Braille Literacy: Success for Everyone

Nicholas doing yard work.

Braille Literacy: Success for Everyone

My son Nicholas was born into this world with a bit of difficulty to say the least. The hows and whys are not as important as the journey that Nicholas and my family have been on since April 2006. Nicholas is an eleven-year-old boy who has multiple disabilities. His visual impairment, cerebral palsy, processing issues, and epilepsy are just hurdles he tackles, not his defining characteristics. Braille has been the key to his successful journey both in and outside of the classroom.

I can briefly explain how Nicholas became a competent Braille reader in mainstream sixth grade. First, I would say get a team together. Sometimes it takes a village to support all the needs of children with multiple involvements. I gathered together people who had positive attitudes and wanted nothing but the best for my child. So “Team Nicholas” consisted of his teachers, a paraprofessional, a Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Mom and Dad, a connection with the Louisiana Center for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind, and numerous healthcare providers. Next, we introduced Braille in kindergarten and focused on it daily.

Here comes the critical step when instructing children with multiple disabilities: “TAKE YOUR TIME, AND THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!” Every step involved in teaching a new process to Nicholas had to be broken down. For example, when I taught him to dress himself, I couldn’t teach him to put on his shirt and his pants at the same time. First, we mastered putting on his shirt and practiced that one skill for months until he had it down pat; then we worked on the pants. This was the same process used with his Braille learning. He could master that dot 1 was a Braille a, but initially had difficulty spelling “cat” and remembering all the Braille cell combinations as well as how to spell “cat.” It was a step by step process. But little by little, he got it and continues to get better and better. Over the years, Team Nicholas has figured out the methods that give him the most efficiency and productivity.

With the help of blind role models, educators, and fellow parents, I have been able to understand all the options available to Nicholas—whether it be hardcopy Braille, refreshable Braille, screen readers, or other forms of auditory feedback. I can tell you that Braille has always played an integral part, and Nicholas would not be as successful if he had not learned the code.

Finally, don’t forget about extracurricular activities for your blind child. Thanks to LCB, I found out about the National Federation of the Blind BELL Academy, which Nicholas has attended five times during the summer. I cannot say enough about Braille enrichment programs! They have been paramount in Nicholas’ Braille reading and writing success.

If you are the parents of a blind or visually impaired child and have fears about his or her learning path using Braille, I can without a doubt tell you, you can do it and you can succeed! With passionate teachers, likeminded parents, supportive paraprofessionals, and deep-rooted connections to the National Federation of the Blind, Braille literacy is possible.

- Alison Tarver