University of Edinburgh

The Early Years: Strategies and Resources for working with very young visually impaired children

Presented on Friday 27 February 2009

Pre-Braille Skills

Lorna Hall

Tactile Stories

The young visually impaired child has a world of information to learn via their fingertips –learned in a fraction of the time by visual means. Tactile recognition should be taught in a structured way and not left purely to incidental learning
Initially the child is given objects to handle, manipulate, and hold.  Some children will have additional difficulties here if they have limited use of their hands. The first objects will usually be toys, but as the child matures language development /object recognition will be aided by the use of common household items. This can be made more interesting for both the parent/teacher and the child by the use of simple stories, which can also be a framework for many games.

A stage further and now textures and materials can be used to further tactile recognition.  Again, simple stories will give a framework, maintain interest and aid learning.  By this stage the adult will be leading the child towards tactile recognition of 2D shapes, both geometric and object based.  This progress is all early preparation for reading by tactile methods, either Braille or Moon.

Tactile stories may, of course, just be for fun, but can also be structured to aid learning of specific concepts-necessary for early maths, orientation, language development Braille reading etc.

Preparation of stories and books

  • Where possible, attach only a little of the material, allowing the child as much tactile experience as possible. Aim for a handful!  If necessary, items may be placed in a pocket or envelope.  Finding and removing them also develops fine motor skills.
  • Simple stories can be based around the everyday life of a typical 2-5 year old, or can be tailor made to suit their particular environment.
  • Adapting fairy tales or popular stories can give a starting framework.
  • Choose the concept to be taught, new materials to be experienced –and off you go!
  • Stories don’t need to be in bound books –they may be on cards, bags, boxes etc.
  • Where possible, stories can be the introduction to Braille.


Concept Development

Many concepts can be introduced/developed through of stories– a sample of those available!


Objects and their uses

  • The language of shapes –round straight, corner, edge.
  • Shape recognition
  • The concept and language of length –long, short, wee, medium
  • The concept and language of width –wide, narrow
  • The concept and language of depth in materials –thick thin
  • The concept and language of weight –in materials
  • The concept and language of height –tall, short
  • Adjectives to describe texture –smooth, rough, flat, hard, soft, sticky, silky, woolly, course, fine, bumpy, ridged, fuzzy, fluffy, jaggy.
  • Cardinal number
  • Orientation of a book –up and down page, front back of book, first/last page, turning pages.
  • Orientation of a page –top, bottom, right, left, middle, side.
  • Same and different
  • Comparisons –thicker, hevier,a thinnest, softest.

  • Suitability of clothes for activity/weather
  • Daily routines
  • Introducing new foods
  • Familiar tastes, new foods.
  • New, dangerous smells.
  • Language of temperature –hot, cold, cool, burning, icy, freezing.