Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Cards to Promote Independence

Index card with "help" in print and braille
I have a student who has a one-on-one paraprofessional and I am trying to wean his dependence on her. There are three main things that he typically needs during class: help, bathroom, or a break from the activity/noise of the room. He has these brailled on permabraille sheets from APH that have been cut to flashcard size. They are velcroed to a sturdy plastic card that has been cut to 8 1/2 inch by 4 inch size. It will not be affixed to a desk. Rather, this will be a portable card that he can use in any classroom.
 
The goal is independence. We still have 3 weeks of ESY (Extended School Year) for him to practice using this. Fingers crossed.
 
Index cards with help, bathroom, break in print and braille

Collage of independence cards

Comments

Braille for beginners

Posted by Elria Steyn

I am teaching a 12 year old girl to read for the first time. She has problems with reversals and spelling. Any comments will help.

Teaching a 12-year-old

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Hi Elria,

We'd be interested to hear more about this girl.  Why is she just being taught to read for the first time now?  Does she have the pre-requisite skills she needs?  Are you teaching her to read braille or print?

Any ideas from others about these learning difficulties?

Posted by Elria Steyn

Hi Charlotte and Liz 

Thank you so much for taking an interest in this lovely girl.  She is an intelligent totally blind girl.  They live on a farm and her parents therefore, over the years,  preferred home schooling for her with the help of tutors.

In South Africa we teach pre-braille skills at pre-school level and uncontracted braille in the first grade. Learners start with contractions in the second grade and complete the course in grade 5/6. (In the school where I taught the blind learners did the course in English as well as in Afrikaans Braille.)

She started off as a 6 year old with our series of 5 books (phonics -oriented)  where the Braille alphabet is being introduced using sounds, easy words and then sentences. I don’t think any skills were taught before she started as the tutors did not have any knowledge of Braille. 

The parents seem to favour the use of a computer over braille.  She will start with the use of a computer in 2018, when she will be doing grade 7 subjects, still without the necessary  braille skills.

After the 5 introductory books they ordered some books from the USA.  They choose ‘Braille in Brief’ by Bernard M. Krebbs, B.S.S. They completed the first 5 pages and stopped when the first contractions (“good” & “said”) were introduced. As far as I could establish she has never read any books after that.

What is very interesting, however, is that she learnt to write on the Perkins Brailler with the song: ‘The Braille wrap song’ by Lynn Horton and Tammy Whitten, and has no problem doing so.  Unfortunately she has difficulty reading what she has written.  She misspells easy words like ‘said’, even after practising the word.

She did very well in all the subjects except when spelling counted.  Her exams are mostly done orally.

She came to me in June 2017 and we started with pre-braille skills.  (I am a retired first grade Braille teacher and have access to all the pre-braille exercises etc.) She then read first grade readers. At first it was quite a struggle but she really wanted to make progress and just wanted to do more. She then started reading second grade books and some contractions were introduced.  When reading she can figure out when she reverses letters and can mostly correct herself. 

Unfortunately that is not so easy with contractions and impossible when doing maths. She practises on the Braillette board (peg slate?), we have dots pasted on the corners of a box for the f, d, h and j.  She also uses the swing cell.

She is such a dedicated learner and I would really want her to excel in Braille (and spelling) next year.

The Research Librarian at Perkins, Jennifer Arnott, provided me with very valuable information which I am busy researching.

Any input from teachers who also experienced similar learning difficulties will be highly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Elria

Ideas for teaching students with learning difficulties

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Hello Elria,

Thank you for giving us more background on your student.  It's hard to be able to offer any very specific suggestions without knowing her, as there can be so many reasons why she may be having difficulties.  It sounds like she was out of school for quite awhile and it may be that she needs additional practice or greater motivation with meaningful activities.  

It can be difficult to know whether the problem is just with some braille reversals that she may learn to straighten out or perhaps she may have an underlying learning disability.  You may wish to read Getting Started with a Struggling Reader with Visual Impairments and other posts by psychologist Marnee Loftin.

There are also some articles about using the Wilson Reading Method, such as Implementing the Wilson Reading System with Braille Students.

Finally, you could try some activities that are specific to reversals, such as Mnemonics for Identifying Tricky Braille Characters, as well as the activity Liz suggested: Scratching Your Head with Braille Reversals.

Good luck!

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