[blindkid] braille learning as fun!

Richard Holloway rholloway at gopbc.org
Thu Jun 10 13:57:11 UTC 2010

Glad to help Marie. I have also seen this exact sort of thing happen  
in classrooms-- "the mystery of the vanishing braille". We were  
actually visiting a school-- it was not ours, but we did have a  
discussion and heard how they didn't know where the braille had gone  
from a room which had two blind students in it daily. Some TVI's (as  
well as general ed teachers) seem to be right on top of all these  
sorts of things while others need reminding that our kids need what  
other kids have at the same times as the other kids. Blind kids need  
labels and signs in braille just like the sighted kids have them.  
Blind kids need braille books on the reading shelf in the classroom,  
just like the sighted kids have them. Blind kids need their braillers  
or BrailleNotes (etc.) available to use in the classroom and at other  
times, just like the other kids have pencils and paper available. Is  
there a reminder list for sighted children? Are there lists of  
children's names? Anything like that needs to also be available in  
braille. Yes, it can be a hassle to make up all those things but it is  
what's fair and required to expose children-- even pre-readers to  
braille. That's how pre-readers BECOME readers after all!

I think that most people would agree that it is at least as hard for a  
blind student to learn to read and write braille as it is for a  
sighted child to learn to read print. (Many would suggest it is a good  
deal harder!) How then can we expect our braille-reading kids to learn  
and compete on an equal footing when we tell the blind students they  
have to go down the hall and around the corner to a special shelf in  
the library when they need a book while sighted children have a shelf  
of books to read within sight, just across the classroom every day?  
How is it equal treatment when a blind student has to go clear across  
the school to a resource room to access a brailler while sighted  
students always have a pencil sitting on their desks? (I've actually  
seen both of those.) I have also read of a situation where a teacher  
didn't want a student using a Perkins Brailler during class time  
because the noise was a distraction to other kids. Clearly absurd, but  
it really happens.

I say we should be polite if we can but no matter what, we need to  
speak out and remind professionals of mistakes like these when we see  
them and we have to insist they be remedied. Whenever possible, get  
appropriate details and solutions into IEP's as well, especially in  
problem situations because once they are in the IEP a couple of things  
can happen-- First, it can help you compel the school to comply which  
is reason enough to have the things in the IEP, but second, it can  
also help the teachers get what is needed because it can cause the  
administration to allocate more man-hours and other resources to stay  
in compliance.

I remember a discussion in an IEP once when someone asked us if we  
minded if they increased the number of hours referenced on our IEP for  
support. I almost laughed aloud, but instead I politely said that  
anything like that which helped them get what we all wanted and needed  
for Kendra was ALWAYS okay!

Here's is a link to that article I mentioned by my wife:

If you are coming to the convention in Dallas, Stephanie will also be  
presenting a session on this very subject.


On Jun 8, 2010, at 9:25 PM, Marie wrote:

