One of the first issues that Annie Sullivan tackles is the Keller family’s failure to socialize Helen into age-appropriate behaviors. Helen’s mother, Kate, tends to spoil her daughter although she believes she is intelligent. Helen’s father, in contrast, assumes that Helen’s disabilities are intellectual as well as physical so she cannot learn such behaviors. Both parents’ attitudes combined into their failure: they have given up on Helen as a growing girl and instead treat her like a toddler.
Helen frequently eats between meals, such as taking teacakes from the sideboard. At meal times, Helen eats in the kitchen separately from the adults. During their meals, her parents allow her to roam around the dining room, grabbing food off the others’ plates.
When Annie joins the family for her first supper, she refuses to let Helen take things from her plate or take the plate itself. Both parents are perturbed by her attitude and urge Annie to give in, which she refuses to do. James tries to placate Helen by giving her a piece of bacon, and Captain Keller tells Annie to use another plate. Annie understands not only that Helen needs to act like other children her age but also that her uncontrolled self-indulgence will become a worse problem as she grows older and stronger.