Skills You Should Insist Your Blind Child Learn in Their Elementary School Setting

1. Classroom organization skills are essential to your blind child's overall educational success. Instruction should include organization and orientation to the following: classroom and educational setting, group and individualized work areas, desk space, cubby, backpack, Braille materials and classroom/homework Braille folders. For more information on Classroom organizational skills, see my article titled: Teacher Tips on Developing Your Blind Student's Overall Classroom Organizational Skills, by Patricia M. Brown, M. Ed.

2. Teach your child how to advocate for transcribed educational print materials in Braille format. It is essential that the Braille teacher/itinerant teacher assure a continuous flow of classroom print materials transcribed into Braille format. Transcription of class print materials demonstrates equal access to educational materials. Keep in mind that appropriate instruction must be provided to the Braille transcriber (if other than a Braille teacher or certified transcriber) to assure that Literary and Math materials are being transcribed using appropriate code, formatting and rules that govern the Braille code.

3. Instruction on the Perkin's Braille writer should include identification of the various parts of the Perkin's Braille writer, correct placement of Braille paper, development of finger strength, accuracy and speed of keyboarding skills.

4. You child will benefit from individualized Braille instruction to include: the Braille code, rules that govern the Braille code, Braille reading skills, decoding skills and Braille reading speed. Braille reading, reading speed and decoding skills should be monitored especially in the early educational years in order to evaluate reading levels and to provide remediation activities if needed.

5. Your child should participate in ongoing development of their tactual skills. Tactual instruction can include: teacher made tactual tracking worksheets or one of the many tactual tracking programs currently commercially available. Tactual tracking and tactual reading continues to require refinement through the grades beginning with very simple tactual graphics to more advanced tactual work as your child moves through educational grades.

6. Your child should participate in development of both literary and math braille code reference guide sheets. Braille reference guide sheets should be updated during Braille lessons as specific code and rules that govern the Braille code are introduced and used in class and home as a resource. This type of reference list or resource is especially useful while your child is in the process of learning the literary and math code.

7.Your child should be instructed in reading the title, author, volume number (s), contents, chapters, and page numbers of Braille books. Instruction should also include locating volume numbers and maintaining volume order for easy identification. Your child should be working towards independently locating and obtaining their own Braille books in the classroom setting.

8. Tactual instruction of the map and the atlas should be initiated early by the Braille teacher. This skill should be developed in conjunction with the teachers overall map and atlas curriculum activities. Consider introducing tactual exploration of your state map beginning with your town, local (familiar) towns and counties. Map reading should be viewed as part of the overall tactual development program for your blind child.

9. Instruction should be completed in the use of a Braille Dictionary and Thesaurus. Introduction of technology devices such as the Children's Language Master or the Franklin Language Master can be introduced as a school and home resource.

10. Instruction should be completed in the Basic reading of tactual Braille multiplication and division charts. Children benefit from specific instruction and techniques to be able to read these tables in an accurate and consistent manner.

11. Braille specific Math Instruction should include items such as:

* Quick Pick Math Drill cards- Great math practice cards that are available as math operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division activities. Students should be instructed in their use and provided with practice sets for use in the class and home setting.

* Your child will benefit from instruction of "Math Windows" that is available in basic math, algebra and geometry. Your child should be instructed in organization of the Braille tiles on the windows board, identification of the tiles, math operation signs and active use in solving math operations and then demonstrating the ability to transfer the math operation using the Perkin's Braille Writer. Math Windows is a valuable math (print/Braille) resource that can be used during simple and more complex math lessons right in the Braille lesson, class setting and home setting.

* Instruction should be completed in use of the Braille ruler and thermometer which is typically seen as early as 1st grade. Instruction should be completed in use of braille inch, centimeter and yard stick rulers.

* Instruction in the use of the Braille analog clock and use of tactual clock paper for reading and demonstrating time. Reading and demonstrating time is an essential skill and takes tactual instruction and practice.

* Basic abacus instruction should be incorporated into Braille lessons starting with a Children's Abacus and initial counting skills. Your child should be introduced to more advanced abacus skills as they advance through the math curriculum.

