[Nfbc-info] Attention: Parents, Teachers and Supporters of Young Blind Children struggling withliteracy

Mary Willows mwillows at sbcglobal.net
Sun Aug 30 01:52:27 UTC 2009

Yes, they are wonderful.  I have seen them at CTEVH.  Do you or Kevin want 
to have a booth at the state convention?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Aziza C" <daydreamingncolor at gmail.com>
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Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2009 2:25 PM
Subject: [Nfbc-info] Attention: Parents,Teachers and Supporters of Young 
Blind Children struggling withliteracy

How many of us have struggled through comprehending Braille upon first
being introduced to it. How many of us have watched another child
struggle through the attempts to comprehend Braille upon their first
few encounters? Reading is difficult, especially at first. It isn't
often a child will "want," to sit still and turn the pages of a book
for an hour when the alternative is running outside, or watching
television. Parents, teachers, supporters, and even the children
themselves understand these struggles. And so does this man who gives
this account.


Kevin C. Murphy

Fourteen, blind since infancy, multiply handicapped, Kevin knew
about letters. Letters excited him in the way angels, UFOs,
ghosts, and monsters excite many of us -- lots of mystery, little
practical value. His favorite television programs, SESAME STREET
and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY mimicked Madison Avenue's technique of
manipulating human want. Kevin wanted to read. For this child,
reading had to mean Braille. Yet by 1981 "Braille" for Kevin, was a
mispronunciation of "fail." Preceded by dread, overshadowed by fear,
each class was cursed by confusion, each ended in depression.
Ending six years of effort, Kevin's teachers abandoned efforts to
teach Braille to him. I believed that Braille was beyond Kevin's
grasp. Yet, a distant part of me raged against that illiterate life.
Inwardly I hesitated to post full cost and cause to Kevin's account.
Kevin -- and Heather, my adopted daughter -- were multiply
handicapped and blind. No fear, nor excessive concern about
blindness gripped me. My children were who they were, I saw nothing in
need of fixing -- except, perhaps, in the society that shunned them.
I nursed a parent's terror of Braille, a thing so exotic, so
beyond my experience, that surely my ignorance of it can only damage
my child. But what harm could I do now? Kevin's legacy of Braille's
letters, alphabets, grief, effort, and failure were now discarded as
junk. I could do no harm.
Kevin could, at least, learn that symbolic languages exist,
function. He might not read a book, but he might understand how
others do that. Many who've never piloted aircraft understand their
I searched for means such that Kevin might keep what literacy he
had, perhaps to re-shape that knowledge base a bit to make life less
confusing to him. The approach: "Hey Kevin, want to work with Dad?" is
not a proven winner with fourteen-year-olds.
"Hey Kevin, want to work on Braille?" was a certain loser in
that age.
I mutilated Christmas toys, fashioned my first TACK-TILES® .
Little building blocks became Braille cells. "Hey Kevin, guess what I
did to your Lego® blocks!" was as perfect a "come on"
as any ever devised. I let his very annoyed half-wondering fingers survey 
damage thoroughly before accounting for myself -or mentioning B-----.
Then we built words and sentences on toy boards meant to
serve as front lawns. I was poorly prepared for the success of early
sessions with Kevin and TACK-TILES® . In that setting, failure meant
only that I would deny him his great pleasure of confiscating my
TACK-TILES® , forfeiting opportunity to lodge them onto his own board.
Here Braille's challenge was a benign contest of human beings, fun,
much more to his comfort and liking. Braille was lodged in a world of
his own -- less like the adult's. He allowed me to tease and fence
with him around his knowledge and ability to use this new learning
tool. He revealed secrets about his unique learning style, remained
at task until I wondered if I had an attention disorder. Kevin's
instructor -- his father -- had not the beginning of an idea how to
proceed. That helped immensely. Kevin and the TACK-TILES® took
complete charge. Success, followed success in the wake of success.
His teachers's earlier efforts finally bore fruit. Kevin was
able to read his grade one Braille papers by the end of that month.
Nearly nine years would pass before another child would learn to read
with TACK-TILES®. Five more years beyond that would pass before we
could afford to make them commercially available in February, 1995.

In March of 2009, I had the chance to meet Kevin Murphey, the
developer of Tack-Tiles. I stood before his table in a huge exhibit
hall marveling at how the product had evolved since I used them to
help me learn to read as a child. I was listening distractedly to him
deliver a sales pitch to the gentlman standing beside me. Explaining
his reasons for building the blocks in the first place, and remarking
that he'd never met another student besides his own son who had used
these products to learn how to read, although he'd sold many. I looked
up startled and turned towards him, hesitantly I put out my hand and
spoke up. "I learned how to read with these blocks." Kevin stopped
talking and turned to face me, surprise and pleasure in his voice as
he asked, "Really?" I smiled and I confirmed that I had. Idly I played
with his newest product, Braille Teasers, a sort of flat puzzle that
makes you think about where the letters can go provided one empty
space. The object is to get the board alphabitized without removing
the legos which is considered cheating. We talked and talked like old
friends, and then I asked if I could take a picture with him. He
agreed on the conditions that I email him a copy of the photo, which I
found to be a fair price.

As I sat at National Convention I heard a constant message. We must
increase Braille Literacy. Our kids need to be taught Braille.
Braille, Braille and more Braille. This brought a smile to my lips,
however, once I returned home I began to think. Braille Readers are
Leaders, Slate Pals, these programs reenforce Braille Skills that
children already possess, encouraging them to read. However, I have
yet to hear of a program geared towards teaching children Braille when
they know none to begin with. I called up my new friend Kevin and
launched in to my creative mode. My excitement prooved contagious, and
Kevin agreed to allow me a shot at promoting the product that made me
the Braille Reader I am today.

Tack-Tiles are tiny lego blocks with Braille letters, contractions,
numbers, or music symbols on them, depending on which set you
purchase. Sets can also be purchased in different languages. This
product can be extremely benificial because children do not realize
they are learning. I would rapidly lose interest in my reading and
begin to build things with my legos, stopping in fascination as I
realized my house had words on the roof. These legos can hold a
child's attention routed to literacy without his or her knowledge,
thus providing them with more exposure and practice, and making
reading fun.

It is my belief that organizations, and schools helping young
students, or students with multi-disabilities should own a set of
Tack-Tiles. If anyone has any questions or an interest in this
product, please don't hesitate to email me off list at:
daydreamingncolor at gmail.com
Or, visit the Tac-Tiles home page at:

Aziza Cano

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