Braille Camp helps Australian kids

Ben, Dean, Joshua and Jenny Ben, Dean, Joshua and Jenny at RIDBC Teleschool Braille Camp

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) has held an intensive Braille Week for blind and vision impaired children and their families from around Australia.

RIDBC Teleschool works with children and their families via in-home videoconferencing across Australia to give children the skills they need to access future education and employment opportunities.

For children who are blind, braille means literacy and numeracy, but it’s not easy to learn. The week aimed to immerse children in a braille rich environment, expose them to a range of assistive technology and fast track their progress.

For the children and families who attended the camp, it was also a rare chance to socialise with other families who share similar challenges.

“Families in rural or regional Australia who have a child with a disability can feel very isolated,” said Melissa McCarthy, Head of the RIDBC Teleschool. “One of the most positive outcomes from the week was seeing the parents and children socialise and interact.”

Jenny and Dean from Queensland attended the camp with their son, Joshua, who is 4. They’ve have been working with RIDBC Teleschool since Joshua was 12 months old.

“Joshua really developed his passion for braille at Braille Week. He now wants to practice braille at every opportunity – something he wasn’t interested in doing before,” said Jenny, Joshua’s mum.

“It has amazed us the difference one week has made – even his Kindergarten teacher has commented on Josh’s improvement. Although he is only young, Braille Week showed us that with the right assistance young children can learn more than you might ever anticipate.

“At first Joshua was excited about learning the letter ‘k’ – picking it up straight away. Now he is begging us to learn the letter ‘l’! Braille week also empowered and inspired my husband Dean and myself to learn Braille in order to assist Joshua. I am now planning on doing the RIDBC Renwick Centre Braille Course next year.”

Most vision-impaired or blind children attend mainstream schools and RIDBC works with schools to ensure that the children are given the necessary support. Dedicated families provide support each day.

“Parents learned about the assistive technology available for vision-impaired children as well as how to make tactile and braille books for their children. It is really important to give parents the confidence they need to help their children in the home,” said Ms McCarthy.

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children provides vital support to over 1000 children with significant hearing or vision impairment and their families across Australia. RIDBC also provides vision and hearing screening to around 2000 babies and children each year.