These discussions and information change between braille experts took place during the EBU Braille Workgroup meeting in september 2022 in Madrid. Each discussion lasted one hour. This article represents the notes of the discussion with useful information and resources gathered during the meeting.
Moderator: Reiner Delgado
Teaching Braille of children means not only learning the Braille code but learning to read and to write and doing this with Braille.
Braitico program created by ONCE:
The program Braitico focuses on the support of the learning of children in mainstream schools. The material and methods is used by mainstream teachers and also by teachers of special education who visit the mainstream school. The development of the program is payed by ONCE. The work of special teachers is payed by the state. 99% of blind children visit mainstream schools; there is only one special centre in Madrid to support children separately for a limited time.
Braitico is an universal program for the development of blind children from birthe to 8 years.
Braille teaching is based on 10 key concepts, which have been the basis for the development of the materials included in “Braitico”.
- Literacy. It implies the acquisition of a reading and writing code for the attainment and exchange of intellectual, social and emotional experiences. It starts when the blind child is born and it extents (in the case of Braitico) up to the age of 13.
- The right to learn. As stated in Art. 24.3.a of the “Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities”. This must be implemented by teachers and relatives.
- Educational Neuroscience. It is the application of neuropsychology’s new discoveries to the field of education. One of them being that Braille acquisition has a significant influence on oral language stimulation, especially up to the age of 3; and that the learning of a code shouldn’t be done in isolation, but as part of a wider range of life experiences: this will improve its understanding as well as reading and writing efficacy.
- Inclusion. Real inclusion does not only entail children with a visual impairment being part of mainstream classrooms: people around them should understand and respect their individual needs. The materials we present are flexible and versatile so they can be adapted to each student. At the same, time they have been designed to be attractive and interactive so that non-disabled classmates and teachers should find them appealing too.
- Interest and motivation. We should avoid at all costs the stress attached to all learning: materials and teaching techniques employed must give the child enjoyment and a sense of wellbeing; this will allow for knowledge and experiences to become fixed in the child’s memory, allowing for memory retention and the desire to repeat those experiences.
- Learning must be student-centred. The student, and not the school, must be the one who sets the rhythm and priorities regarding her or his learning process.
- Flexibility. The new techniques for teaching Braille present a flexible methodology which can be adapted to the student’s needs, the school’s resources and it allows for materials to be exchanged, replicated and modified by professionals.
- The family. Cornerstone of Braille literacy: they must support the child’s desire to discover the world, to explore what’s around them, encouraging them to read and write about whatever interests them. Braille must be part of the child’s world from day 1, by labelling those elements the child has access to, presenting the child with storybooks with Braille, so the child will want to understand it and decipher it.
- The teacher. Another key part of this teaching system: they must be aware of the consequences of the methodology used and of their attitude towards the learning process. The teacher is the mediator between the child and her or his surroundings, which must be made enjoyable to the child, acting as a companion in learning, showing the child how to learn from her or his mistakes, encouraging the child, observing him or her and keeping the child’s stress levels under control. Besides, the teacher should be prepared to update his knowledge, seek guidance and work as part of a team.
- A new approach to Braille. Braille is not boring or difficult to teach or learn: it opens the doors to knowledge, creativity and exchange, allowing contact with others.
The structure and materials of Braitico include activities prior to Braille: introductory activities to reading and writing, as well as efficacy-related activities. Those children whose literacy medium is print can also benefit from this method. ICT is used as one of the available tools for learning: all teaching materials for teachers are integrated in each module’s “software” and there are computer resources for all four stages, so children from the age of 2 or 3 can interact with them through the use of digitizer tablets and Braille displays.
It is divided into four modules; each module has a specific goal and targets a particular age group. Each module includes fun and inclusive materials suitable for tactile perception. Each module also includes a software programme associated to it with its corresponding teaching guide.
- Module 1 manitas little hands (0 to 2 years).
Literacy and pre-Braille skills. The objective is to arouse the baby’s interest in the world and to offer experiences to the babies who commence their literacy process. The teacher will find the programme includes goals and activities, divided by age group or subject area, with songs and rhymes which can be reproduced from the app. This module does not include manipulative materials, as it should be possible to use the materials already available in schools and nurseries; however, the module includes guidelines so that some manipulative toys and storybooks can be made at home.
