University of Edinburgh

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

Presented on Thursday 6 March 2008

Tactile Stories

Lorna Hall

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 recognistion 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 the 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 - develops fine motor skills.
  • Simple stories can be based around the everyday life of a 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 stories - a sample of those available.

  • Objects and their uses (eg; toothbrush)
  • The language of shapes - round, straight, corner, edge
  • Shape recognition
  • The concept and language of length - long, short, wee, medium
  • The concept and lanugage of width - wide, narrow
  • The concept and lanugage of depth in materials - thick, thin
  • The concept and lanugage of weight in materials
  • The concept and lanugage of height - tall, short
  • Adjectives to describe textures - smooth, rough, flat, hard, soft, sticky, silky, woolly, coarse, fine, bumpy, ridged, fuzzy, fluffy, jaggy
  • Cardinal number
  • Orientation of a book - up and down page, front and back of book, first and last page, turning pages
  • Orientation of a page - top, bottom, right, left, middle, side
  • Same and different
  • Comparisons - thicker, heavier, 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


Early Stories - Scripts

Easter Surprise
On Monday morning, Nicola had no Nursery but Audrey had sent a surprise.
"Let's search for it", Mum said.
The first place they looked was on top of the television. Was it there?
The next place they looked was beside the phone. Was it there?
They they looked under the cushions. Was it there?
"I know" said Mum. "Let's look on your bed." So they looked and that's where they found the surprise.
It was an Easter egg!
Happy Easter, Nicola

Hard and Soft
[Needed: pen, book, glove, handbag (small), paper bag, soft sweets]
One day I decided that I would search around my house for soft things and hard things. I wondered what I would find.
I started with what was lying on the table. First was a pen and then a book. Were they hard or soft? Next was Mum's glove. It is very soft. Mum's gloves keep her hands warm. Listen to me knock on the table. Can you do that? Is the table hard or soft?
On the chair beside the table was Mum's handbag. Is it hard or soft? Mum said "Why don't you open my bag? I have a surprise for you inside".
When I put my hand in the bag I heard a rustle. What do you think that sounds like?
It was a paper bag and inside were some sweets.
Are they hard or soft sweets?

A Walk in the garden
[Needed: grass, branch of apple tree, apple]
One day a little girl called Ann went out into her garden. She knelt down and rubbed her hands in the grass. It was a very windy day and her hair blew all over her face. Near her was a tree with lots of branches. Ann was out in the garden for something special. She pulled on of the branches down. It had an apple on it, because it was an apple tree!
She took the apple into the house, where her Mum cut it up. Everyone there had a piece.
It had been a lovely walk in the garden.

Katie goes to a party
Katie was going to a party. Mummy was looking for a ribbon for her hair. Will this do, Mummy?
No, Katie, that's far too long. You would trip over it!. So Katie went to look in her bedroom.
Will this do Mummy? No, Katie, that's elastic. It's too stretchy.
So Katie went to look in the cupboard. Will this do Mummy? No; that's made of paper. It will only tear. So Katie went to look in the kitchen. Will this do Mummy? No, Katie, that's tape for the curtains. It's not very pretty for a party, is it?
So Katie went to look again in her bedroom. She found some pretty ribbon that had been tied round a birthday parcel. Will this do Mummy? Katie that's perfect! What a clever girl you are. Now you'll look like a princess!

Banana lunch
[Needed: banana]
One day, Mummy asked me what I would like for lunch. "Give me a surprise" I said.
Mummy went into the kitchen, opened the cupboard door and brought something out.
Feel this. What do you think it was she gave me? A banana! Can you find the banana if I hide it in this bag? Is the skin smooth or rough? Did you know that bananas grow on a tree? I'll peel one side. Can you feel the other? Where would you go to buy bananas? What other fruits could you buy there? Would you like to eat this one? That day I had a lovely lunch.

For Openers
[Needed: paper bag, a large box, a smaller box, wrapping paper, chocolate]
One day Mum gave me a bag and told me to open it. Is anything inside? A box? Take it out and open it for me. Is anything inside? Another box? Take it out and open it.
Is anything inside? Open the paper and let's see what's inside. Smell it and tell me if you know. Chocolate? That's right. Well I think perhaps you could eat it!

Tell Me What (each question on a separate A5 page)

1. Tell me what's on top of the TV.

2. Tell me what's underneath the cushion.

3. Tell me what's beside the phone.

4. Tell me what's in the cupboard in the kitchen.

5. Tell me what's in the door of the fridge.

6. Tell me what's beside the lamp.

(Have a small sweet or a piece of fruit here as a surprise.)

A Walk in the garden
[Needed: grass, lavender, strawberry]
One day a little girl called Jill went out into her garden. She knelt down and rubbed her hands in the grass. The grass was wet because it had been raining. Near her were some pretty flowers with a lovely smell. They were called lavender. Jill was out in the garden for something special. She went down the path and found the strawberry patch, where some delicious strawberries were growing. She picked a big one. It was bright red and very sweet. It had been a lovely walk in the garden.

A walk with Granny
[Needed: woollen glove, leather glove, woollen scarf, silk scarf, lady's boot, child't boot, some fur, a pom-pom, some autumn leaves]
One day Granny asked if I would like to go for a walk. It's a cold day, she said, you'd need warm clothes. Help me find what to wear. Granny had leather gloves but min were woollen. Can you find mine? Next was my woollen scarf. Granny's was silk. Granny's boots were huge but mine were really small. Granny had a hat with fur on it. Mine had a pom-pom on the top. When we went out we went to the park and gathered some leaves. I threw them up in the air like this!

Tess and the puppy
Tess wanted t take her puppy dog for a walk but she couldn't find her lead.
Can I use this Gran? No! That's some of my knitting wool. I need it to make you a jumper. Tess went to look in the cupboard. Can I use this Daddy? No! I need that wire to tie up some plants in the garden. So Tess went to ask Grandpa. Have you anything I can use as a lead for my puppy Grandpa? Yes! Here's a long piece of string. So Tess tied the string onto the puppy's collar and took him round the garden. They ran and jumped and had a lovely time.

Those 3 Bears!
Everything the 3 bears used was a special size. The had their own spoons. A little one for baby bear, a bigger one for Mumm bear and one even bigger for Daddy bear. Can you find baby bear's spoon first? Now Daddy's. Now Mummy's.
The had their own combs. A little one for baby bear, a bigger one for Mummy bear and one even bigger for Daddy bear. Can you find Daddy bear's comb first? Now baby bear's. Now Mummy's.
They had their own straws. A little one for baby bear, a bigger one for Mummy bear and one even bigger for Daddy bear. Whose straw do you think this is? Is it the biggest?
Of course their clothes were the right size for them. Little ones for baby bear, bigger ones for Mummy bear and even bigger ones for Daddy bear. Whose socks do you think these are? Would they fit you?

My Top and Bottom book
At the top of this page is a straw. I like to sip water or milk or juice through the straw. At the bottom is a spoon. I like to eat yogurt with my spoon.
Is my spoon at the top or the bottom of the page? What's at the top? What would you eat with that?
At the top of this page is some string. My Mum uses this to tie things together. Is that string at the bottom of the page?
At the top of this page are some candles that were on a birthday cake. Can you count them?
Are there candles at the bottom of the page? No! That's some of the paper that my present is wrapped in!