By: Sherry Gurney, CLTV
I can almost guarantee that this is not the blog post you expected to be reading when you first found out you were having a child, however, here you are; and I have good news for you: YOU CAN DO IT!
For many parents, learning that your child will undoubtedly need to learn Braille can be overwhelming. How am I going to be able to teach them? How am I going to understand what they are reading and writing? Am I too old to learn a new language alongside them? Let me encourage you, in comparison to the sighted child, the blind child will also learn in steps; the alphabet will come just one letter at a time. And you can learn right along with your child, in fact, the configurations are so simple that you can always be a few steps ahead! Here are four tips for how to prepare you and your little one to begin learning Braille.
1. The earlier you start, the better!
The first six years in a child’s life are crucial for their development, and play a large part in determining their level of success over the years. If you’re starting after two years, have no fear; your child is still very capable of learning. Just remember, every second counts. Get started on your learning early.
2. Start developing tactile discrimination skills.
Tactile discrimination skills teach us to distinguish the differences between the things we touch. These skills can be taught in everyday activities. Babies and toddlers just naturally touch the clothes they are wearing and the food they are eating. These can be described first, like, hot or cold food, scratchy and soft clothing, etc. Tactile experiences give the child an awareness of touch and when approached with activities the child likes, they become more and more tolerant of your encouragement to touch different things. Just as seeing the same thing we have seen over and over does not startle us; touching items that have become familiar to them over time will not startle visually impaired children.
3. Encourage your child to find more than one of the same items he or she likes.
To keep children advancing and challenging themselves, introduce more items into the mix. If it’s a toy they are fond of, let them find it in the midst of a few others. If they enjoy playing with a ball, acquire balls of all different textures, weights, sizes, etc. and have your child differentiate each with their fingers. Even if your child does not talk, they are feeling the different items you are presenting and are listening to you label them with your words.
4. Put Braille labels in areas that your child touches around the house.
Remember every object your child comes in contact with is an opportunity for them to learn and develop. Label the washing machine, the refrigerator, the toy-box, everything they can get their hands on. This is a way to expose your child to Braille just as a sighted child sees print and becomes acquainted with it long before they ever read it. Children’s books can easily be paired with actual items found in the story. Books with recorded words or sounds can have the word or letter Brailed on it so that each time the child activates the sound with their touch, they are also feeling the Braille symbol. You can find print embossers (devises that will print Braille) for as little as $20 online and in stores.
So, as your journey to learning Braille begins, remember nothing is built overnight. Begin by implementing the four small steps above, and before you know it, you and your child will be well on your way to mastering this new skill!