It’s tough teaching kids to read, but try teaching them to read with their fingers, then add in the fact they live in remote locations and attend school over the internet.
Tracey McCann is head of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Teleschool which teaches vision impaired children to read braille.
“Braille is not an easy skill to learn and can be quite tedious as any skill is,” Ms McCann said.
Even with major technological advancements, like voice-activated phones and in-home technology, Ms McCann said it is still crucial for children to learn to touch read.
“Braille cannot be replaced by auditory means. Braille is literacy, it’s learning to read.” she said.
“Listening things is not the same as reading, so it’s very important for cognitive development, for concept development and being able to be literate.”
The added challenge is the children the Teleschool teachers are learning remotely, from their home computers, across Australia.
“They’re often living in very small remote, regional towns and because of that they don’t have access to the professionals with the skills in vision impairment or hearing impairment, particularly in braille.”
A camp for learning braille
Teachers from the RIDBC school teleconference families throughout the country with kids often learning specialist skills alongside their parents and siblings.
And for the first time, 142 children, gathered in Sydney for the past week on a special camp to develop their finger-literacy skills.
Kids as young as three joined in at the camp with children joined by their family and have come together to inject some fun into learning braille.
Children have been using traditional tools including reading braille books and cards, but have also been practicing on more modern equipment including a device called a Braille Sense.
It acts as a computer where the user presses down on refreshable braille dots to form sentences.
The document can then be sent via Bluetooth signal to a printer or a braille embosser, and is used by many visually impaired students to complete assignments.
Other camp-goers have been practicing climbing stairs without the assistance of a cane and honing everyday skills like cutting fruit and vegetables.
Award-winning braille writer
Father, mother, Josh and his brother Ben sitting as Josh reads a braille book.
PHOTO: The Wood family, with Josh (centre) reading braille. (ABC News: Jackson Vernon)
The Wood family travelled from Brisbane to attend the camp.
Josh Wood has been making strides in learning braille and his mum Jenny said the camp was crucial for his development.
“It’s a chance to consolidate his braille skills but even more than that to get together with children from around the country who are going through similar issues and things as himself.”
“[Teachers] can see how Joshy is going and do activities that are going to make it a really enjoyable learning experience,” she said.
Josh and his brother Ben were both recently invited to meet with the Duchess of Cornwall at Buckingham Palace after successful entries into the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.
Mrs Wood believes it was the first braille entry they ever had.
Source: ABC News 19 January 2018