While writing for the Is language innate or learned? node, I recalled a story told to me by my old kindergarten teacher. Apparently, she had at some point worked with a child who was both deaf and blind from birth, making it nearly impossible to communicate with the boy; sign language could only compensate for deafness if the boy could see, and he clearly could not hear spoken language. I was fascinated to hear, that the boys parents, with some help, had devised a system of talking by poking and tapping the boy. He could be told directions by taps on the shoulders, and different (gentle) pokes and taps could be used to tell him things. As I recall, he would then use a simple form of sign language to communicate back. I even seem to recall that he understood names of people in that way (though I do not know if it was just 'mom', 'dad', 'teacher' etc., or if he could actually be told a tactile version of someone's name). I never heard whether or not he ever learned to read braille, which would be theoretically possible.

I find it both amazing and highly pleasing to know that human creativity has the power to overcome such horrible disadvantages as those of this poor boy. The fact that the boy could actually function with others (he was not isolated, but played amongst the other children, though I don't know how much he played with them) reconfirms my belief in the limitless potential of humans.

Just felt like sharing that one with you all.