University of Edinburgh

Teaching Braille to Pupils in Mainstream Classrooms

Presented on Tuesday 13 January 2009

Alan J Koenig and M Cay Holbrook's Learning Media Assessment of Students with Visual Impairments: A Resource Guide for teachers 2nd Edition (1995)


A need for informed decision making and to document the decision making process.

  • Collective judgement of professionals, parents and where appropriate the pupil.
  • To guard against bias against Braille
  • The checklists are to record observations to provide focus for the decision making process and enable accountability.
  • There is no formulae: the ultimate decision is still a professional one.

Notes: Now these decisions 'evolve' based on 'our best professional judgement' but sometimes the parents disagree and the process comes to a halt.
Need to document the process to explain what we do and help justify it but at the end of the process it still comes down to our 'our best professional judgement' but backed up by a detailed report.

LMA Procedures:

  • Conducted by a QTVI,
  • Linked to a Functional Visual Assessment,
  • Reviewed annually
  • Uses diagnostic teaching principle
  • Instruction - observe/assess child's response ask, does it match expected outcome? - if necessary, change instruction

Notes: Teach – test – teach evidence based instruction developed for children with learning difficulties/ autism/ADHD
For VI children: Make a decision re starting large print vs relying on LVAs, introducing CCTV, improve lighting, coloured paper or Braille. Look at child's reading fluency and see if it matches expected outcomes.

Instruction and assessment cannot be separated in effective teaching, each pupil is different.
Systematic problem solving

Phase 1: Selection of the initial learning media

  • Initial decision ideally made early in child's life, when beginning to explore their environment,
  • Or when participating in early literacy experiences at nursery,
  • Systematic observation of child's use of senses over weeks or months,
  • Ideal time for implementation of diagnostic teaching approach, for example, to introduce tactile experiences and observe response.
  • Tactile pictures, art and craft, maths activities

Phase 2: Continuing assessment of learning media

  • Phase 2 is a long-term continued evaluation of the initial decision.
  • If child has already started to learn to read, then someone has made a decision (whether documented with LMA or not), so start at phase 2 (Form 6 instead of 5)
  • Is child reading efficiently, meeting their potential, or is child exhausted and fed up with reading?

Form 1: General Information

  • Relevant medical information including results of visual assessments
  • Clinical visual assessment and prognosis (!)
  • Functional visual assessment
  • Information on any other disabilities
  • If reading already, then information on reading ability, eg; when fully sighted,

Form 2: Use of Sensory Channels

  • A means of recording observations of which sense the child uses most naturally,
  • It is not necessarily the most efficient or accurate,
  • Carry out 3 or more observations in various situations: structured and unstructured, familiar and unfamiliar, indoors and outdoors
  • Sample 15 actions on each occasion.

  • Decide which sense you think the child used as the main or ‘primary’ channel of getting information [mark with square]
  • If child used another sense to confirm their first impression, this is the secondary channel
    [mark with circle]
  • Only mark a square if you are clear it is the Primary sense, you can mark two circles.
  • You don't have to observe everything!
  • Don't record the same behaviour more than twice, or continual behaviour such as listening.

  • Video and you can involve parents, key worker etc
  • Divorce yourself from what you know about the child and be an objective observer of the child's behaviour,
  • This is NOT a functional visual assessment so you don't need to say what viewing distance/ contrast was etc,
  • This is NOT the whole assessment, no decision is made on the strength of these observations alone, it is only a starting point!

Interpretation of the data

  • Gather all the observation forms,
  • Don't count but record your impression of the primary sensory channel,
  • If a consistent pattern is not obvious, then differentiate near/distance tasks: it may be necessary to carry out more observations,
  • Or seek to identify factors which are responsible for the variation in the use of each sense.
  • Use information of the primary and secondary channels to base recommendations in form 3.

Form 3: General learning media checklist

  • These forms need adaptation to use them in UK, especially in nursery situation!
  • Distance vision is anything beyond arm's reach.
  • Near vision is anything within arm's reach.
  • A tool to help liaison with CT or key-worker.
  • How much does Pam notice beyond arm's reach?

