Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Free Software for Learners with Intensive Special Needs

So you're a teacher on a budget. You serve learners with diverse needs and you wish you had more time to search out free software or to design your own. Here are some leads to free downloads for students with severe, multiple, complex or profound needs.

Pvoice is a free augmentative and alternative communication program. Designed by the father of a little girl with multiple needs it is free to download and run. It is considered open source software and those who know how to program in Perl are welcome to contribute to it.

A couple of places have free downloads for use with switches. The RJCooper company has two switch accessible arcade style game available for free download. Inclusive Technology in the UK also has some switch programs for free download. Another free switch program is The Great Fish Race which allows two switch users to compete. One Switch in the UK has more than 70 games for download for single switch use. Many are quite difficult so try them before you let your students at 'em.

Some touchscreen activities can be found online or for download as well. The Jackson Pollack painting site is made to emulate action painting and works beautifully with a touchscreen. Magic Touch has links to dozens of free or free demo games that work with touchscreens. I haven't tried this one yet, but e-home games has a download of classic arcade games for touchscreens.

Sarah Greenland has three games for download: a kaleidescope for switches, a mouse trainer and a touchscreen maze. SEN Teacher (SEN=Special Education Needs) has two dozen programs free for download. (Plus printables and more.) Many of the programs on SEN Teacher are switch, touchscreen or even camera accessible. Of particular interest may be SEN Switcher, free cause and effect, switch or touchwindow accessible programs available on line or for download.

Two British schools have some of the most amazing resources I've ever seen. Priory Woods has switch activated flash videos, talking story books and learning software. I use this website constantly. I would love to go spend a year at Priory Woods and learn all they have to offer. You should also check out their Kids Only Portal. The other school is Kingsbury School, much of the software there is available for use online.

Another unbelievable freebie is Click'n'Type, an onscreen keyboard that works via touchscreen, mouse and even single switch! This program even has word prediction. Considering what you pay for other programs like this Click'n'Type is a good way to do before you ask your school or agency to spend money on a similar program.

Another utility that is available is Philip's Large Colored Cursors.

If you are feeling motivated you can peruse the OATS Repository of open source assistive technology for more downloads.

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