Focus: School Years
Topic: Inclusive Education
teacher - tiflopedagogue
Zavod za slepo in slabovidno mladino
Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children,
Keywords: blind children, organic chemistry, formulae in Braille, organic chemistry in Braille
In our school for blind and weak-sighted children, the regular textbook on organic chemistry needed to be translated into Braille, the writing of the blind. In the past, it was difficult and time-consuming to do this by hand, but a computer linked to a Braille printer is today a great assistance. However, there is still a problem how to write structures of organic compounds?
One cannot draw complex chemical structural formulae in the usual way in Braille, this would take far too much space.
In cooperation with the students, the signs for bonds were agreed first, e.g. a single bond was defined as "cc" double bond as "gg" triple bond as "xx" etc. Once the bonds were defined in Braille, we were able to write our own teaching materials. The start was very difficult - even the development and printing of the simple structure of methane consumed considerable time, not to speak about cyclic compounds!
But, we have our own organic chemistry textbook now! The presentation shows the main principles and results, as well as the textbook itself. Blind and weak-sighted children can feel chemical structures and thus get an impression of them. An independent impression, since they do not want to be given knowledge and be pitied, they want to struggle towards knowledge and understanding in the same way as anybody else.
Children with special- particular needs – blind and weak-eyed children at chemistry
The only dark which exists is unknowledge, sayed Shakespeare.
This is our motto. (Edina tema, ki obstaja je neznanje)
In the institute for blind and weak-eyed pupils in Ljubljana we teach children from 5 to 15 years old.
Five to seven year old children are included in the kindergarten.
Then they visit one year a school which prepares them for elementary-primary school. We call it a little school or nursery school. Then they do the equal programme in primary school as their friends – person of the same age all over Slovenia.
The law is given these children equal conditions as to normal pupils in common school.
The mayority of teacher in common schools are already met with those pupils. They have a lot of questions how to assure them professional education.
Teachers in our institucion answer them, they help them with advice.
The teaching course lasts over the whole day. Beside school, we have special qalifications: orientation, socialization, training eyesight, comunication, housekeeping – arrangements (like: washing, putting on clothes, feeding, ...)
Pupils are included in different activities to train their intelectual and good hands skills. Riding and relaxation therapy is shown as a successful form for handicaped children.
A special need was shown at subject of chemistry. We wanted to write organic chemical structures – formulas in Braill – writing of the blind. For inorganic chemistry it was done in 1974.
We didn't find corresponding/ adeqate signs or symbols in foreign literature, so we decided (pupils and I) to do it ourselves.
We prepared internal handbook or manual for organic chemical structures. It is prepared by textbook Organoc chemistry. The author is dr. A. Kornhauser.
In Braill writing we can't draw organic chemical structures in the same way as we do. We have to decide about our agreement signs. With this signs or symbols we can write down structures by computer and Braill printer. Now, organic chemical structures for blind pupils are similar to our chemical structures.
When I came to our Institute I found myself in a strange or unusual situation. I had a lot of questions.
Textbooks were out of date. There were no class books. Teacher who taught before me was retired. He left me a lot of illustrations and models which can bring the world of chemistry closer. The most valuable is the Periodic table of the elements for the blind.
Models of different atoms are also interesting.
But, we had no textbooks or other literature. Why?
If we wanted to have textbook in Braill we had to rewrite it. They rewrote it by hand or manual some time ago. They wrote two copys at the same time. It was a big financial load for our institution, because we only needed some copys of different textbooks. Each teacher did what they thought was best till our school was eqiped with computers.
After getting computers time got better for pupils and teachers.
First, we got computers, then usual printers and after that we got Braill printer. After this, the revolution in chemistry for the blind, began. Well, not revolution, but searching of the most similar written record for organic chemical structures.
I wanted to assure the blind pupils had the same conditions for learning as their weak-eyed classmates.
From now on, there was no barrier to printing textbooks, additional material etc ... in Braill.
Yes, it is true, we have had all the help of the new technology. The first problem was on knowledge of computers and printers.
There were only a few fanatical people who wanted to learn this.
No one knows how much time we spent with these “almighty boxes”. It is not possible to express or describe our work in hours or days.
No one can measure how much time it takes to prepare only one Braill exercise paper. Behind this there was only wishful thinking to give blind pupils equal conditions for learning.
We can say, there are still enthusiasts among us. But I must not forget my pupils who were more enthusiastic than teachers.
With their help we made a project called: Description of organic chemical structures for the blind.
Teachers and pupils realized that only knowledge is our/their weapon to reach a success in secondary school and in their life too.
So I felt a big obligation to give them the best I could.
I made slow progress. The first was methane. It took me a lot of time. Communication between computer and Braill printer wasn't simple. Each sign occupied a fixed space on Braill paper. When it seemed to me everything was O.K the Braill printer didn't want to print as I wanted. There were incorrectly signed ties under or above the carbon atom.
It's better not to say anything about cyclic compounds.
Perhaps, it would be easier if a blind pupil wrote down this compaunds on his handwriting printer. But how can a child write something which he never saw it with his own eyes or hands.
So we (pupils and I) decided to make an agreement. We agreed on our own symbols or signs. By this moment a blind pupil can read and write down an organic chemical structures – formulas in Braill.
He can imagine these structures in his mind.
But reading these formulas is not simple. A blind pupil has to read five lines at the same time. Some of them can learn faster the other slower the third never.
What a pity! This project is not useful for wide population. But it is necessary for us who look on the world differently.
Blind pupils don’t want to be pitied. Therefore don't pity them.
We can give them everything we can or know. In this way they can recognize the real world. It is true, we can't give the blind the whole world in their hands, we can give them our will and willingness to help them if they need our help.
Please send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.