Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Edible Braille

Have you ever tried edible Braille? Are you looking at your computer screen wondering what in the world it even is? Edible Braille is mini M&Ms making Braille cells on sugar cookies. Yummy for little kids and it's a great activity for the whole family. I recently did an edible Braille module at my siblings weekend in May. You can do this in your own family, church and best yet, in the classroom as a sensitivity training.

Pictured above is Lauren A.,
a great PE teacher who often teaches at my sports programs

Here's some ideas on using edible Braille as a teaching tool:
1. Don't open the M&Ms just yet!!
Before you whip out the M&Ms (and lose everyone's attention...), ask family members, siblings or classmates to talk about what Braille is. Also, ask everyone to share specifically about what the child actually sees. For example, at siblings weekend I asked the sighted sibling about their blind sibling. I asked them what could they see and to describe what they understood about their siblings' vision impairment. It was a great way to get an idea of what the siblings understood about their blind sibling.

2. Set the groundwork for understanding Braille.
I like to use The Braille Trail from AFB. I like to get my families understanding about the basics of Braille and then do some of the activities from the book. Here's a great idea: I don't give out the alphabet cheat sheets with the numbers listed on the Braille cell. I simply tell them the order of the numbers within the Braille cell. I make the person ask the Braille reader what the letter is. (For example, the siblings had to give their blind sibling the dot combination). This allows the Braille reader to be top dog and it includes them a lot in the activity. Click here for more info on The Braille Trail.

3. Discuss the importance of developing good tactual skills for Braille.
Again at siblings weekend, I paired up the siblings for a touch skills challenge. I put a ton of random items in a box and blindfolded both of them. They had to reach in a using their tactual skills only identify as many items as they could. It was quite a fun challenge and it was a great way to have siblings working together. My Braille readers are usually better so once again, this gives them a little bit of confidence boost too!

4. Finally edible Braille!
I like to leave edible Braille with the actual cookies to the very end. It's a fun activity that everyone can enjoy. I print out a lot of alphabet Braille cards so everyone can make their letters. Special note: be careful to observe your blind students' daily living skills. This can be a very visual activity and if your blind child doesn't have good spreading skills and stuff, this can be kind of messy for them and they may get quiet. How do we fix this? I use simulator goggles for the sighted students. You can use a variety of things for simulators if you don't have access to the simulator kits. You can use bubble wrap, color one of the goggles eyes black, tape half of the goggle eyes, etc. to simulate vision impairment. And they can't cheat and take off their simulators!! Parents take a note: If your child with the vision impairment is struggling with spreading, start working on that skill! It's one of those multi-functional skills that I make sure all my students have.

1. One package of sugar cookies. Skip the baking--there is so much to do with this that store bought just makes it easier!
2. Frosting--look for some with a good smell or enhance it by adding peppermint so that it's more appealing to our blind students.
3. Mini M&Ms. I've done this a lot and M&Ms just work the best!
4. Cutlery, napkins, etc.
5. Braille resources. I like the Braille Trail! Lots of good activities (and remember, don't make the alphabet Braille cheat sheet. Have everyone go to the Braille reader and practice using the dot combinations!)

Do it at home: There are lots of people in the family that don't get the opportunity to really learn about Braille. This is a great family home evening idea. Invite extended family, baby sitters and other care givers to participate. This is also a great multi-age group activity. Little kids love this (they just need more help) and older kids get creative with what they do with their Braille. Fun for everyone!

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