* Your child should be instructed in the use of the auditory calculator, keypad and functions of the calculator.

12. Instruction should be provided in the use of Talking book and Braille center materials and Learning Ally materials (formally Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) for your state. This type of instruction should include review of any devices used and return of any lending library resources such as: Braille books or talking books. I have instructed my students in everything from ordering Braille books/talking books, packing them up/appropriately replacing return label and independently bringing items up to school mail box for return. Your child should learn to access these services within the school and home setting on an as independent level as possible.

13. Qwerty Keyboarding should be introduced early as a team approach and practice skills should be integrated into classroom computer activities and Braille Note (or similar) instruction whenever possible. It should be noted that every child may not access higher level technology such as the Braille note; however, every child can have access to technology whether some type of lever accessibility option, beginning mouse instruction, keyboarding, use of programs such as: "Write Out Loud", talking typing programs or advanced technology.

14. I highly recommend instruction in developing an index card address book to include names, addresses, phone numbers and alphabetizing or ordering of names. Start with family names/phone numbers. This skill gives your child practice in organization and ordering, spelling, phone numbers and practice with braille writing of literary Braille code.

15. Signature Writing is an essential skill to develop. Start instruction in this skill early and benefit from time to refine this skill. Introduce this skill in early grades using a large piece of cardboard (similar to a signature guide) slowly reducing the size of the signature to a typical signature guide.

16. Marking skills: Your child will benefit from instruction in simple marking skills such as circling, check mark, underline and X. This type of work allows a student to indicate their selection in multiple choice tests making it an easier process for test taking for your child and easier for teacher review. Simple marking skills also allows your child to participate in simple games like tic-tac-toe. Use a tactile Tic-Tac-Toe board and change out the paper underneath after each game.

17. Calendar reading is an essential skill that can be integrated nicely into classroom morning circle time using the large kindergarten Braille/print calendar. Your child should be instructed on how to explore and read the calendar in and organized tactile manner. I also recommend that your child have access to a desk-top calendar and a home calendar. Take the opportunity to use the Braille calendar at home in a functional manner by marking special family outings, birthdays, holidays, trips and events.

18. Your child should receive instruction in basic phone keypad and phone etiquette.

19. Your Braille teacher should instruct your child in the use of technology such as: Language Masters/auditory dictionary, Victor Reader/CD readers or similar and Braille Note as appropriate.

20. Consistent teacher consultations should take place with appropriate school staff regarding classroom adaptations and modifications for inclusion of the blind student. For more information on music and art and crafts modifications-See my articles titled: Create Meaningful Art Lessons for Blind and Visually Impaired Student's by Following 15 Simple Tips and Maximize Your Blind Students Overall Inclusion in Music Class Using These Essential 12 Modifications.

21. Instruction should be provided in the playing of and rules of simple games. These types of activities help to develop social skills, turn taking, sportsmanship and just plain "fun". There are currently a variety of simple print and Braille card games "Go Fish", tactual Tic-Tac-Toe, Braille Bingo Cards and even Braille/tactual board games which can be easily incorporated into the classroom day. It is also motivating to include tactual/print & Braille activities into the regular classroom setting. Take the opportunity to have game night in your home setting to practice these skills.

22. The Slate & Stylus is a method of taking quick notes, phone numbers or jotting down short lists. This method of quick note taking may seem like a technique of the past with all of the new technology available today. The slate & stylus should still be introduced with some initial instruction as it can be valuable as a quick resource for note-taking when in a pinch.

Many of the skills noted above require ongoing refinement of that particular skill set as the child moves through grade levels, advances through their educational curriculum and develops skills through the advancements in the area of adaptive technology. The end objective is to develop your child's overall inclusion, independence and ability to self advocate in his educational setting and with life-long skills. Parent support is a necessity for a team approach and adequate transfer of skills, teaching methods and materials successfully into the home setting. The above recommendations will set your child on a firm foundation for a successful educational journey.

Article Source: Patricia M Brown

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