When my son was diagnosed as blind one of the first things I did was started teaching myself braille. I remember being at an LCA conference in Cleveland when Ivan was 14 months old and one of the moms of an older boy told me to not worry about it. She said, “I’ve tried teaching myself braille multiple times and I always forget what I’ve learned.”
Well, she was right. I was dedicated to keeping up with it… and then other things would take precedence… and then I’d be right back at square one again learning the basic alphabet.
Part of the reason for my slow learning curve was because braille is difficult (I know you’re not supposed to say that, but it’s true). You need to learn not only the alphabet, but also all the contractions and wordsigns. But even more to the point… learning braille was BORING. The books and flashcards I had weren’t fun at all. I remember being a kid and loving all the silly letter worksheets we had to do or watching monsters on Sesame Street sing about sight words. It was so much fun I didn’t even know I was learning!
So why doesn’t someone invent a fun, interactive and playful way to learn braille? Yes, good TVIs are great at making up games and doing fun braille lessons with individual students… but if you’re working on this at home on your own, what do you do?
Sensory Sun first got started with Exploring Braille with Madilyn and Ruff, an interactive app that teaches the alphabet letters and how to create them in braille. It works with a refreshable braille display and you can earn dog bones to feed to Ruff the dog!
But Sensory Sun wasn’t finished with their app ideas. As kids move beyond letter recognition they need help putting letters together, spelling and learning contractions. Braille Bee, to the rescue!
Braille Bee is the perfect sequel to Exploring Braille. Once your kids (or yourself for that matter) have mastered the braille alphabet it’s time to start putting it all together. Braille Bee introduces five fun word games that encourage kids to read and spell as well as multiple settings options that allow parents and teachers to adapt the games to their kids and give them room to grow and learn.
Some things that set Braille Bee apart:
- Choose from four different word lists, including UEB wordsigns, sight words or even seasonal word lists
- Play in uncontracted, UEB contracted or print
- Connect to a refreshable braille display
- Works with VoiceOver while also offering in-app voicing
- Learn to listen, read and write!
The app features fun music, a voice that helps you choose your games and navigate through the menus and even some cute buzzing bee sound effects placed throughout. I’m terrible at contracted braille and actually found myself learning how to recognize simple words like “but,” “can,” and “do” because I was having fun (and I like the little happy sound you get when you answer a question correctly). Go figure! Fun and rewards help with learning!
Each of the five games helps kids focus on their braille skills in different ways:
- Spelling Bee: You’re given a word and asked to spell it correctly.
- 3 in a Row: Listen for a word then find it in a grid of words displayed – when you get 3 words in a row you win!
- Word Search: Listen for a word then find it in a list of twelve words – look carefully because your word may be there more than once!
- Braille Cell Builder: Listen for the contracted braille word then create it in one braille cell.
- Multiple Choice: Listen for a word then choose the word out of three given choices.