Should My Child Learn Print, Braille or Both? Question
In a landmark study by Dr. Ruby Ryles, she found that children who grew up reading Braille had a 44 percent unemployment rate as adults compared to a 77 percent unemployment rate among low-vision children reading print. Research Study: Early Braille Education Vital, (Ryles, R.) Future Reflections, Special Issue, 2004.
Staggering statistics confirm this trend continues year after year. In 2007, there were 57,696 legally blind students registered, and 10% (5,626) were registered as Braille readers.
While only 10 percent of blind people read Braille, as many as 90 percent of employed blind people are Braille readers. According to the Louis Braille Bicentennial–Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act, P.L. 109-257 (109th Congress), “Braille literacy aids the blind in taking responsible and self-sufficient roles in society, such as employment: while 70 percent of the blind are unemployed, 85 percent of the employed blind are Braille-literate.”
So, why all the statistics? The hub-bub? Does your child need Braille? Print? or Both?
Let’s start with the law. iii) In the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child’s future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child; Section 300.324(2)(iii) Development, review, and revision of IEP. (2) Consideration of special factors.
What does this mean? If you have a blind or visually impaired child, they SHOULD be provided Braille instruction UNLESS there is a proper evaluation (not a statement, personal opinion, nor “drive by” assessment) that proves that Braille is not needed to support the child’s current AND/OR future reading AND writing needs.
Some blind and visually impaired children are given an introduction or limited access to Braille. This is not instruction nor immersion. I typically refer to this as Braille “drive by” services. Would we allow our sighted children to be given 30 minutes of print instruction every other week?
Some blind and visually impaired children are told, “let’s wait and see” what happens. This is not looking at the future needs of a child.
Some blind and visually impaired children can read enlarged print—but their eyes tire after 10, 20, 30 minutes of reading. Do you know your child’s print and Braille reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension? If not, ask for data today.
Some blind and visually impaired children can read enlarged print, but their nose is often “inked” from reading so close. Braille is a tool that can be used when giving presentations or public speaking, rather than having to memorize or seeing a paper in front of the presenters face.
Assessment of reading and writing needs should carefully consider how a student will function in upcoming years as print size diminishes and reading demands increase. The appropriate reading and writing media must provide for effective personal communication and full participation in community, vocational, and social settings