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Touch Pictures: Ideas For Lessons

Basic Questions

A picture can be made of raised materials, with raised lines. Can a picture of an object make sense if we only know about the picture from touch?.

A picture could be very detailed, too complicated to explore quickly via touch. Are some of the simplest pictures possible, that would make sense to the blind child?

3.Drawing materials usable by young blind children are now available. How would a blind child be likely to draw simple objects on first attempt?

Introduction: Background Information for the Educator.

There is now good evidence that raised-line pictures of common objects and arrangements of a few objects in a scene make sense to the blind child and adult with no previous exposure to pictures. The research is from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, not from one locale or school, so it is likely to be of general application. Blind children with no previous experience with pictures via sight or touch can recognize simple pictures or objects, in raised-line form. Some of these simple pictures can be objects with distinctive silhouettes, familiar to touch. Such objects include wire forms, like a coat hanger, rounded solid forms like balls, eggs and cups, and rectangular solid forms such as knives, forks, tables and chairs. Some forms include internal detail, like a cup which has a hole in its handle. Some forms are merely boundaries of parts of an object such as a hand or profile of a nose.

Drawing simple objects is a task congenitally blind children can accomplish. The blind child can often be considered to be like a young sighted child in understanding some shapes better than others, and often produces drawings that are like those of young sighted children. Just as young sighted children are imaginative, tolerant of approximations and informal in their criteria for drawing objects, so too are young blind children in many respects. The young sighted child draws objects following very broad guidelines and principles, so that their drawing is often difficult for the adult to decipher and recognize. Nevertheless, the child progresses from one principle to another, developing in technique and sophistication. The young blind can also be expected to draw sketchily at first, and to progress in the sophistication of their principles.

Specific information for lessons: Blind children can use lines to stand for wires, corners and edges of rectangular objects and boundaries ('profiles') of rounded objects. There are objects made of wires, flat surfaces and rounded surfaces that have distinctive shapes, e.g., coat hangers, knives, and faces. In this lesson, simple objects with these features are given as raised-line drawings, and also children are asked to draw them.

Motivation and content: How is the material to be introduced to the children? How can the child's motivation be engaged? There are several possible ways to engage interest. Each one may suit a particular child. A different method may need to be invented for a specific child.

Some children are immediately taken by pictures and drawing. They enjoy the task. They need little or no inducement to engage in drawing. They may invent new variations without exterior hints or suggestions. In the long run, this is the autonomous state many children can reach. At this point, the child learns and progresses on his or her own initiative. The materials should be shown, a suggestion can be given, and the child will discover on its own how successful he or she can be immediately with the materials.

The educator with the autonomous child can simply offer the issue: "Here are some drawing materials. Children can draw objects with these. You can draw a coat hanger, or an egg, or a nose (profile) of a person."

Reaction from the educator to the drawing is likely best kept warm, and to the point, rather than dramatic. Effort should be made to keep the child's motivation centered on his or her own activity. The warmth will help keep the child feeling confident that there is approval and interest, without the child feeling that a particular requirement is to be met. The child, it is thought, can discover some of the fundamental principles of drawing.

Clever and unexpected tricks: Pictures as information. Some children may require some useful or 'game' quality to the materials. This can be done in various ways: The picture can be a label on the lid of a canister. The child can be deciphering the message of the picture, which can show 'what is kept here', in a canister or cupboard. The pictures can be practical, as labels. (Sighted children quite readily notice the purpose of pictures, because they have pictorial labels by the hundreds.) Labels for bananas, grapes, pears and apples can be put on boxes with lids. The reward is in deciphering the label and opening the box. The labels can also act as instructions about what goes where, like toy animals or trucks or sailboats.

Sailboats can make interesting games. A profile as a single line can readily do something a solid plateau-like form can only do with difficulty. It can face two ways. A blind child can be asked to feel a line with a small curve to the left and a large curve to the right. The child can be asked to take the small curve as the nose, and the large curve as the open mouth. On the next excursion, the small curve can be the brow and the large curve a huge nose. The difference in the faces, and the change in their expression, can be of great interest to children.

