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Volume 14 2, N o. 3, 19 9 7 Reflections of a Deaf-Mute before Education NarraHon by Mr. BaUard Melville Ballard, ca. 1866. Gallaudet University Archives. Melville Ballard National Deaf-Mute College, Washington, D.C. In consequence of the loss of my hearing in infancy,* I was debarred from enjoying the advantages which children in the full possession of their senses derive from the exercises of the common primary school, from the everyday talk of their school-fellows and playmates, and from the conversation of their parents and other grown-up persons. I could convey my thoughts and feelings to my parents and brothers by natural signs or pantomime, and I could understand what they said to me by the same medium; our intercourse being, however, confined to the daily routine of home affairs, and hardly going beyond the circle of my own observation. My mother made the attempt to teach me to articulate by speaking loud close to my ear, and also by making me look at her lips and try to repeat *He became deaf at the age of less than seventeen months, in consequence of a fall down a fight of stairs. Those who lose hearing at so early an age are not found by their instructors to have any appreciable advantage over those deaf from birth. Readers interested in the questions of heredity may desire to be informed of the fact that Mr. Ballard comes from a family of the old Puritan stock of Xew England. His home was Eryeburg, Me. A great grandfather was Simon Frye, who was a lawyer and a judge of some court. Otherwise his ancestors, so far as he knows, have not been members of the learned professions. —S.P. what she had uttered. There was many a word of encouragement from the mother, and many an expression of discouragement on the part of the child; and she persevered, hoping against hope, in this labor of love, until I was five years old, when she gave it up as a hopeless task. She, however, renewed the attempt occasionally at different periods afterwards. There was one thing to which she ever adhered in our relations as mother and child. That was her endeavor for the moulding of my character. She did not indulge me in anything on account of my privation. She did not suffer my misfortune to lead her to surrender her judgment to the fondness of her affection . She taught me to treat my brothers and sisters just as they were to treat me, and especially to respect their property in the playthings which belonged to them. An uncle of mine remonstrated with her in my behalf, salving that my brothers would be willing to gratify my humor. She answered him that she did not wish to have me grow up in the belief that I was a person different from others, having claims superior to theirs. My father adopted a course which he thought would, in some measure, compensate me for the loss of my hearing. It was that of taking me with Excerpted from Porter, S. 1881., Reflections of a Deaf-Mute before Education. American Annals of the Deaf 26(1), 31-39. Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 American Annals of the Deaf him, when business required him to ride abroad; and he took me more frequently than he did my brothers, giving , as the reason for his apparent partiality , that they could acquire information through the ear, while I depended solely upon my eye for acquaintance with affairs of the outside world. He believed that observation would help to develop my faculties, and he also wished to see me deriving pleasure from some source. I have a vivid recollection of the delight I felt in watching the different scenes we passed through, observing the various phases of nature, both animate and inanimate; though we did not, owing to my infirmity, engage in conversation . It was during those delightful rides, some two or three years before my initiation into the rudiments of written language, that I began to ask myself the question: How came the world into being? When this question occurred to my mind, I set...


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