Description of Practice Perspectives: Adaptation of the Wilson Reading System for Braille Readers
Teachers at Perkins School for the Blind have been teaching braille to students of all ages for many years. As part of this experience, the teachers at Perkins have seen many capable students of different ages struggle to learn to read and write braille. In particular, they observed students who were unable to sound out or decode words because of their own difficulty in determining what sounds to use. In an attempt to help these students improve their reading skills, teachers investigated a variety of print reading programs, and attended a Wilson Reading System introductory workshop. After beginning to use Wilson, this program was found to be a successful alternative reading program to help those students who were not reaching their potential. As teachers began using the program with more and more students, we learned that Wilson was also a helpful teaching tool for students who had other learning challenges in addition to decoding difficulties—such as weak language skills, poor comprehension skills, behavioral and attention difficulties, low motivation, and poor executive functioning skills. Wilson Language Training staff members provided invaluable support to Perkins throughout this journey, including by visiting our campus to provide additional training, answering numerous questions via telephone calls, and even providing us with electronic files of some of their instructional materials to help with the braille transcription process. As a result of the success students were experiencing through this instructional reading approach, Perkins planned a workshop that was open to all vision educators in New England. The workshop was copresented by a Wilson trainer and Perkins teachers, who demonstrated the various adaptations and modifications needed for braille readers. Given the significant amount of time it took individual teachers to prepare the instructional materials for braille readers, Perkins invited representatives from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to attend the workshop with the hope that they would be interested in producing this program in braille and large print, thus making it more readily available to teachers and students with visual impairments throughout the United States. There were many positive responses to the workshop, and the collaboration between Perkins, APH, and Wilson began.