One major question comes up constantly in relation to Eddie. It has been posed many times by me, his Dad, his educators, therapists, family, and friends. It appears in many contexts, within many topics, and in a variety of settings. This question, which you probably guessed by my title, is “When is it time?”
“When is it time to start solid foods?”
“When is it time to potty-train?”
“When is it time to start school?”
“When is it time to tackle camping?”
You can see the list is endless and ongoing. Most children come with a built-in estimation of milestones. They’ll walk around one. They’ll lose the diapers around three. They’ll begin kindergarten at age five. Our children, children like Eddie, have to create their own timeline. There is no checklist we can use for measurement, and no criteria we can compare to; we have to make it up as we go.
The latest question that has been posed by me, and many others that care about Eddie, is “When is it time to teach braille?” This is not a question that would ever be posed to your average child. “When do we teach them to read?” “When is it time to start literacy?” The answer is always…as soon as possible.
We have held this opinion when it comes to pre-braille activities. Our house is littered with braille labels, and Eddie’s collection of braille books rivals any child’s print library. Eddie has his own brailler, and spends time “scribbling” at school. We talk about braille constantly, and due to my career choice I am proficient in reading and writing braille.
We made sure that Eddie understood that braille meant something…even if he didn’t know exactly what it meant. You see, sighted children get to experience print from the moment they see a McDonalds sign, or even a traffic sign. Children who are blind need literacy presented to them. That is exactly what we have tried to do with Eddie by providing braille throughout his environment.
However, Eddie is now seven, and in the first grade. His peers are learning to read, and Eddie just hasn’t been “ready.” There are many lower-level skills that he has yet to reach. I have looked at every pre-braille checklist available to me as a teacher of the visually impaired, and Eddie appears to have a long way to go before we would be directed to start braille instruction. There’s that word again: checklist. I think I’ve already made it clear that checklists don’t apply to Eddie.
So, I have come to a solution that could be debated by some educators, but feels right to me. Eddie needs to start learning braille. He is seven, and if I wait for every pre-braille checklist to be marked off before he starts learning to read, he may never have the chance. Literacy is the foundation we build our education upon. I refuse to not give my son an opportunity to access that foundation.
Will Eddie ever read for fun? Will Eddie ever read textbooks? Will Eddie ever request a braille copy of a magazine? I don’t know. However, I do know that he needs braille in his life to ever have the chance to ask. So, to answer the question, “When is it time to teach braille?” The time is now. I’m marking it on Eddie’s timeline. First Grade: Began braille instruction.
If you happen to be asking yourself, “When is it time?” It probably already is. Our kids need opportunities to be successful, and high expectations. If we continue to ask questions, and never act upon them, they’ll never move forward. We need to push them, so they can succeed and mark all the boxes on their self-created checklists.