How do you introduce the skills needed to learn braille to a child who doesn’t like to explore by touch? Sharon Macleod explains.
At RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning we began using the Fantastic Fingers programme in 2012 through our outreach service. Fantastic Fingers is devised by Janice Fellows, Carol Grice and Charlotte Hollis at Birmingham Sensory Support Service.
The Fantastic Fingers scheme delivers a structured approach to teaching the skills needed to enable a tactile learner to begin to read and write braille. We had used the scheme when teaching a student who was already using braille but now wanted to use it with a child considered to be “tactile defensive” (disliking touch) to see if it could help to develop his tactile discrimination skills and improve his engagement and exploration with a range of objects.
The pupil concerned was aged seven, diagnosed with autism and had little or no functional vision. When first observed, his fine and gross motor skills did not appear developed and his engagement with objects was very limited. We decided that the Fantastic Fingers skills checklist was a good assessment and teaching tool to review the current skills he may already possess and potentially develop.
The skills checklist begins with assessing or teaching tactile discrimination skills based upon being introduced to books and objects or textures on a page. It then develops teaching towards matching textures, sorting objects into shapes and sizes, moving to fine sorting tasks such as threading and fastening and finally moving towards trailing on a page or reading braille.
The success and impact of this scheme has been very impressive for our outreach service, known as “Periscope”. The pupil we piloted the scheme with is now successfully learning to read and write grade 1 braille within a year of being labelled a defensive tactile learner.
We use this teaching programme in line with our functional vision and tactile learning programme both in school and out. We recognise not all students will become braille users, but through the scheme, students may be able to develop their engagement with objects and haptic (touch) skills.
We are now designing a resource pack for each pupil, with skills being overlapped for each lesson, ensuring that key discrimination skills underpin teaching and learning programmes.
Contact Pears outreach service by emailing [email protected]
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