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Activity and strategy

Hot Chocolate: A Tactile Connections Experience Story

This experience story about hot chocolate uses tactile symbols from Tactile Connections Kit from APH to create stories by children with vision impairments and multiple disabilities.

The Tactile Connections Kit is an APH product designed as a 3-dimensional partial object-based communication system designed for students with visual impairments and complex needs, including learners with CVI, blindness, and deafblindness. In the Tactile Connections manual, it is also described as “a comprehensive set of tactile symbols appropriate for use by visually impaired and blind learners lacking formal means of communication or literacy.” I feel that the use of these symbols to teach reading and writing are essential for developing literacy skills with students who have complex needs. 

One great way to use Tactile Connections cards is through the use of Language Experience stories. These stories are one of my favorite ways to include learners who are blind with complex needs in literacy activities. Because they are based on real-life experiences that are planned or naturally occurring, they offer high-interest literacy material for these students. They also create a way to practice core vocabulary in a meaningful way. 

This activity is called “Hot Chocolate”! It is a planned activity where learners are involved in the activity of making hot chocolate. After the activity learners can write (tell) their own story about the experience or for some learners the story can be written by or with a peer or an adult. 

  • Electric tea pot (heat source)
  • Water
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Marshmallows
  • Spoon
  • Cup
  • APH Tactile Connections cards (yellow/people, green/action, white/object)
  • Various objects/partial objects for symbols
  • E6000 clear glue
Tactile Connections cards with tactile symbols arranged in categories:  yellow for people; green for action; white for object)
  • The learner should already be familiar with the core vocabulary (I, want, like, in).
  • First, introduce new vocabulary while exploring the whole objects during the activity, making hot chocolate.
  • Next pair the whole objects with the partial object taken from the whole object. Attach the partial object to the appropriate card (person = yellow; object = white;  action= green). Some students may want to help with this process, if appropriate.

Sample symbol cards using Tactile Connections Kit

Sample tactile card of


  • Learners can be given a sentence starter and asked to fill in the last word.  For example:  I like ……., I got ….., I put in….., I pour in….., I stir……, I put in… .
  • Learner completes the sentence with the appropriate object.
  • Lastly the learner can read and re-read each sentence as many times as they like. 


Our Story

Sentence with tactile symbol cards:

The story:

I want hot chocolate.

I get the cup.

I put in the mix.

I pour in the water.

I stir the hot chocolate.

I put in marshmallows.

I like hot chocolate.  


Tactile Connections cards with sentence


A ribbed floor mat can also be used as a felt board.  They are very cheap ($1at the Dollar Tree or for a larger one at Walmart for about $4). The mat is pictured in the background of all the pictures, but shown fully in the photos where all of the cards are pictured. 



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