Introduction to Tactile Illustrations and Early Tactile Graphics

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Pages of a book with tactile graphics of a toothbrush and toothpaste, and children's cartoon faces

It is important to introduce books and print (Braille) to children with vision impairment as early as you would for a sighted child.

There are three clear stages:

1. Encouraging the tactile skills in identifying everyday objects
2. Introducing these objects into book format
3. Changing objects to textures and teaching representation

It is estimated that 80% of our learning comes through what we see. Much of this learning in the early years is ‘incidental’ learning that comes through observation of the world around us. Many things a child learns are not explicitly taught but noticed and copied. Clearly for the child with vision impairment this ability is severely reduced or not available at all. 

Giving meaning to everyday tasks and experiences via tactile exploration is vital if a child is to develop cognitively. Exposing a young child with vision impairment to many different textures and objects provides the opportunity for them to build up a ‘memory bank’ of touch experiences.

Placing these tactile experiences / objects into book format allows the development of book handling skills - which way up, turning pages, reading left to right. These protocols are taught to give meaning to the task and in readiness for more formal learning later on.

As their tactile exploration skills develop it is important to introduce context and spatial concepts, eg a toy house or car is not the same the size or feel of the real thing. 

The thermoform images provide a bridge between the real object and a tactile illustration, another stage in preparing a child to read information provided in picture form.

It is always important to remember that learning to interpret tactile illustrations is not an automatic skill but requires practice and support.

Learn More

Watch our video How to Use Early Years Tactile Resources .

Learn in depth with our video presentation: Early Years Principles of Tactile Graphics .

Last modified: Thursday, 11 January 2018, 4:42 PM