Tuesday, February 27, 2007

60 Things to Do With a Single Switch

Things to Do With a Switch and a Battery Interrupter

(Just insert the metal disc of the interrupter between the battery head and the receiver and plug in a switch, does not generally work with anything that recharges. Also, when using a battery adapted it will just turn the item on an off making things like a stapler or pencil sharpener "partner" activities. You may need to tape, glue or velcro down the devices built in power switch if you want it to be an independent activity. Many of these items are available at dollar, discount and salvage stores as well as flea markets. It generally costs less to adapt them yourself. Save your school budget for things you can't pick up for cheap.)

cut with battery operated scissors (pre-adapted)

have a race with toys that walk accessed through the switch (pre-adapted)

use walking switch toys to knock down block tower

use an adapted remote control car to knock down towers

put paint on the wheels of the adapted remote control car and drive over paper to make a painting

use a battery run electric razor and remove the pills from sweaters

turn on and off a hand held massager to give massages or to shake a box filled with paint covered marbles

turn on and off a flashlight (point it under your face and tell ghost stories, hit another switch to play ghost stories)

turn on and off battery operated holiday lights decorating your wheelchair

blow bubbles on your adapted battery run bubble blower

staple things

12. turn on and off a mini-tv

stir a drink

14. sift flour

15. be in charge of the pencil sharpener

16. dry your nails

17. open mail

18. sharpen the crayons

19. vacuum up bugs or dust bunnies

20. scare the pants off someone

21. make something spin in circles

22. cool off

23. spray a mix of water and food coloring over a stencil to paint

24. take a bubble bath

25. make spin art

Using a Switch and an Electric Power Adapter

(The Powerlink from Ablenet and the Electra from Tash with both interrupt the power to electric {plug in} devices and can be set to direct, timed or latch {first hit turns on, second turns off}. Oh, don't use it with high power items like microwaves!)

26. cool off with a plug in fan, attach streamers and watch them blow

27. make sailboats, place in a long underbed storage box of water, set up fans with switches, use fans to make wind, race the boats

28. turn on and off the lights in a haunted house

29. be the D.J.

30. use hair dryers to dry paintings

31. go apple picking then use a juicer with a switch to make juice

32. make ice cream shakes, use food coloring to make a color to go with your holiday theme, sell them for two dollars

33. use a food processor to mix up the ingredients to make recycled paper, use your fans to dry it

34. grind up oreos in a grinder or food processor to make "dirt"

35. turn on holiday lights or a holiday fiber optic tree

36. run a foot massager

37. use the switch and the overhead projector to shine a light onto a friend and trace silhouettes

38. make a funky sixties or seventies space by running lava lamps, a liquid projector, and groovy music all by switches

39. run a fog lamp to make the room spooky or mist-i-cal

40. turn on the black lights with all of your glow in the dark stuff around, make your own planetarium

41. use that sewing machine and make some curtains (or aprons...)

42. plug in one red light and one green light - now the switch user runs gym class

43. shave people's heads for a dollar during spirit week

Things to do with specially adapted devices and a switch:

44-48. use a pouring cup to pour cooking ingredients, art supplies like glitter, to pour sand in the sand box, to measure for science experiments to to dump water over your friends head
49. Use and iScan to run your iPod

50. change the tv channels

51. listen to CDs

52. be a bookworm

55. spin

56. be a high roller

57. ring my bell or bells

58. bowl

59. scoot

60. joke

Abuse Prevention

I normally try to avoid the personal in this blog, but I have two family members with disabilities - one with anoxic brain injury and one with Down Syndrome and Alzheimer's Syndrome. Both were abused by out-of-home caretakers, one physically and one sexually. Therefore preventing abuse for those with disabilities is an educational issue I take to heart.

Although the safety of a child or an adult with a significant disability is ultimately in the hands of adult caretakers, we can teach our students at the very least some basics of abuse prevention.

Unfortunately, "Say no, go, tell!" is not the greatest model for our students as many are unable to "say no" or "tell" and/or they are unable to "go". We have to met each our our students where he or she is at and teach him or her the best prevention and self-advocacy skills we possibly can. With 1 in 4 typical girls and 1 in 7 typical boys abuse before age 18 and even more children with disabilities must at least try to stop our students from becoming statistics.

Facts and Figures
  1. Canadian Department of Public Health
  2. National Resource Center for Respite and Crisis Care
  3. Seven Steps to Preventing Abuse

Abuse Prevention Teaching Tips
  1. Strategies for Minimizing the Risk of Sexual Abuse
  2. How to Talk About Sexuality, Don't Wait for A Crisis
Free Resources
  1. Reducing the Risk for AAC Users
  2. How Is It Abuse Prevention Picture Symbols

Commercial Abuse Prevention Materials for Those with Disabilities
  1. We Can Stop Abuse
  2. I'm Somebody
  3. The Woodrow Project (Red Flag, Green Flag)
Power Point on Abuse Prevention for those with Multiple Disabilities
(available on Putstuff for thirty days only, after that comment and I will send it to you).

Monday, February 26, 2007

AAC Mounting Options - Perma Link

If it's their voice it should always be with them. That means it needs to be small enough to be carried or pushed on a walker or mounted to the user's wheelchair.

When I first started teaching there was only one kind of mount readily available, the Daessy Locking Swing Away Mount, and as far as I'm concerned it is still the best. (I wish I could junk all the others in my room.)

