A few days ago, I was contacted by Mary Hill from Mary-andering Creatively, whose blog is mostly on literacy. She asked me to write about autism and literacy, but I have little knowledge of this subject, partly because I wasn’t diagnosed with autism till age 20. I also do not know which of my difficulties learning to read were due to blindness and which were due to autism. I believe, in fact, that most of my difficulties were due to a lack of motivation.
I was a fairly early reader of print. When I was four or five, my mother made little books with large rub-on letters. Each page had one word on it and the books had a theme, such as “house” or “school”. In the Netherlands, at the time, kids didn’t learn to read till age six. I could read first-grade early reader books by the time I entered the special education equivalent of first grade.
By the time I had to learn Braille at age seven, however, I started to hate reading. It wasn’t that I didn’t like books, magazines or anything with letters in it. In fact, I’d listen to children’s books and magazines on tape all the time. I just didn’t like, or rather I hated, learning Braille. It was probably that learning Braille reminded me of the fact that I was rapidly losing my vision. After all, I did read print books till I’d lost so much vision that even giant print didn’t work for me anymore. This meant that, at age nine, I’d still be reading early learner books because of the large print. I had too little vision for low vision aids.
I continued to hate reading Braille till I got a computer at age eleven. Even then, I strained to read from the screen, magnifying the font six to eightfold. When I really needed to use another sense than vision, I rather used my text-to-speech software.
It was probably the annoying, robotical voice of the text-to-speech software that turned me into a Braille reader. By the time I entered mainstream secondary school at age thirteen, I could read computerized Braille with relative ease. I however still rarely touched Braille books. This may’ve been more a matter of convenience, as Braille books are bulky.
I did for a while read Braille books again through the UK’s national library service for the blind when I was nineteen. Unfortunately, some books were lost while being returned, so I was refused further library services. Now I enjoy a mixture of eBooks, which I read with Adobe Digital Editions and my screen reader, and DAISY digital talking books. I still hope to someday be able to subscribe to BookShare, the U.S.-based accessible book sharing site, but as I said before, my doctor still hasn’t filled out the proof of disability form.
Also linking up with Literacy Musings.