I have been asking for the new Perkins SMART Brailler®, since it first came on the market. The price tag of $2,000.00 is just a little out of my price range. It is not covered by quota funds. The services for the blind, through Catholic Charities in Maine, doesn’t even have one to use/try. So we have been slogging along with the electric brailler with me dictating. We have been working on finger positions of the braille cell. Vinnie is now able to write about anything I dictate including correct capitalization and punctuation. I understand that teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) do not teach punctuation and capitalization when they begin teaching braille writing (please correct me if I am wrong!). I find it much easier to teach it once and do it as I normally would for a sighted child. I find myself wanting to correct the TVI. I have a great TVI and we have some great discussions and sometimes one or the other of us will change our perspective.
We asked about funding for the SMART Brailler so many times, I think people were sick of hearing from me. But someone was listening and provided me information about the Robbie Foundation. The Robbie Foundation provides adaptive equipment not covered by insurance, “Helping one child at a time.” I think they only cover Maine children.
It took me 6 weeks last summer to get all of my application materials and references saying why Vinnie needed the SMART Brailler and how it would benefit him. I finally sent the application in August, 2013, last summer. I got an email it would be reviewed in October. It wasn’t. So I thought, “Oh, well, I guess they are not going to fund it.”
In the bleak of mid-winter, January, I got a call. They were going to fund it! Would I come to Scarborough, Maine, March 1, with Vinnie and attend a reception that was also a media event to promote the foundation. “You bet!” I sent my husband and daughter and I stayed home with the rest of the family. This day was about Vinnie! Besides, the three of them are way prettier than me.
The Brailler has been here for three days now. What a difference for Vinnie. He loves cause and effect stuff. He loves auditory feedback. He likes his pianos and word boards. In the last 3 days his speed on the Brailler has tripled and he is able to remember 3- and 4-letter words and type them without my dictating every letter. Then it is read back to him. He can now type the entire alphabet without me saying anything, because it reads the letters to him and he can remember where he is in the alphabet. Wow! Imagine what the next few weeks and months are going to bring.
I have a caution for you if you are thinking of getting this piece of equipment. Your child should fully understand the braille cell and dot placement on a number basis and the corresponding fingering to write the letters on a Brailler. With these skills, Vinnie was able to take right off and use the SMART Brailler independently. It has increased his speed and allowed for him to use memory skills for the task of writing. For you the teacher, you can see what he is writing on the screen, both the braille and written (large print, good for older seasoned teachers and those with visual impairments) letter/word, as well as hear it. There are a few glitches I need to follow up with Perkins, but that is okay. Overall, this is a great tool! Now I am waiting for the additional add-on software. I give this 4.5 stars out of 5! Yes, I would recommend this to all my friends!