There are no words to really explain the feeling of having a blind child softly, gently, but persistently ask for his /o/ and /m/ and /s/ back after the Souns materials were put away at the conclusion of one brief encounter of perhaps 20 minutes. He had learned the three letter-sound associations after just one introduction, would not give up the materials without resistance, and now wanted them back. How wonderful!
Our visit to the well known and beautifully established Prinshof School for the Blind in Pretoria, South Africa, was quite unbelievable for everyone – teacher, students, and Rotarians. We were there as a result of a literacy project funded by a Rotary Global Grant. Our purpose was to introduce the teacher of the preschool class to the Souns program. Souns was designed through consultation with Vincer Cotton of the Macon School of the Blind in Macon, Georgia. There is Braille on the face of each letter. However, this was the first opportunity we have had to train a teacher in the Souns program for a class of blind preschoolers. The teacher was tentative until she saw how immediately the children took to the materials. She was so excited to see associations being made so quickly. We were equally excited. The children were engaging with the materials in a natural, hands-on way – touching the Braille, exploring the shapes, manipulating the three letters introduced. One child who was identified as a non-talker verbalized the sound of each letter.
Unlike a group lesson for sighted children where a different sound of those being introduced can be given to each child, each blind child was given one of each of the sounds introduced during the lesson. After thoroughly handling the three letters individually, each child placed his or her /o/m/s on the floor in front of of him or her in random order and was asked to find the /o/ or the /m/ or the /s/. None of the six children in the group made an error in choice! One even jubilantly picked up one of the letters and announced its sound!
The world of teaching pivots on moments such as we had at Prinshof! Thank you RC Pretoria East (D9400), RC Peachtree City (D6900), RC’s Coweta-Fayette, East Cobb, and North Fulton (D6900) and the Rotary Foundation for such possibilities.