2 minute read

The World in Darkness


Stevie attended special classes for the blind when he entered school. The Detroit public school system was poor, but it had good teachers that helped handicapped children especially well. A special bus picked up Stevie each morning and brought him home in the afternoon. Stevie was learning how to adjust to life outside his home. He needed this specialized training if he was going to succeed in life. Even though he'd come to rely on sound, touch, and smell, he needed to be taught how better to use each of these senses.

Speech lessons helped improve his speaking ability. Speaking is much more difficult for blind people than for sighted people. Sighted babies can watch how a mouth forms to make an “o” sound. They can see someone's tongue press against the front teeth to form the “th” sound. Without special instruction, blind children often are much older when they learn how to speak well.

Another important lesson Stevie learned was to use facial expressions. Humans use facial expressions all the time. Facial expressions describe moods and emotions. They also show physical feeling as well. Facial expressions are sighted people's silent communication. Blind babies naturally show facial expressions. They laugh and cry. They also show emotions physically. In time, however, these expressions stop because they cannot see that other people use these same expressions to communicate. Expressions are not a part of a blind baby's learning experience, and so they become “silent faces.” Stevie was taught to show emotion in his face. He smiled when he felt happy and frowned when he was confused. Stevie learned how to act “normally.”

Stevie Wonder

Stevie's sense of touch was already well developed. He already knew the difference between grass and dirt, concrete and rock, and wood and metal. Stevie needed to increase his sensitivity to touch. He would use that touch to learn to read braille. Frenchman Louis Braille invented this reading system, which uses a system of dots raised on a surface. The number of dots and their position correspond to a letter or sound. Stevie also learned how to use a braille typewriter, so that he could write letters. Reading opened a whole other world to Stevie. He loved to read, and he also listened to books that were recorded on records.

Listening and making sound was everything to Stevie's dark world. Without sound, there was no world. If you cut off a blind person's ability to hear, you cut them off from life. Stevie hated silence, and so he made noise. He soon began to turn that noise into music.

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderThe World in Darkness - Miracle Baby, His Own Way Of Seeing, Detroit And Change, Using Sound To See The World