Recognition games: Drawing one's own likeness can be extremely appealing. At an early age, there is a line to distinguish faces, but hair can be very changeable from day to day -- wet and slicked down by rain, or fluffy and dry. One child can have short hair, another long hair, another has bows and another has braids. Adults have beards, mustaches, set hair. A familiar person concentrating on a remarkable distinctive feature can be rewarding for children.

Drawing interesting foods: Foods have distinctive shapes -- the triangles of pizza, the rectangles of French fries, the round hamburger bun. Children can order their food by drawing what they want. They can tell what they had for lunch to a friend with a picture.

Summary: The content and the format of a lesson can be inherently interesting. But the point should be made clear occasionally, and it may be helpful to make the point explicit.

The points to be made explicit for young blind children using pictures include:

1.Blind children can use pictures.

2.The raised-lines in pictures stand for boundaries of objects.

3.There are different kinds of boundaries (wires, corners and rounded borders in this instance) that lines can show.

4.Pictures understood by blind children are understood by the sighted.

Special pointers on issues likely to arise: When sighted children draw at first, they do not draw realistically, in perspective, as though tracing a photograph. One should not expect the blind child to draw realistically at first.

Likely, the first drawings of the young child age 3, 4 or 5 may include, mostly, a mark with no relevant shape. The mark stands for any desired feature, e.g. the noise of a truck, the truck itself, the number of trucks, or the driver in the truck. A mark may be added each time a new feature is added. Or the child may simply switch the meaning of the mark from time to time: The rule is one of 'fiat': At will, the mark is given a reference.

The blind child of perhaps age 5, 6 or 7 may use some fiat marks, but the child may also add relevant shapes. A curve may indicate a single leg. The parts of the object are not merely indicated by marks, by fiat, but rather share some similarity of shape with the object.

A slightly older blind child, likely one of age 8 and older, not only makes line drawings where parts of the object are outlined, rather vaguely, but also draws the parts connected. This is a kind of drawings often made by blind and sighted adults. The parts each have a definite shape similar to the real object, and also the end of each part joins to another part. The connections are shown accurately, in that legs are attached to bodies, not to heads, for example, and generally, they are not left disconnected, without an explanation. The angles made in the real object where parts connect to bodies are often irrelevant to the drawing. A table leg is at right angles to the table-top, in the real object, but it may be at any angle in the freehand drawing.

As a cautionary note, we emphasize that the child's drawing does contain principles, even if the principle of realism is not apparent. The child typically can describe what parts of the drawing stand for. Typically, the child can touch the relevant part of the drawing and a related part of the real object. The child can be asked to explain the drawing to adults or peers and will likely give the same explanation to both.

A child often will draw at one level, meaning following one set of principles such as fiat, but can use some other principles that may be developmentally more advanced. A child who draws by fiat can recognize a realistic silhouette form of a simple object. A child can also show an advanced format when drawing with 'dictation'. For example, the child can be asked to draw the head, then the body, then the legs, then the feet, and only then the arms and hands. A child who draws by fiat, at his own discretion, often puts marks at random on the page, in the order they happen to occur. But the marks may be distributed using a body schema, and appropriate positioning on the page, if drawing to dictation.

Follow-on: The topics raised as children initially prepare outline drawings or try using them may lead to questions about more involved uses. Notably, the blind child may want to be aware of when and how sighted people use pictures. In schools, sighted children typically have drawings on the walls for everyone's inspection. This is an immediate instance where the blind child's work can be displayed in a format some schools previously reserved for pictures by sighted children. A drawing on the child's own cupboard may be helpful in being available for incidental inspection, not connected to a particular game, or an object being sought. The child could send pictures to friends and relations by mail. Pictures can be taken home to show family what subjects the child is studying, so the picture acts as a message about a subject such as history, not just an attractive item in its own right. A newspaper can be read and its front picture (of say, an airplane) translated. The classroom loudspeaker for the radio in school could have a picture of the principal put on it, drawn by the child, after inspecting the principal's profile. Favorite characters in books -- 'Winnie-the-Pooh' or favorite toys in catalogues (of lambs or Lamborghinis)can be drawn.

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