Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Overview of Auditory Strategies

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While it is important for all students to develop strong auditory strategies, this area is crucial for those who are blind or visually impaired. Definitions of literacy have expanded to include auditory skills as another type of literacy.

 

 A girl uses headphones with a tape player, while looking at a picture book of "Clifford" the big red dog.

 

Is Listening Literacy?

There is controversy about whether or not accessing text through hearing is reading or not.  Dr. Phil Hatlen gives his thoughts about this in Literacy According to Phil.  Whether or not it is truly reading, many students with visual impairments access information from text through auditory means.  The skills to do this are different than those used for listening in casual conversation.


The Importance of Instructional Support for Developing Auditory Skills

Students who are blind or visually impaired must be provided with adequate instructional support to interpret auditory materials and to develop literacy skills through this strategy.   It is important to remember that merely providing audiotapes or reading aloud written text does not ensure  literacy.  In their article Effective Classroom Adaptations for Students with Visual Impairments, authors Penny R. Cox and Mary K. Dykes caution that while auditory input provides another way that students can gain information, "teachers should not assume...that students will understand verbal input in the same way and at the same depth as other students understand visual input.  Auditory language triggers the creation of mental images that correspond with words. Images are recalled to assist students in comprehending verbal language (Barraga & Erin, 1992). A student with visual impairments is likely to have fewer and less detailed mental images to correspond with verbal language. Such images may differ according to a student’s individual experiences and verbal input he or she has received from others (Whitmore & Maker, 1985)."