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Friday, October 21, 2011

First Steps in Great Braille Readers

First!!! Know that braille readers can read material as fast as print readers. I teach it and see it all the time. Attitude is the first hurtle. Once you know a braille reader can read as a print reader, then you are ready for the next step.

Second, if the above is to happen, the child has to start in that 0-5 year old mark. They could read faster if they are older too, but the mental adjustment into braille reading, or the "bad press" on braille being too hard is difficult for many to overcome ...thus they are slower braille readers. There are many more reasons off this, but those are 2 biggies.

Third, get the child excited about reading--This applies to Blind and Low vision children. Start with reading print/braille books to them, so if they can see color or pictures, they can look at the colors while feeling those wonderful dots. Put braille all over the house using sticky tape (just go to local hardware store and pick up sticky shelf paper and braille label words on that to put all over house). So wherever they touch, they feel braille. Once again, BOTH low vision and blind. This really applies at any age level...so start doing all these steps, no matter what age....they can get over the "bad press" on braille if you have a really positive attitude about it.

Fourth, when you are reading to them,(this is cuddle time-them on your lap or very close) have them put their fingers over top of yours and you move your hand from left to right across the page with all 4 fingers down on the page and those 4 fingers slightly curled touching the line of braille, so they can feel the smooth motion across the page (You will be holding the book with the other hand, so don't worry about both hands yet). It does not matter you can't read braille yet...fake it until you learn. Just read the print above on the page, as you smoothly move your fingers across the line of braille. It is the smooth movement you want them to learn.

Fifth, when they are babies and toddlers, have all those blind tools around, so they can "scribble" on the brailler, as in pressing the keys, knowing this will be their writing tool. Help them with a slate n stylus to make dots on paper. Also have an older computer around with free talking software, so they can press those letters on the computer and get that cause and effect...They need to learn the computer typing and braille at the SAME time, so they understand how these tools go together later for school.

Sixth, when they are ready to start formal brailling of words and letters, and today most children are doing that somewhere between 2-4 years old, so blind, low vision children need to start then also. You will read the word and then you help them braille it. At first, their hands are on top of yours so they can feel the smooth motion of you pressing the keys. Then they get to try. If their fingers are too weak, then look at something like a Mountbatten brailler with very easy keys, that gives verbal feedback along with the output of braille.

Seventh, When they are brailling, have them braille the same contraction or word over and over, so they can feel the flow of brailling--several lines of the same words or simple sentences---have them braille something to do with their life....it helps them remember the words. Then when you pull the brailled sheet out, they place their hands on top of yours first, to get the feel of smooth braille reading across the page, then you help them position their hands on the braille line -- BOTH HANDS! All 8 fingers slightly curled under, all 8 fingers touching the braille line--trust me--all 8 fingers are going to do something, but have them focus on their pointer fingers to do the major reading of the words. You lightly cup all 8 fingers with your 8 fingers to help them, then you read the words as you both go across the page, having them focus on those pointer fingers. (I have had kids come in with bandages on their pointer fingers saying they injured them....their middle fingers got to do the reading for the day--they were amazed at how all their fingers could read the braille--they can if you practice the method above!!)

Now some kids get this right off the bat and do not need help, so figure out your child and how much help they need. Lift your hands off as they begin the journey across the page by themselves...YOU still reading each word before they hit it, so there is NO scrubbing or back tracking on the word to figure it out. As they read, they are going to split their hands several words in on the line and they WILL need help doing this until it is a smooth motion. About 2-4 words in on an 11 x 11 paper, the left hand will go back down to the next line as the right hand finishes the line. As the right hand finishes the line of braille, the left hand begins reading the next line. REMEMBER, you are reading the words for the child before they hit the word, so they get and continue that smooth motion with NO scrubbing.

Keep it simple. Braille sentences with contractions and about 3 words each. I like cats. and so forth.....keep it up and this child will be reading 300-400+ words per minute by high school.

Lessons and articles to help you:
Fast Braille Reading

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