Future Reflections Spring/ Summer1987, Vol. 6 No. 2

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by Sally Mangold, Ph.D.

(Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the teacher's manual of The Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception And Braille Letter Recognition and is reprinted with permission of the author, Sally Mangold, Ph.D. The program, according to the author, is designed to help beginning readers become fast readers, and to help experienced Braille readers improve their reading speed. The series can be purchased from: Exceptional Teaching Aids, 20102 Woodbine Avenue, Castro Valley, CA. 94546; telephone: (415) 5824859.)

This reading program is designed to promote good two-handed reading. Research has shown that a few good Braille readers use only one hand, but the vast majority use two hands.

Performance Objectives: The following are typical of the majority of good Braille readers.

1. The student exhibits few regressive hand movements (either vertically or horizontally).
2. Uses very little pressure when touching the Braille dots.
3. Utilizes a two handed reading technique in which the left hand locates the beginning of the next line, while the right hand finishes reading the previous line.
4. Uses at least four fingers at all times.
5. Demonstrates the ability to scan efficiently when reading both a vertical and horizontal format.
6. Demonstrates the ability to read letters accurately without confusing letters1 which are mirror images of other letters.

If your student has a heavy touch try the following: Place a piece of paper on the table, ask the student to pass his hands over the paper so lightly as not to move the paper. Another suggestion would be to place plastic discs or checkers on raised line graph paper and ask the student to pass his hands over the objects so lightly as not to move the objects across the lines on the graph paper. Create your own games which would encourage a light touch.

Encourage your student to touch the dots lightly (tickle the dots). Try to help him develop a smooth movement of the hands from left to right and try to avoid having the student stop as he moves across the page.

Suggest that your student keep all fingers in contact with the paper. It should be remembered however, that some Braille readers have been known to use unorthodox hand positions efficiently. If your student displays dominant one handed reading, it may take a long time to develp the coordination and motivation required for two-handed reading. Continue to instruct your student in the two-handed method, but respect his right to experiment with other methods when he is working independently.

It is important that the school furniture fit the student. The student's elbows should be on the same plane, or perhaps a little higher than the top of the desk or table being used. If the furniture cannot be adjusted, let the student sit on several books (not Braille, of course).

Some beginning readers have little strength in their hands or arms. As a result, they may tire quickly. If this is a problem you might try the following activities.

1. Have the student punch holes all the way around a heavy piece of construction paper using a single hole punch.

2. Have the student lace from one hole to another, all the way around the border using medium weight yarn. The resulting product may be used as a placemat during snack time, or folded in the middle and used as a cover for completed work.

3. As a reinforcer for work completed satisfactorily let the student use a nutcracker to crack nuts, after which he may eat them. Start with peanuts first.

4. Cut strips of heavy construction paper (about 1/2" wide). Have the student cut across the strips with scissors to make pieces of paper. The small peices may be pasted down to decorate the folders.

5. A box containing several dozen nuts and bolts of the same size may be given to the student to put together.

Clean warm hands are important for rapid and correct Braille reading. Be certain that your student washes his hands, rinses them thoroughly, and uses a little hand lotion before beginning to read. An old hair dryer is useful on cold days to warm hands before reading. Place the student's worksheets one at a time on top of a rubber pad. This prevents the paper from slipping around the desk and thereby, promotes a light reading touch.

This is a consumable program. That is, an entire new set of Braille work sheets should be provided for each student who receives instruction through this method. The pages should be taken out of the binders and used according to the instructions in the teacher's manual. The use of the pushpins will deface the pages, but will strengthen the arm muscles and heighten the reading performance of the student. After use, the pages should be given to the students to take home. Sighted children take home completed pages every day and proudly boast to friends and family about their marvellous achievements. Visually impaired students need the same kind of reinforcement and encouragement if they are to maintain enthusiasm toward reading. Teachers will doubtlessly be tempted to keep the entire program and use it with other students. Braille becomes rubbed down easily when used with beginners. Every student deserves an equal opportunity.

Many adults think of Braille letters as reversible pairs. i.e., (w and r) etc. Never, NEVER teach a child that there are reversible pairs of letters in Braille. This requires that the student perform a double mental process when he applies his knowledge of letters to academic assignments.

Remember that one of your greatest strengths is your ability to reinforce correct reading techniques. Reinforcing incorrect techniques only shows the student what is "bad", but offers no example of the desired behavior and thereby, provides no substitute for the "bad" techniques. Reinforcing correct techniques provides an example of the goal behavior and increases the probability that the desired behavior will recurmore frequently.

Good reading skills are only mastered after years of practice. Praise your student for correct hand position when it occurs.

Remember that no program can effect maximum progress in a student without the support and enthusiasm of his teacher. I hope that you will find this program worthy of your full support and enthusiasm.

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