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In my preliminary post in this series, I discussed some prevailing myths about braille. Today, I want to focus upon the habits of highly successful braille students.

Mastery of the braille code must be done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

It’s important to keep one goal in mind when learning or teaching braille: finish the code and begin reading soon!

You’d think this would be well understood, but many manuals drag on forever. Many students spend their whole lives reading and reviewing a manual rather than completing it and moving on to true literacy.

Some recommended manuals for adults are the following: The McDuffy Reader, Braille in Brief; and Touch & Go. These three manuals have been used for years and are designed to move students through the code quickly.

Two hands, multiple fingers, and a light touch will help

The two-handed, or scissor-hand approach means starting the line with the left hand and completing the line with the right hand. When the right-hand takes over, the left hand shifts back to the beginning of the next line, allowing the reader to seamlessly move to reading the new line as soon as the right hand finishes the first line.

Both hands should be cupped slightly, and it’s important to have more than one finger on each hand following the line.

As you read, avoid rubbing up and down, called scrubbing. Focus on allowing your fingers to move straight across the line using the pads of the fingers where your fingerprint is located—the part the FBI likes. Because the shortest distance between two lines is a straight line, so avoiding scrubbing will help you decipher some of the lower-cell patterns without distortion.

Consistent practice and instruction speed the process along

To master braille, you must dedicate one hour to studying, reading aloud, and writing every class night. Using a slate and stylus to begin the acquisition of the code will produce good results, for writing cements the patterns in your memory. Thirty minutes of writing and 30 minutes of reading the next lesson will allow you to move quickly and competently through the code.

I usually recommend an additional five hours of study on the weekends, which will sound far less daunting once you’ve finished the code and moved on to more exciting reading material. I personally have seen students complete the entire braille code in five to six weeks, and most complete the code in four to five months. Thus, they have four to five months to read books, build competency, and increase speed. Likewise, they become competent users of the slate and stylus, too.

A residential training center away from home is an ideal setting

The best place to learn braille is at an adult training center, especially the centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota. Sometimes, the distractions in your home environment, such as work and family obligations, can hinder your progress. Investing in your learning at a training center will allow you to reap the benefits later in life.

At these centers, the braille instructors are dedicated, experienced, and innovative. The training at these centers lasts for six to nine months, and students have daily braille instruction. Additionally, each of these training centers have a large braille library collection with books of every category. These centers encourage literacy skills and have many excellent mentors on staff. In a sense, they’re “factories” of braille readers!

Remember this: braille is not instant grits…it is a crockpot

Steady, consistent study will bring wonderful success in just a few short months, but it does mean work and dedication. Many students who attend the NFB centers double or triple their initial reading rates, and those who learn braille from scratch reach reading rates of between 40 and 100 words per minute in just six to nine months.

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Jerry Whittle
Jerry Whittle, a Louisiana native, is instructor emeritus at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston.

One Response to “How to Learn Braille in 6 Months: 4 Habits of Highly Effective Students”

  1. David F

    I like the crockpot comparison. I’d mention Grade 3 braille, but no software really can produce that and it appears to be a nearly lost art.

    Reply

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