The Progressions of Tactile Learning: A Checklist of Early Tactile Skills for Pre-Braille
DEBRA: Progression of tactile learning, creating a tactile profile. Hello, my name is Debra Sewell and I'm the curriculum director at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Texas USA. My co-presenters from our outreach department are Ann Adkins, Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen. In this session, we're going to share a newly developed checklist of crucial early tactile skills. This checklist can be used to create an individual tactile profile of a student that identifies strengths and needs related to tactile learning and to the development of pre-Braille skills in students who are chronologically and/or developmentally functioning between the ages of birth to five years old, who have struggled with the acquisition of tactile skills and have not made expected progress, or who may be considered nontraditional tactile learners or nonreaders. In addition to the checklist, resources for evaluation and activities for instruction will be provided for each skill. We want to share some of the reasons for creating this tactile profile. As teachers of students with visual impairment, we've discovered that our students frequently struggle with the acquisition of the prerequisite skills for tactile learning and literacy. In the best of all worlds, children will have meaningful experiences that facilitate development of motor, tactile and visual skills, as well as language acquisition and concept development. When children with visual impairments are not provided these opportunities and sufficient experiences, teachers of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialists must be prepared to address these gaps. There are no shortcuts. Real hands on do it myself experiences are vital and as we know, it takes many experiences of a similar type to develop one concept. If students aren't provided with meaningful experiences to build motor skills, meaningful language skills, basic concepts and tactile skills then Braille or print will hold little meaning. In our collective years of teaching students with visual impairment, we have found that there is a need to identify and target specific tactile skills for students who are struggling with the acquisition of these skills, as well as those who are not making expected progress. On slide two we discuss our guiding principles on this slide there's a quote, Literacy emerges throughout a lifetime in a seamless process by Caitlin McMunn Dooley and the Anna Swensson book, beginning with Braille, the bullets state every tactile learner is potentially literate. Students function along a continuum, a fluid continuum of motor, tactile, conceptual and emotional skills. These are not disconnected skills. They are sequential, contingent and interdependent. To us, that first quote means that as we change and grow we learn new literacy skills that enable us to function in that phase of our lives. We want to emphasize that all learners can be literate at their functioning level and that literacy takes many forms, gestures, objects, tactile symbols, Braille. Tactile learners develop literacy skills along this continuum, this fluid continuum of motor, tactile, conceptual and emotional skills as they grow and they learn new skills. These skills are not disconnected. They are highly connected. They are sequential. They are contingent upon one another and they're interdependent and they are the foundational skills for pre-Braille. So, in order to encourage our student movement along this continuum, educators and families must systematically promote and provide increased opportunities for movement, interaction and stimulation to children who will be tactile learners. Given this, a student's overall cognitive, emotional and physical development may have a significant impact on how and why a student uses their hands. So, we must look at all of those skills. When children are provided tactile stimuli paired with human interaction, they begin to develop an awareness of and attention to touch. As their tactile skills develop, children learn to use and refine these skills for their own functional purposes, such as locating, exploring, recognizing, comparing, communicating and organizing. It is imperative that we define where students are functioning along this continuum in order to guide them on their path to literacy. It is also imperative that we have resources for further evaluation, as well as instructional ideas to address these skills. On Slide three, the title, Every tactile learner is potentially literate. The two bullets state separation of learners as either readers versus nonreaders and nontraditional tactile learners. Often our students, because they haven't had the chance to demonstrate their skill in a typical way, are categorized as nonreaders. A non-reader is defined as one who does not or cannot read, one who lacks the skills of a fluent reader, one who struggles with comprehension or ditech skills and vocabulary and often exhibits inappropriate behavior to hide or avoid literacy. Nontraditional, tactile learners could include students with multiple impairments who are not and may never be readers, as we think of in the traditional sense. But like I said in the previous slide, all learners can be literate at their specific functioning level. And we need to remember that literacy takes many forms, gestures, objects, tactile symbols and the Braille. Sara will discuss this further.
