How Braille Is Taught and How You Can Help
If your child is a possible candidate for braille reading and writing, it’s helpful to understand the typical braille teaching process and to learn how to prepare your child for a successful learning experience.
How Braille Is Taught
- Your child will be introduced to books. He will be taught that written words (in this case, braille) symbolize a message.
- Your child will receive tactile sensitivity training. By gently touching a variety of textures, and eventually braille dots, his fingertips will practice discriminating fine details.
- Your child will learn to sit with proper posture. If your child has low muscle tone, his educational team should work with his physical therapist to choose a method for sitting upright with support.
- He or she will sit at a table or desk at a proper height. The table should be at a height comfortable for the child to extend and rest his arms on the surface with elbows bent at about 70 to 90 degrees. A child shouldn’t reach up or down or need to bend wrists to read braille.
- Your child will explore a braillewriter. He will become accustom to its feel, sound, and keys. He can press the keys, “scribbling,” and feel the braille dots he produces. Ideally, he will recognize the dots from early braille book exposure and tactile sensitivity training.
- Using hand-under-hand or hand-over-hand, your child will learn to locate the top left corner of his paper or book and find the first row of braille.
- Your child will align all of his fingers (no thumbs) and gently, with curved and relaxed hands, move his fingertips steadily along each row of braille. This braille may be in familiar books or on thick paper with rows of simple letters.
- At the end of each row of braille, your child will hold his place with his right hand and use his left hand to locate the next row of braille. Once found, his right hand will join his left hand, and he will begin to move along the row.
- While your child’s hands move along the rows of braille, his primary reading fingers will be his pointers.
- Your child will be taught to read and write the letters of the alphabet, followed by simple to complex words. Whatever your child writes with his braillewriter, he should then read with his fingers.
- Young children are typically taught to read and write words brailled letter-by-letter (uncontracted braille), for instance, the word “c-o-w.” Around third grade, your child will be taught contracted braille, spelling the word “cow,” “c” and the “ow” braille cell.
- Your child’s reading confidence will rise with each successful reading experience, so your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) will create simple exercises that allow your child to feel like a reader. Your child may be taught the letter/word “a” (one raised dot) and locate the word in each row of braille; after becoming familiar with her name (Mae, for instance), she may be asked to decipher between her short name and a long name such as Madeline; she may follow along a line of “a’s” and find a simple word such as “cat.”
- Of course, your child will practice reading and writing braille extensively, though in short doses of time, in order to increase confidence, accuracy, and ultimately, literacy.
How to Best Prepare Your Child for Success
As many sighted children are exposed to letters, words, and books each day from a very young age, your child should be exposed to braille within his environment long before beginning to read. Collect braille books (with print so you can read along as he feels the braille) and incorporate a fun or relaxing reading experience into your daily routine.
In order for your child to understand the concepts within the stories you read together, help your child experience the world firsthand as you provide the coaching.
Additionally, ask your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments to help you label items within your child’s reach with braille.
You can also help your child prepare to read and write braille by helping him develop hand strength, finger dexterity (the ability to purposefully move one finger at a time), and tactile sensitivity. This process should be fun! Encourage activities such as pulling up onto furniture, shaping play dough, stringing beads, digging in the dirt, encountering and discriminating various textures, and softly petting a dog.
To further assist you, read and utilize our guidelines for teaching writing and tips for helping your blind or visually impaired baby learn about reading and writing.
Lastly, I recommend parents or guardians learning at least uncontracted braille in order to read and write braille alongside your child (such as making tactile or experience books together) and to forever have the ability to read and write messages with your child.