11 Oct Reading Braille with Special Hands
I am always blessed when teaching. I love teaching and seeking out the best methods that will help my students the most keeps me going, so I have to phrase this next sentence carefully because all my students bless me in different ways.
In the last few years, I have been so incredibly blessed by one particular child. The second grade teacher had gotten a hold of me at the end of the school year, saying this particular student was having a great deal of difficulty seeing and accessing her school work and wondered if I had any ideas for her. This young lady was not on grade level and struggled with everything. She has a condition where she was very small and has partial limbs; she had a useable finger, and half-useable thumb on one hand and a tiny finger extension on the other fixed limb. She had had many facial surgeries and just many surgeries in general. I could easily pick her out when I walked into the room. I just watched her for some time, in her adorable pink outfit, on her tiny frame. She had figured out how to grasp a pencil and was leaning over about 2 inches from her paper, slowly but surely printing out letters. When recess came, I asked if she would stay in with me and she agreed. The first thing I always ask children is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She immediately replied, "A Princess." I smiled. Of course. Most girls want to be a princess. She was just like everyone else. We all are inside and it does not matter what the outside looks like.
Because it was the end of the school year and she had several more surgeries scheduled, I could not begin instruction with her until the middle of third grade. During the fall, I worked with the special education teacher, the Para educator and mom; teaching them braille and the technology that she would be using. She had an incredible team, all dedicated to her success.
After Christmas, as we began instruction, I noticed that the "finger" on her one fixed limb did not really have receptors to read braille, so I was depending on that one little finger on her other hand to read. I did have her use that special finger on the other limb to track the braille as she read with her right finger so she could create some type of speed. Over a couple of years and a lot of braille reading and computer instruction, that wonderful brain created enough nerves in that "finger" to start reading braille or at least the first word or two of each sentence. She increased her reading speed to 115 words per minute with LOTS of practice. Those tiny little fingers started to fly across the page. Her computer skills accelerated her also and with her blind skills, she is now on grade level. I might add that she has the most supportive mom who followed through on every lesson I handed out. Truly, her team of people at school and home has contributed greatly to her success.
She has become one of my brightest shining stars…literally. She is the first student I try out my new technology adventures with and she loves it. She can email, text or SKYPE me, which has become her favorite mode because of its accessibility features and when she is in school, she can text me to ask how to solve a problem. With a simple reply, she can fix whatever her issue is within seconds. She gets it, remembers and is now excelling and succeeding in life. Where humans place such value on beauty, her brains and abilities now can take her further than any pageant queen.
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