> Thank you. This is precisely the kind of information/reminder that I  
> need. Jack had a well-meaning but ineffective TVI. She had no clue  
> what to do about helping him learn braille. His teacher and I  
> labeled the classroom for the most part but I have noticed that a  
> lot of those labels have come down. They are moving to a new  
> classroom soon so I will need to relabel anyway.
> Thanks for giving me lots to think about!
> Marie
> Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Richard Holloway <rholloway at gopbc.org>
> Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2010 16:13:44
> To: NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List,\(for parents of blind children\)<blindkid at nfbnet.org 
> >
> Subject: Re: [blindkid] braille learning as fun!
> He could be feeling the dots but not associating any meaning with them
> yet. How often does he encounter braille? Does he have a TVI, or any
> other braille support?
> I'm sure I can come up more suggestions but the first thing that comes
> to mind is that Stephanie (my wife) for most of Kendra's Kindergarten
> would put a braille "word of the day" in her lunch box every day. They
> started off simple but got rather elaborate. Stephanie did more than I
> did but we'd take turns. (I WILL brag and mention that the fancier
> ones were usually mine! LOL) We'd use card stock and cut things out,
> sometimes adding extra parts on with tape, etc. I recall a guitar with
> rubber-band strings attached and a harp (similar design). We'd make
> cut-outs of people (Mommy, Daddy, her Sister or Brother, etc.) and
> various animals as well as just circles or squares or triangles when
> we'd be running behind or out of ideas. Any object or shape you can
> think of and fabricate will do. After many months, we had to struggle
> at times to come up with a new word idea ("didn't we do that
> before?!!") , but every day in her lunchbox, a new word appeared.
> Sometimes she would want to know it in advance but we'd try to keep it
> a surprise... They all came home and went into a place where she could
> explore her growing batch of words...
> Remember, print is everywhere and kids with even moderate vision
> quickly figure our that it means something. My daughter has no vision
> at all so she only ran across conventional print when it was raised
> (less common obviously). The thing potential braille readers need
> first is to run across incidental braille all over their home and
> school like sighted kids do with print-- if he can't see enough to
> know about signs as you drive down the road, tell him they're out
> there and what they're for. Later, he'll be asking you how you know
> some things and you can tell him, there are print letters I can read
> on that sign, just like you read braille signs with your fingers. We
> make a big point of reminding Kendra she has the power to read, just
> like we do-- she just reads a different format than we do. Before you
> know it, you'll probably be asking him to read things to you that are
> in braille only, even if you learn to read braille because he'll be so
> much better at it than you are!
> Kendra will be 8 in a few months and we still have braille labels
> stuck all over the house with object names-- Door, Oven, Drawer,
> Dishwasher, Bed, Chair, Bathroom, Bedroom, and on and on-- when kids
> fingers keep finding the braille, they'll want to know what it means--
> why is it there? Once they find out one of those sets of bumps are the
> names of the things, then they'll most likely want to know what the
> next set means. Also, your child's name may quickly have meaning in
> Braille if his name starts showing up on many of his things where he
> can feel it. You can stick braille dymo labels on toys and games-- use
> clear to preserve readable print.
> Twin vision books are also very useful early on-- you can read the
> print (perhaps he can too?) and he can explore the braille as well.
> Sighted kids do the same thing-- they look at print before they have
> any idea what the words really are as you read them books, right? It
> is the same with braille.
> I'll try and post more ideas later, and no doubt others have many good
> ideas as too. If he's in school, you'll definitely want a lot of
> braille there as well-- all over the classroom. We even had the bus
> number on the door of her school bus in braille so she could confirm
> her bus number for herself.
> My wife wrote a great article on Kendra's year in Kindergarten, that
> was two years ago now. Have you read that? There are probably some
> useful ideas there for you. I don't have it right here, but I can find
> the link and send it to you if you like.
> Please feel free to contact me off the list for more detailed
> discussion as well if you want.
> Richard
> On Jun 8, 2010, at 3:21 PM, Marie wrote:
>> Hey Richard, can you give me some ideas of things that you did to  
>> make
>> learning Braille fun for Kendra. Jack needs letters 2 to 3 inches
>> high for
>> near vision so I am definitely thinking he needs to learn Braille
>> and have
>> put Braille in his environment with labels and such and we have
>> Braille-Print books. However he is VERY attracted to print but
>> Braille does
>> not seem to mean anything to him yet. It may have to do with (lack  
>> of)
>> fingertip sensitivity (have no idea how sensitive they are since he
>> is still
>> learning to talk and this would be a difficult concept to discuss
>> with any 5
>> yr old). He wants signs read to him and he tries to spell ALL the
>> time.
>> Ideas?
>> Marie (mother of Jack, born May 2005)
>> Check out our blog at http://www.allaccesspasstojack.blogspot.com for
>> glimpses into our busy life with a boy who is busy growing and
>> developing in
>> his own way in his own time
