Ah, that subtle difference between P and Q! One dot, two millimeters of space. As if there is anything unsubtle at all about braille when you are learning it later in life. I was 51 years old when I began to learn braille, and it was well worth the effort. I would like to offer some tips I used to help my body pick up braille as I went along in my learning:
- Most importantly: I ignored the frequent warnings (however well-intentioned they may have been) that I would never be a proficient braille reader when learning at my age. I set out towards sure victory.
- I warmed my hands before reading. This sensitizes the finger tips.
- I moisturized my fingertips with shea butter. This helped soften calluses I’d gotten from guitar-playing. I can now, however, read braille with calluses. The brain-finger connection does strengthen and sensitize over time.
- I did my “own thing”: I wandered from the prescribed “read with the right hand, track with the left” process. I’m right-handed, but my left hand fingers were more sensitive to braille for the first year. So I fashioned my own process of reading and tracking. I did begin to “encourage” my right hand to get the braille, too, just to have more hands seeing the dots. I’m still left hand dominant for reading, but my right hand now sometimes is “itching” to read, I think, because I encouraged it, but did not stress over it.
- I mixed things up: I alternated skimming, steady reading, and picking up my hands and landing, to practice spot reading. I did this to activate my ability to be spontaneous and relaxed.
- I sniffed an essential oil before and during my practice sessions. I used anything invigorating (like peppermint, eucalyptus) to enliven my neurological involvement.
- I talked it out, giving myself age-appropriate (kindergarten-age, really, because that’s what I felt like) encouragement as I went along. I basically had a conversation with the braille and with myself as I went along: “Oh, look at that…I know what that is….!” Later, that process opened into reading out loud.
The hands-down (no pun intended) most important factor in learning braille later in life is having total belief in yourself. If you want it powerfully enough (as did I), you can do this. It is worth it. Eventually, minding your p’s and q’s is easy.