SARA: Thank you, Debra. My name is Sara, and I would like to talk to you about the reasons why we were motivated to create this checklist slide for the perception of a learner. As a non-reader, the bullets read. It dissuades people from seeing possibilities and potential from focusing on what the student can do and involving the student in literacy at all levels. We all know that language can color our perception of situations and people. When we refer to someone as a non-reader, they are then thought of differently. Once someone is categorized in this way, it may limit our ability to see the students learning potential. Calling someone a nonreader focuses on what the student can't currently do. But if we are to work with the student, we must work with what they can do. Literacy is a multilevel set of skills and like the quote Debra shared, exists along a continuum and starts at birth. When a typically sighted baby and an adult are imitating each other with gestures before the child ever learns to speak, is that literacy? When a baby is playing with their spoon and dropping it on the floor over and over again, is that literacy? Our communicative interactions, concept building and motor skill development components of literacy? We would assert that they are. Slide five. Tactile Skills. The slide bullets read acquisition does not always occur at the same time or in the same sequence for all children. Therefore, we must examine foundational skills and cognitive skills Emotional and physical and medical factors may have a significant impact on the development of tactile skills. One reason why our students do not always develop skills in a typical manner or never develop skills in some areas is that they miss out on information due to lack of access. So much incidental information that sighted people take for granted is never perceived by our students. What experiences has this child missed? How will we ever know? Well, we will know after we determine which foundational skills are missing or weak. Lack of acquisition is an indicator that the child has not had the experiences required for building those skills. A lack of foundational skills cause plateaus or roadblocks in learning. Medical intervention or illness sensory deprivation and emotional trauma may all affect cognitive and therefore tactile development. We often skip important steps and jump to what a student is not yet ready for. And then the student experiences failure repeatedly and becomes stuck. This in itself can be a form of emotional trauma. Slide six. Issues with evaluation tools, the slide reads, most do not include comprehensive evaluation of tactile skills, most do not address components of tactile learning in small enough increments. Larger increments are difficult to observe and measure. Larger increments may not be helpful for students with multiple disabilities. It is not surprising the tactile skills development is not addressed well in assessment research on the tactile system is much less robust than that of the distant senses, vision and hearing. So, we don't understand it as well. There are many great evaluation tools out there. Some have been created, especially for individuals with visual impairments. But even those may not have the standalone section on tactile skills development. If they do have this component, increments of skill development may be too large to figure out exactly where the breakdown has happened. Large increments may show a skill that is missing. But how do we pinpoint the smaller steps required to gain that skill, since these are the things that we must teach. Information from assessments with larger increments may not be useful in providing intervention for students who learn at a slower pace and show progress through smaller steps, like many of our students with multiple disabilities. The tactile profile provides a place to record what strengths a student currently has. It also provides pointers towards evaluation paired with strategies that can help you support development of the milestones that are not yet mastered. You will be able to support the intermediate skills that create the road to those milestones. Slide seven, the purpose of the tactile profile. The slide reads, to provide an observation and evaluation tool that will guide teachers to develop a better understanding of how tactile learning skills are acquired and how they progress, how gaps the learning may contribute when a learner is not making expected progress and provide instructional programing that will foster success. There are many things we have to think about when we approach the evaluation and intervention for a student for a tactile learner. We must focus on some aspects of learning that we are not accustomed to considering. We developed this tool to provide a guide for teachers who have come to an impasse in progress with a student. In order to work through this impasse. We must step outside the well-known modalities of vision and hearing and closely examine how someone learns through touch. We must also gain an understanding of the effects that gaps, and learning have on skill acquisition. With these tools in our toolboxes, we will be able to create programing that will help any students move along the literacy continuum. Now Scott is going to talk about the development and design of the tactile profile.
Scott: Thank you, Sara. You're looking at slide number eight, development of the profile. There are three bullets which read a review of existing evaluations of tactile skills, identification of chronological sequence, of tactile skills development and review of existing instructional materials. So, to begin with, we looked at over 30 existing evaluations, assessments and scholarly works, and we pulled out any references to tackle skills development. These evaluations included such things as the insight, developmental checklist, Lily Nielson's functional scheme assessment, The Oregon Project and Texas two steps, among many others. Next, after we'd gotten pulled out of all these skills from the different assessment instruments, we determined a sequence of tactile development milestones as they occur and typically developing children and use this to form the checklist. Next, we looked at a similarly high number of instructional resources that were associated with each of these tactile skills and paired these with his skills on the checklist. We did consider that the achievement of milestones does not always occur at the same rate or sequence with individual children and address this issue and the approach we use for scoring the checklist. And Ann will discuss this in more detail during her section of the presentation. So, Slide nine, organization of the profile There are five bullets, general information tactile profile questions chart, evaluation resources chart, instructional resources chart, and additional resources packet. The general information just gives some general... a couple of pages Give me some general information about how to use the chart and some information about tactical development in general. But let's look at the tactile profile questions chart. So here is slide number 10, the questions chart, and you're looking at an excerpt from the chart itself showing questions four through seven. And if you'll notice, there are four columns on the far left is a number is the numbered column in the next column to the right, there is the question itself. The column following that to the right is gives selections of yes no or don't know for scoring the question. And then on the far right, there is a column for notes. So, the question you would go in if you look question number four, it says, is there any indication of sensory integration issues and gives further information about it. You would then go to the next column, answer yes, no or don't know, and then use the final column for putting down your observations. Now, let's look at the slide. Number 10, 11, the evaluation resources. So, you notice this follows a similar format as the questions chart. It's got the number on the far left. It's got the questions in the next column. And on the far right it has. We have listed the evaluation resources that we used to find that particular skill. Now, the next slide is instructional resources and again, it follows the same call up, the same format with the number on the far left, the question in the next column and then on the far right, it has all these different instructional resources that can be used to address teaching that skill. Now Ann is going to talk about and get a little more depth about how you use it.