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: blindkid-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:blindkid-
>> bounces at nfbnet.org] On
>> Behalf Of Richard Holloway
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 11:48 AM
>> To: NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List, (for parents of blind children)
>> Subject: [blindkid] Wii Thoughts
>> I'm wondering if any of us has actually had "hands on" this device,
>> and who among us has actually seen that video or had it described to
>> us...
>> From what I can discern, this "electronic cane" is basically a fairly
>> conventional cane with a chunk in the middle that has been replaced  
>> by
>> a pair of shafts with what appears to be some sort of a motion- 
>> sensing
>> device that hangs between the the shafts. I suspect it would feel  
>> like
>> a slightly awkward and heavier-than-usual cane. This is not some  
>> crazy
>> alternative-to a-cane contraption. It is also (from what I can tell)
>> FAR closer to a typical cane than the Wii Guitar is to an actual
>> guitar, for whatever that may be worth. Despite it's similarity  
>> with a
>> "proper" cane, it also does not appear to be offered as a replacement
>> to a cane in any way.
>> My guess is that (much like with the knfb reader) among so many other
>> pieces of technology, over time the device would shrink and could
>> ultimately feel (and in fact be) a typical cane that happens to offer
>> the features of a Wii input device as well. (Perhaps you could even
>> attach a small device around a personal cane for this at some point.)
>> I keep hearing so much apprehension and resistance to what this  
>> device
>> claims to offer but no evidence that it really won't work or  
>> certainly
>> anything that shows this to be detrimental to cane travelers' skills.
>> What I did hear however, is that it apparently has inspired and
>> pleased a number of the kids who have been trying it out. Again, I'm
>> not picking up an anything bad there. I hear that some people
>> apparently think learning to use a cane should NOT be fun. Well, let
>> me tell you-- if my daughter thinks something is fun, she's going to
>> do it a lot more often and a lot better than something she dislikes
>> and I'm suspecting this is not unique to Kendra. In my experience,
>> Kendra really enjoys reading and writing braille. She has fun doing  
>> it
>> now, because she actually had fun learning to read braille and it has
>> nearly always been associated with positive experiences for her. Many
>> of the ways she learned to read were very much game-like, Now she
>> reads several years ABOVE grade level and she's only just finished
>> first grade. Does anyone want to suggest to me that while it is okay
>> if she enjoys reading NOW, she should NOT have enjoyed LEARNING to
>> read? Does that make sense to anyone?
>> I was recently looking at a braille compass in a store. Then I saw an
>> electronic compass. I don't know how well it works, but the concept  
>> is
>> interesting. So consider this-- put the electronic compass into a  
>> cane
>> which tells you which way you're pointing at will. Or why not a GPS  
>> in
>> a cane? Does that sound excessive or overly complicated? Well it may
>> be, but what is much more likely is that things like this Wii cane
>> could develop into something like a conventional cane (or cane
>> attachment) with a bluetooth interface that could send whatever data
>> the sensors in the cane are made to pickup, then you could interface
>> that with whatever you wanted-- a compass system, a GPS, or probably
>> any number of other devices.
>> There was a time when telephones were not mobile, then some people  
>> had
>> the "crazy" idea of putting them in cars and then briefcases. Those
>> became "bag phones" that became the "brick" cell phones which became
>> pocket sized phones like many of us have now. Ultimately, a pocket
>> phone can encompass everything from a PDA to a GPS system to a knfb
>> reader and who knows what else?
>> It looks to me like the Wii system, in many ways is actually at least
>> part of something somewhat like a simulator for cane travel. You can
>> actually travel with it (at least a bit) but not in a "real world"
>> environment. Well, the simulator concept is a proven one. People  
>> learn
>> to do all sorts of things in them all over the world. Often it keeps
>> them safe, makes learning faster, and saves time and money. Again, I
>> have trouble seeing the down side. Every time I get on a airplane,  
>> I'm
>> delighted to know the pilot may have spent a lot of time in a
>> simulator AS WELL AS actually flying. All of that is hopefully  
>> keeping
>> me safer in the air!
>> The NFB really is working towards cars that would be reasonable for
>> blind people to drive on their own. Not just an autonomous vehicle a
>> blind person could own and ride in, but one that my child might be
>> able to get in and drive on her own one day. It troubles me to  
>> observe
>> other bashing ideas that may not only be useful and helpful right  
>> now,
>> but which may very well lead to all sorts of additional helpful
>> technologies for all of our kids in the future. I hope we can all  
>> keep
>> this in mind when we're exploring and discussing new developments in
>> technology.
>> Once upon a time someone came up with a strange and awkward concept
>> for sending messages that could be read in the dark in combat areas.
>> It didn't work very well at all and it needed a lot of refining. I
>> expect many people thought it was a ridiculous concept, and a waste  
>> of
>> time, but today I don't think so many of us would announce that
>> Braille is a foolish or useless invention.
>> Just my thoughts on the matter.
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