By: Carmen Willings
The development of tactual exploration and discrimination skills are necessary for future braille readers. It is also important for students with cognitive disabilities who may not be able to learn formal braille, but can learn to discriminate objects by touch to help make sense of their world or to use for communication.
Locate & Explore Objects
One of the first steps in becoming independent and reaching out to tactually explore the world is for students to attempt to reach out and locate objects. The facilitator may need to assist the student in developing an interest in locating objects. One primary way is to not retrieve objects for the student. If the student loses an object, provide a sound source to help the student locate the object, or touch the object to the student, but encourage them to reach for and obtain the object. This is part of the student beginning to understand object permanence.
Encourage students to:
The Importance of & Tactual Discrimination Finger Sensitivity
When preparing for braille literacy, it is important to develop tactual discrimination skills and finger sensitivity. The development of tactual discrimination skills follows an order from larger to smaller that is similar to the development of the hands and fingers. It begins with using the whole hand to explore objects and progresses to using fingers and fingertips to examine the details of tactile materials. Students with limited sensitivity in their fingers may not be good candidates for braille reading. There are a variety of diagnosis that can cause numbness or reduced sensitivity in the fingers. This will be a factor in determining if a student will be a candidate for formal braille instruction.
Tactual discrimination usually follow the following sequence:
Identify, Compare & Organize Objects
Encourage the student to begin to identify, compare and organize objects and toys they are exploring. Talk to the student about different temperatures, weights and textures and encourage them to locate identical or similar materials. Draw the student's attention to where toys and materials are located and encourage them to locate the objects and put them away in their correct place. Encourage students to begin identifying and naming objects. Once they are successfully able to identify objects, begin to transfer this skill to embossed shapes, and then outlined shapes.
Developing Tactual Discrimination & Finger Sensitivity
You can help the development of tactual discrimination and finger sensitivity by providing many opportunities throughout the day for the student to tactually discriminate materials and compare similarities and differences, classify, and sort. Many commercially produced classroom classification kits consist of molded plastic figures that all feel the same. These lack the variety of textures of real objects. Instead, use real materials whenever possible. Using real materials that support the current topic make these activities interesting for all students!
Draw the student’s attention to textures and describe the textures. This will help the student become aware of their differences. You can help a student develop finger sensitivity and refine their tactual discrimination skills by providing them with a variety of textures to match, sort and play with and explore. When selecting toys, choose toys that are tactually interesting. Throughout the activities, provide the student with the language that connects the experience. See the Objects & Containers section for a list of materials to classify and sort.
Although real materials should always be included in each unit, you may want to purchase commercially available texture sorting materials to complement these activities.
Fill a bin or container with water, beans or sand, or unit related material. Add unit related confetti, sequins, mini bells, beads or other items in colors related to the unit or materials related to the unit. Provide the student with empty containers. Encourage the student to transfer the materials from the bin to the container using sponges in shapes related to the unit or other utensils and tools. Provide droppers, measuring cups, and various tubes for water play. Provide scoops and a variety of tools for dry material play.
Obtain a variety of textured papers, fabrics, and materials in colors related to the unit. Using the materials, create a texture match board or file folder activity.
Place unit related items in a bag. Have the student take turns reaching into the bag and identifying the item(s). Once the student has identified the objects, extend the activity by encouraging the student to match the item to the printed word. Encourage the student to have more time exploring the details of the materials. Provide two of each item and have the student match objects.
Present the student with three identical items or words from the unit and one item that is different. Encourage the student to identify what object or word is different from the others.
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Motor Activities to Develop Pre-Braille Skills
You are welcome to print and use this list of motor activities that can help develop tactual skills and pre-braille skills.
Flip-Over Concept Books: Textures
This concept book, available from APH, provides interactive, independent learning from young children as they build basic concepts and develop early tactile skills.
Scattered Crowns: Tactile Attribute Game, Available from APH is game that encourages young children to develop tactile skills.
Textured Matching Blocks, available from APH, encourages recognition of textures, identification of textures by name, and tactual matching, while reinforcing directional and positional concepts.
Occupational Therapy Tactile Discs This toy challenges children's sense of touch on both hands and feet. The tactile discs are made of synthetic rubber and contain different tactile structures. Activity suggestions for memory and recognition.
Giant Textured Beads with Pattern Matching Cards This bead and card set, available from APH, includes 12 large beads that vary in color, shape, and texture and include pattern matching cards and sorting trays.
Ruffs House Teaching Tactile Set
This texture matching toy by Learning Resources, is another fun way to practice matching textures.
Teachable Touchable Textures These textures by Educational Insights, are a fun way to practice matching textures.