ANN: Thank you, Scott. I'm Ann Adkins, and I want to share some information about how to use and administer the questions chart in order to create a tactile profile for your student. Slide 13, that title, how to administer the questions chart and create a tactile profile. There are three bullets. Gather information from multiple evaluators, observe and evaluate in a variety of environments and complete the entire checklist. It is extremely important to gather information from multiple environments. Multiple evaluators, all members of a student's family and educational team know the student in different ways. For example, a child may be able to demonstrate a specific skill when they are at home with their family but might not be able to do so at school. For this reason, it's also important to observe the student and evaluate their performance in multiple environments inside and outside, in familiar places and those that are unknown at different times of the day, etc... This is another reason why it's so important for a variety of people to evaluate the student. One of our most important reminders when administering this checklist is to complete the entire checklist, as Sara mentioned, students with visual impairments often exhibit splinter skills, gaps in their performance. Demonstrating mastery of one skill, but not of a seemingly related or similar skill. Just because the student can't do one skill does not mean that you should stop answering the questions on the chart, complete the entire checklist before determining a plan for further evaluation or instruction. It is also important to remember to have a student demonstrate their understanding or mastery of a skill. Do not rely on verbal responses or anecdotal information from family or team members. Evaluators should observe each skill. Next slide. Slide 14, how to use the evaluation resources chart. There's one bullet. If the answer is don't know, use the evaluation chart to find a tool that will guide you to the answer. As Scott showed you in Slide 11 the third column of the evaluation resources chart includes a list of resources for evaluating each of the tactile skills in the questions chart. These are resources that can be used to determine whether or not the student has the listed skill. If you're not sure if the student can demonstrate a specific skill and demonstrate it to multiple environments, when you would answer, don't know when you're filling out the question start. Then use the information in the evaluation resources column to find a source or tool for gathering the needed information. The resources in this column can also be used to gather additional information about the functioning level of the student related to a specific skill. The resources listed here can help you determine if further evaluation is needed or if the student needs specific instruction related to that skill. Next slide, slide 15. How to use the instructional resources chart, if the answer is no, use the instructional resources chart to find appropriate teaching strategies, methods, activities and suggested bullets, suggested materials. That's the only bullet on that slide. This is the chart you should use if the answer to the question is no. Like the evaluation resource chart, the instructional resources chart and Scott showed you an excerpt of it in slide 12, the two columns are listed there. The second one is simply a restatement of the question. The third column provides a comprehensive list of resources for teaching a specific skill. If you had determined that this was needed when you answered the questions and completed your evaluation. These resources include activities, teaching strategies and some suggested materials to use to teach each skill. The materials listed in this column are also excellent resources for further information and additional reading about a specific skill. Next slide. Slide 16 Additional resources packet. There are three bullets in development, includes references for the resources of the charts and also includes other resources about tactile learning. All of the resources in both the evaluation resources chart and the instructional resources chart will be included in a compiled reference list. This part of our document is currently still in process. We are developing it and compiling it as we go through, and it will be available at a later date. It's also going to be a packet of additional information on tactile learning that we will provide with this document. Next slide. Our final slide contains the contact information for each of us with our email addresses from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We hope that this document will be a valuable tool when you are evaluating and teaching those students who are nontraditional, tactile learners or considered to be nonreaders or our students who have struggled with the acquisition of tactile skills. These students could be young or old, but there may simply be students for whom other evaluations didn't provide meaningful or accurate information. We hope that using this instrument will help you create a tactile profile of your student that will guide their future educational program. The skills and our questions start are the foundational skills for pre-Braille instruction. Mastering them will be crucial for students in their path to tactile literacy. We also hope that you will contact us and let us know if you use this tool with your students. And we appreciate your feedback. Please email us with any suggestions, comments or questions you might have. Thank you for joining us. We hope you will get in touch.