In the introduction, we discussed the results of research that showed that blind children who learned to read and write using Grade One Braille had higher test scores than children who learned to read and write using Grade Two Braille. There were no exceptions. It continued over time. For those who later switched to Grade Two Braille, their better test scores still continued after several years.
Many children have become excellent braille writers and readers using Grade Two Braille from the beginning. No one can deny that. However, they could have been better braille writers and readers sooner and benefited from all the positives that emerge from early success, if they had started with alphabetic braille.
Other children have NOT become excellent braille readers and writers using Grade Two Braille from the beginning. No one can deny that either. Some of them never achieved good skills. However, they could have become better braille writers and readers and benefited from all the positives that emerge from early success if they had started with alphabetic braille and continued to use it.
Everyone benefits when children learn Grade One first. The brighter benefit, the slower benefit, the learning disabled benefit. Those who learn Grade Two later on benefit. Those who remain with Grade One benefit. Those in integrated settings benefit. Those in special settings benefit. Those in whole language programs benefit. Those in phonics programs benefit. Good spellers benefit. Poor spellers benefit. Those with low self-esteem benefit. Parents benefit. Everyone benefits.
With Grade One Braille the blind child can follow the same program as primary classmates. If the class emphasizes whole language the child can fit in much sooner. If the class emphasizes phonics, the child can fit in much sooner. If the class uses basal readers, the child can fit in much sooner. The ideal program uses some of all the above.
Because of the nature of braille, phonics becomes much more important for the braille user. Remember – the braille reader can see only one character at a time – not whole words and phrases. The letters must be perceived one at a time and then put together. The knowledge of letter sounds and group letter sounds is essential.
Because of this importance of phonics, the following section will give some practical suggestions for adaptations for helping braille using children develop automatic phonics skills.