Form 4: Indicators of Readiness for a conventional Literacy Programme.

  • 'Readiness' is no longer an appropriate term,
  • Only need to use this form if there is some doubt whether child can/will proceed onto a conventional literacy programme,
  • Also look at Form 8 re Functional Literacy.
  • Does child have opportunity to develop early literacy skills from these learning experiences?
  • Concerns should be raised if there are no or few opportunities.

Form 5: Initial selection of literacy medium

  • Materials at pre-5 are visually interesting and many are relatively uncluttered compared to the visual demands child will face at school.
  • It is common for most pupils to have lots of opportunity to use visual materials but relatively few for tactile experiences.
  • A diagnostic teaching approach is necessary to make sure low vision child has had tactile experiences as well as visual prior to assessment.

Notes: We at last have access to tactile books through the Clearvision library so it is possible to introduce quality tactile books into a diagnostic teaching situation.

Section 1: Use of sensory information.

  • No longer unbiased observation; you can use your past knowledge of the child,
  • Make comments on your observations (need more space on form!) to help you write report,
  • Particularly useful to observe how child goes about exploring an unfamiliar object ...
  • Is child using touch to confirm/correct initial visual response?

Section 2: Working distance and size preferences.

  • Observe and record the child's natural choice of working distance when visually examining classroom materials and object size,
  • Useful information to record is the complexity and familiarity of the object, as well as time it takes and if child appears to be guessing,
  • If English is a second language use video so parents can help interpret child's response.
  • Note down if child's vision fluctuates etc

Decision making

  • Write a summarizing statement for each form.
  • Refer to decision-making guide.
  • Refer to characteristics of a print/braille user.
  • Meet together with other professionals and parents (and pupil) to discuss findings,
  • Record everyone's views and come to a decision. Make it clear that decision will be reviewed.
  • Write report of Learning Media Assessment.

Notes: Report is written to justify the decision the group made (so VI teacher may not agree with it but the process has been recorded).
See examples of reports which are extremely detailed. I have suggested/decided that 3 print users started to learn Braille after experiencing sight loss.

Form 6: Continuing assessment of literacy media

  • Strongly advise carried out annually but at least when any change in vision is noticed or concerns raised about child's reading ability/access to curriculum,
  • Reading efficiency assessed using equivalent to the Neale Analysis but perhaps we could also assess reading fluency using National Test past papers at appropriate level,
  • Child uses LVAs/large print/CCTV/Braille as usual

Reading fluency

  • Number of words in passage divided by number of minutes (exactly) = words per minute,
  • Plot the average on a chart and update each year to ensure child's efficiency keeps improving.
  • Also assess comprehension and note frustration.
  • Academic Achievement – Look at performance in class tests as well as routine class work,
  • Handwriting – Gather a sample of child’s work and wait at least a day to ask child to read back, note size and viewing distance. Decide which tasks should be handwritten and which done with ICT.
  • Literacy Tools – Currently and for the future.
  • Look at Decision-Making Guide.

Notes: Show examples

Form 7: Literacy tools inventory

  • Once a year consider what literacy tools could be useful and added to the pupil's 'toolbox'. (It needs updating.)
  • Even for a pupil without sight, it is an opportunity to think about when to start to teach touch typing, when to teach signature.
  • For partially sighted pupils, question if need to start enlarging materials or rely on LVA,
  • For all pupils, when to introduce technology.

Decision Making

  • Collate summary statements from each form.
  • Decision can't be made on any one piece of information such as eye condition.
  • Refer to Decision-Making guide.
  • Refer to Mangold's 5 questions.
  • Collect views from parents and other professional and/or hold a meeting.
  • Write a report on the decision made.

Mangold's 5 Major considerations for selection of learning medium:

Working distance from page.
Portability of reading skills.
Reading rate and reading accuracy.
Visual fatigue.
Objective assessment of student’s performance in assessments, tests and exams. Expect steady improvement.