terms children will understand: "The sun was heat on her face....Mountains were sloped, uneven paths to climb." Details such as the child's daily school schedule allow readers to connect her story with their own lives. Photos and illustrations of unfamiliar historical objects give context throughout, as does the authors' explanation of period medical studies such as phrenology. Only one detail causes concern: In a caption about the debate over whether to use sign language with children, the authors correctly note that it was "denounced as crude pantomime," yet fail to mention that American Sign Language has since been proven to contain all of the grammar and linguistic structures that spoken languages have. The afterword, "If Laura Were Alive Today," describes the medical and technological advances that affect Deaf-Blind individuals today by introducing Deaf-Blind coauthor Sally Hobart Alexander.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MDCopyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Posted March 6, 2008
The word pioneer is traditionally referenced when discussing scientists who discover cures for serious illnesses or the rugged adventurers who settled uncharted regions or territories. However, a recent publication detailing the little known story about an astonishing small girl from the early 19th Century, who, because of vision and hearing loss, changed the way all children with disabilities would be taught offers another perspective of the term. Laura Bridgman¿s story is one of great love, strong determination, tremendous fame and depths of isolation so formidable that, even today terrifies the most hardened criminals. Laura¿s illness as a toddler set the stage for her encounter with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe less than a half dozen years following the opening of the Perkins School for the Blind. This story recounts how, a half century before Helen Keller walked about Ivy Green making the connection between letters spelled into her palm and objects in her world, Laura was paving the way for Helen and all other deafblind children throughout the world. It was Howe¿s penetrating work with Laura that provided scientists the fundamental information on brain plasticity resulting in hope for countless survivors of stroke, traumatic brain injury, illness and age-related dementia. Much has been written about Helen Keller and not too long ago scholars researched the personality, education methodology and rationale of all who worked as a part of Laura¿s team educators. Now this recent offering for children on Laura Bridgman will give a new generation of readers a look inside the life of this woman who too few credits as one of the original subjects of early investigative studies which helped educators and scientists establish ¿evidence-based¿ research regarding the cognitive potential of students who were deafblind. Though cited statistics and some lingo specific to the field of DeafBlindness today are not in agreement with lexicon and data used by professionals, this new manuscript on the life of Laura Bridgman is a must read for any grade school student or parent of a child with a disability. Especially noteworthy is the final chapter of the book in which one of the author¿s, a deafblind adult, outlines her personal affinity to Laura and offers a look at life as it would be for Laura if she were alive today. Through advancements in technology, civil rights legislation for the disabled and inclusive societal attitudes toward persons with disabilities, Laura¿s way of life today would be full of opportunities for a quality education, competitive employment, and family life as a spouse, parent and active member of her community. Thanks to Laura¿s pioneering role many of children and aging adults with vision and hearing loss are now afforded greater opportunities to touch our lives and their world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.