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Strategies for Teaching with Braille & Tactile Graphics

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Braille and tactile graphics are tools for visually impaired students to learn to work with comfortably. This lesson offers information and suggestions for using these tools in the classroom.

Learning to Read

How do you begin to build the foundations of reading for an average child? To an infant, letters are just random markings with no meaning. What is the process for beginning to connect meaning to those markings? Most early learning specialists recommend reading to children and surrounding them with toys that give them the ability to work with and associate letters with things in their world.

What about blind children? Do they learn to read differently than other children? The simple answer to this is yes and no. No, they don't learn differently in the sense that they need help making connections between letters or words and things in their world. Yes, because they must learn to read through their sense of touch, using tactile input tools, and this can take extra training.

Tactile Input Tools

Braille is a tactile input tool consisting of patterns of raised dots representing letters and concepts. People who are blind or visually impaired can learn to identify the individual patterns of dots just as sighted people can learn to identify the patterns of markings that represent letters. In this way, the visually impaired can learn to read, literally, through their fingertips.

Tactile graphics are tactile input tools that enable blind or visually impaired children to explore maps, pictures or graphs that are not based in words.

Following are strategies and examples for learning and using braille and tactile graphics in the classroom.

Modeling and Exposure

Modeling reading and literacy behaviors to children encourages them to take up these activities themselves. Ensuring that children are exposed to literacy tools gives them the opportunity to practice what has been modeled.

Modeling

All children should be read to daily from the earliest age. This is the first step for all literacy. It is common, when reading with a young child, to follow the words with your finger so that the child can follow along and begin to make connections between the lines on the page and the words you are saying.

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