- Module 2 a punto On the dot (2 a 4/5 years).
Braille pre-reading and writing. The goal is to initiate a learning process which moves from the tridimensional to the two-dimensional plane, to the Braille cell and to Braille. Materials for this module come in a plastic case with wheels and includes storybooks, rhymes, poems, songs, tongue-twisters, riddles and activities aimed at tactile development based on tasks like: find this one, find another one like this, find the one which is different, follow the dotted line, etc. It also includes a flannelgraph (My Folder), on which you can play with parts similar to those of a puzzle, inviting the child to create and arrange sequences by focusing his attention. It is decorated with Braiticones, Braille dots similar to emoticons. It also includes ideas for parents and teachers, like an egg carton with six balls imitating the Braille cell and the customized Perkins Brailler.
- Module 3 braileo Braille I read (4/5 a 7/8 years).
The goal is: I learn to read and write in Braille. It comes in a trolley-type case children can handle easily. It includes Braille and print storybooks as well as raised materials, together with reading workshops (small notebooks) and a very attractive set of activities. One of the tools used for children to learn the Braille alphabet is Maripoints, a butterfly which has 6 round holes, three on each wing, in which the child can place round magnets to form the different letters of the Braille alphabet. Besides, the wings, which are also mobile, can be moved on the panel the butterfly is on and can be positioned in the shape of a Braille keypad, like that of a Perkins Brailler, which allows the child to understand the relation between the position of the dots vertically and horizontally when writing Braille. There is a poster with the alphabet both in Braille and raised print, as well as a magnet for each letter with an object or animal related to each letter. The poster is designed to hang in the child’s classroom, so he can also enjoy placing the magnetic object every time he learns a new letter. Finally, the module also includes several notebooks, e.g. Little Words (for the creation of simple words by combining letters) and Numbers.
- Module 4 Superbraille (7/8 to 13 years).
The goal is to reinforce Braille reading and writing skills, so it can be used in an effective, useful and pleasurable manner, making it fully functional. Contents are presented in a yellow folder and are based on learning through activities which take place in and around a shopping centre, Braille Centre, including a plan of the centre, encouraging the child to carry out tasks which involve reading, improving reading comprehension, efficacy, use of information, comprehension of embossed materials, etc. It includes resources for the student which can be printed out from the app (calendars, timetables, etc.) and a book, Movingletters, for the learning of more complex words. The app and independent use of ICT becomes more prominent in this module: the use of the Braille display and the digitizer tablet is more decisive here than in previous modules.
The moduls consist of a software wich provides digital Braille wich you can read with a Braille display or print out, audio material and a lot of real material. There is so a touchpad on wich you can put tactile foils and do interactive excersizes.
There are educative toys like Braillein, a doll with 6 dots on the belly wich you can push in and out. Maripoint is a butterfly to help children understand wich key on a Perkins Brailler makes wich dot. A see-saw with E-lefant and I-guano helps to distinguish e and i.
The Braille teaching section offers a tactile book with a storry for each letter. It processes the shape and sound or special function of the letter. For example the letter h in Spanish is not mood. The storry explanes this.
TaststraĂźe zur Punktschrift” (tactile street to Braille) by Prof. Markus Lang.
Presentation of the materials to train pre-reading skills like tactile strategies wich you have in the “TaststraĂźe zur Punktschrift” (tactile street to Braille) by Prof. Markus Lang. The materials are closely explained in German on the DBSV website of the program.
Tactile children books of DBSV
In general the tactile books of DBSV have the following attributes:
- text parallel in ink print and Braille;
- taktile representations as 3D as posible;
- design in different materials as natural as posible;
- interactive storries wich animate the children to act with and improve there motorik skills and intellectual learning;
(Recommendations)how to make this type of books
Two books of these tactile books were presented and explored by the participants:
- “Teresa und der Blutmohn”: the adventures of a blind super hero girl
- “Imke fliegt zur Sonne”: storry of a bie with many information about the life of bies
BRAILLIK is a teddybear created by Martin Dvorecký to learn interactively the Braille alphabet. The bear has at its belly 6 buttons in configuration of the Braille cell. You can press the buttons and they lift as dots. The toy pronounces the letter and says and object beginning with the letter.