Losing Sight in Middle School

Losing Sight in Middle School

J was in middle school a year before I had met him. He had an incredible Special Education Teacher who noticed that he was getting closer and closer to his pages of work as the months went on. She also noticed that he would not walk around in any dark places. She convinced the parents to take him to an eye doctor and sure enough, he came back with a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

There was no Teacher of the Blind in the area, so the Special Ed teacher did the research on the Internet to pull a program together for him to start teaching him Braille. A year later, I enter the scene greatly impressed with what she created. She knew someone blind so she knew how to position his fingers on the braille sheet and brailler and she picked out a wonderful Braille program called "The Braille Connection" for children who knew print but were transitioning to Braille. J had learned many letters and some contractions, but his progress was slow. J was several grade levels behind his peers and struggled with learning. He was one of the kindest gentlest people I have ever met and he had many friends. His special ed. teacher was incredibly fond of him as all people in the building and really wanted to see him succeed so was really hoping there were more tricks to teaching students braille.

He had been very active in sports but started missing the ball; or rather, the ball started hitting him because he could not see it coming. When I talked with him, he said that he noticed something funny about his seeing years ago but never said anything to his family. His family was very poor and their focus was on survival. He just did not want to burden them.

One of the biggest challenges was J did not want anyone to know he was losing his sight and he said he would not do any blind skills outside the room. This is why he was learning slowly, he only spent 1 hour a day learning blind skills at school. But, I combined his learning of hard copy braille and the brailler with the Braille Note. As soon as he put his fingers on the Braille Note, brailled a letter and it gave him verbal feedback as well as tactile, he was hooked. He was so hooked that he wanted to take it home and practice. He knew he could succeed because the Braille Note told him what he was brailling and if he made a mistake, it was easy to correct. Within 2 years, he had learned the Braille code. This child labeled "slow" learned the whole Braille code in 2 years.

To challenge him, I would give him Braille to read and he would either input it into Duxbury or the Braille Note…This is the way he did homework also. Then he got hard copy braille reading practice and brailling practice at the same time. While in school, he always wanted to use Duxbury. He could enlarge it enough to see the braille, so what he was seeing matched the braille display hooked to the computer and to what he was hearing with JAWS. With him "seeing" the braille, then hearing it, then touching it, he was able to excel in his learning.

I have discovered there are many children that need multiple ways to learn one thing. By giving a myriad of options, people excel in the process.

Lessons that will help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

  TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES


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