Research Synthesis of Tactile and Object Exploration

This synthesis of research studies examining tactile and object exploration in young children who are blind or visually impaired offers guidelines for practice.

This research synthesis by Carl J. Dunst and Ellen Gorman from CELL (Center for Early Literacy Learning) examines Tactile and Object Exploration Among Young Children with Visual Impairments.  By examining the results of nine studies of 82 preschool children with visual impairments, Dunst and Gorman hypothesized that certain types of exploratory behavior (touching tactile surfaces, as well as objects) indicate a level of braille readiness.  It was found that more complex tactile surfaces and objects provided more feedback, and were associated with more extensive exploratory behavior.

These results offer implications for practice in providing experiences to encourage braille readiness:

  • Provide infants with visual impairments with objects and toys that produce interesting and reinforcing consequences when explored or manipulated.
  • Provide opportunities for toddlers who are blind or visually impaired to interact with and identify familiar and novel objects and materials.
  • Provide opportunities for preschoolers with visual impairments to develop and master tactile recognition and exploration skills.

Tactile experience books and tactile books with braille labels are important tools to help young children with visual impairments to develop early literacy skills and braille readiness.