The Braille Monitor                                                                                               _June 1997

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Can Braille Change the Future?

by Denise Staulter

From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the March, 1997, Michigan Focus, a publication of the NFB of Michigan. Denise Staulter is an experienced teacher of blind students. She has received and read NFB publications for some time now, but the Michigan affiliate's fall convention last year was her first actual contact with members of the organization. It is obvious from the following article, however, that, like many others of us, she was a Federationist long before she joined the organization. This is what she says:

As an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired, I often teach my students for many years. More than four years ago, I met a lovely little girl in her second year of school who had very little usable sight for reading. Before she came to me, she had the use of a closed circuit television (CCTV) and other magnifying equipment but was not doing well in school because of her lack of sight and inefficient skills for coping with this visual impairment. The first six months we worked together she constantly talked about quitting school as soon as she turned sixteen. She hated school so much because she couldn't do anything.

I started teaching her Braille as intensely as I thought she could handle. I knew that, when she had something she could actually use in school, she would begin to enjoy academics like her classmates. After a year and a half and the acquisition of a great deal of Braille knowledge, she was able to read books like the rest of her peers. She finally began to enjoy school. She was still behind academically and struggled with school but insisted every time the class had a particular book that she also have it in Braille so she could "read it like them." She now delights in showing sighted peers how to read Braille in her books and write Braille words on her Brailler. This has also become quite a self-esteem builder.

She is also a very accomplished typist for her age. Typing is a skill she needs right along with her Braille, so she can produce work for her regular education teacher and turn it in along with her peers. When her regular teacher asks her to write something, she does not hesitate to go to her computer and generate her work, knowing she can do the work as her sighted counterparts do.

This student has progressed from constantly talking about quitting school to chatting about going on to college, just because she knows she can get the material she needs and do the work like others. I often wonder, if she and other students like her had begun Braille when their sighted peers learned their letters at age three or four, how much more successful might she and they have been?" Would she have suffered constant struggle and hatred of school for two to three years because of her lack of the essential skills needed by a visually impaired student? Such speculation is fruitless. We must not look back; we must look forward in order to help other pupils.

As teachers we must constantly look into the future of our students to make sure they will have the skills they need to be successful people. Our ultimate goal is, "...The success of all children through appropriate educational practices, equipment, and technology."