University of Edinburgh

Braille Literacy and Numeracy

Presented in Aberdeen on 13 February 2013

Janis Sugden, Co-ordinator, Scottish Sensory Centre, Edinburgh

Pre-Braille Skills in the Early Years

Teaching Braille to Children

  • A challenge
  • Leads to independence
  • Provides choice

Notes: Curriculum for Excellence aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work.

Braille is challenging for most children who use it. The children need time to learn Braille codes and will need support. BUT so do all children when they learn to read so this is NOT a reason not to begin Braille. They both take time and practice.

Who teaches Braille?

  • Teachers
  • Support Assistants
  • Parents

Notes: The answer is everyone in the team has a responsibility. The specialist teacher, and class teacher (if applicable, might be nursery teacher) the parents, support assistants and the child or young person themselves.

Teaching Braille

How do you do this?

  • No one correct way
  • Pupils who use Braille can be successful in different contexts.

Early stages: getting ready

  • Motor Development
  • Auditory Skills
  • Language development
  • Reading awareness

Notes: The young child with a VI needs to develop specific skills in readiness for Braille. The areas of development listed on the slide are of particular importance for the child who will use Braille.

Motor Development

  • Motor development skills need to be developed from the very beginning.
  • Firstly encourage GROSS motor Skills but then go on to develop FINE motor skills.

Specific skills in this area

  • Wrist/finger dexterity
  • Two-handed co-ordination
  • Light finger touch
  • Tactile perception
  • Tracking a line
  • Position of Hands

Notes: The development of these skills should be introduced systematically and a series of activities devised to make sure that the child acquires these skills. It can be helpful to use a checklist such as those found in the Oregon Project.

Auditory Skills

Listen On!

"Good auditory skills are necessary for a severely visually impaired baby.

It's never too early to introduce the baby to sounds - they are there from the moment of birth. However the baby will need help to interpret the sounds that surround him. This includes the sounds that you would present to any baby - rattles, squeaky toys." Lorna Hall 2012

Tactile Recognition

Object Recognition starts at a very early age and continues throughout learning.

Notes: Object recognition starts at a very early age and continues throughout learning. Objects should be named correctly from the beginning to help the child make sense of the world and to integrate input from all senses. Introduce the baby to everyday objects and allow him time to play with them. Use items that are likely to arouse interest and that are safe such as metal or wooden spoons, combs, keys etc. On the SSC website are ideas are given on how simple stories can be created around the objects to enhance understanding.

These simple stories allow family members to use the same words to describe objects. From baby's point of view, the same objects do reappear!

Treasure baskets AVOID Plastic

  • Feely Books
  • Shape recognition - 3D/2D shapes
  • Tactile lines

Reading Awareness/Language of Books

Notes: Babies can be introduced to Braille as soon as they are introduced to tactile books. At this stage the baby is merely being exposed to the Braille in the same way as sighted children have the words pointed out when being read to by an adult, long before they are learning to read. Books with a Braille overlay are available from the RNIB National Library Service but if your child has a QTVI they may have adapted books that you can use.

As the child begins to understand that the Braille means something, just as a sighted child is able to recognise that print does, it is a good idea to label items. In nursery Braille labels should be placed alongside printed information like coat pegs, artwork, playhouse etc.

It can be helpful if this system of labelling is continued in the home; to label rooms, furniture in the child's room, items in the kitchen etc. This strategy can be used in everyday life and increasingly Braille is being used in public buildings for lift buttons, on packaging, on information boards and the child should be exposed to this whenever possible.

Language of books

We use words and phrases to describe the parts of a book, for instance front cover, back page, top of the page. These words all mean different things when used in other contexts for example top of your head is up high, as is top of the television. When it's the top of the page, it can be lying on the floor!

Turning a page is very different from turning a corner!

The language of books and text is very important from very early stages of Braille, so should be introduced while the child is using tactile or Brailled books.

Hopefully these thoughts will have shown that the teaching of Braille starts for the baby from their first days and that the parents and carers play a very important part in this.