I haven't tried them all, however, so here are some links to peruse when it is time to assist in choosing a mount for a student. Just remember 1) you don't have to buy from the company the device vendor is pushing and 2) the more adjustable it is the more likely it is to move when you don't want it too.
  1. CJT Technology (wheelchair, desk, walker and other types of mounts)
  2. Daessy Mounts (wheelchair and desk)
  3. Gus Mounting Systems (wheelchair)
  4. Help Mate (wheelchair)
  5. Mydesc (wheelchair, bed, scooter)
  6. RJCooper (wheelchair)
  7. Assistive Technologies (reseller)
  8. 3rd Hand Mounts (wheelchair for small device and custom made)
  9. UniMount (wheelchair)
  10. Simplicity Wheelchair Mount
  11. ADA Lap Wheelchair Tray and Accessories
Looking for something fancier check out the RoboMount!

Check out this picture below to see what it used to be like to mount an AAC device (actually an Apple II computer)!

And just for kicks here is a photo of one you could make yourself.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Fashionable Hearing Aid

From colorful molds, to lycra or spandex designer covers, to plastic behind-the-ear baubles and fun clips there are lots of options to make a hearing aid into a fashion aid. Many of the items are functional as well, bright molds and cases help you find dropped items and clip attach hearing aids to clothing to prevent them from falling. Some covers make the hearing aids more water resistant and others provide blue tooth to cell phones!

  1. Colorful Ear Molds
  2. Super Seals Covers
  3. Critter Clips
  4. Ear Wear
  5. Gear for Ears (free samples for professionals)
  6. Safensounds
  7. Blue Tooth Hearing Aid Attachment
And the Delta Hearing Aid is already cool looking!

If you want to know more about hearing aid manufacturing there is a videopod of them being made.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Power Point Switch Books

I am fond of using software nearly every one has to create accessible learning activities, if for no other reason than I can e-mail them to parents as an attachment and the parent can run the activity without expensive software or downloading anything special.

Power Point is one of my favorite media to use for creating adapted books and activities. Although I have Sense Factory (freeware) and Switch It Maker 2 (about $110.00) which do the same basic things I want done in an adapted book I generally end up using Power Point. (One of my chief complaints about both programs is that they reset the display on my laptop.)

My students also love making Power Point Books. Just last week when two students came in with news of new puppies at home, a couple of my students worked with a paraprofessional and made an switch run slide show of different kinds of puppies to share with the class. The paraprofessional is new to my room and did not need to be trained in any special software. She and the students used Google Images and Power Point, with the students accessing the built in touch monitor, and twenty minutes later they were done.

Power Point is a great tool for the special needs classroom with a few adaptations made. Not being someone who likes to recreate the wheel I will instead just point you to some other websites for instructions on how to make adapted activities and books in Power Point.
And here is a list of Power Point Adapted Books and Activities Pre-made for you to download:

If you don't have Power Point you can still use these activities with Power Point Viewer, free for download.

Finally here are some Power Point resources for teachers:

Free Online Universal Design Training

The Pacer Center is now offering a free, online course about universal design in schools. The course is self-paced and consists of six lessons:
  • Benefits and Barriers to Education Technology for Students with Disabilities
  • Universally Designed Technology in Schools
  • Accessible Web-based Learning Technology
  • Accessible Multimedia
  • Accessible Digital Learning Materials
  • Implementing Universally Designed Technology in K-12 Schools
Check it out!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Magnetic Notebooks

Magnetic notebook pages are a pretty nifty idea to use in literacy, math and communication activities.

Use them with magnetic letters, numbers, phonics sets, sight words, tanagrams, sign language cards, or with magnetic picture communication symbols (available from Barker Creek).

Magnetic notebook pages from Teacher Paradise Outlet about 20.00 for 5 (compare to Augmentative Resources at 24.00 for five).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Audio and Video E-mails

After receiving an empty e-mail today from a former student who composes her e-mails using Discover and Morse Code and then, coincidentally, landing on the YackPack website, I started giving some serious thought to the uses of audio and video e-mail for our students.

There appear to be two major free audio e-mail websites, YackPack and SpringDoo. Both allow you to send audio messages to an individual or a group. The website sends an e-mail to the person (or people) and invites them to the site to listen to the message. They can then reply in audio or the regular way. SpringDoo also has the option of video. Both allow you to "click, record, send" and both allow you to send messages to people who are not members. The support sections of each seem to be similar. I have e-mailed each asking about alternate access and will let you know about any responses.

I think that the concept of allowing our students to audio or video e-mail is amazing. Like any other technology it is limited only by our imaginations.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another AAC/AT Fieldtrip - The Netherlands

Okay, fellow geeks and geekettes, let's go on another international AAC seeking adventure, this time to the Netherlands. This trip is brought to us by Sclera Pictograms, which I have started to use exclusively for one of my students with low vision. I was unable to find any body part symbols in the English Sclera Collection, so I downloaded the Dutch collection. Still having found no bright white on black body part pictograms I went on a grand tour of Dutch AAC. Here is what I found.

Visitaal Pictogrammen is a Boardmaker version 3.1 or so-esque black-on-white symbol system. They offer not only the symbols (with free downloads of new symbols-oh, Mayer-Johnson when will you catch on?), but ready made picture symbol communication cards, greeting crads and games software as well.

Some other Dutch symbol systems are BeTa, which incorporates computer drawn images with Bliss symbols and color pictograms. Pictobrief which has black and white line drawings. Pictomaat which is also offer black and white line drawings, but also offers schedule making materials and will custom make communication books.

Pictogenda seems to be an extraordinarily cool product. Series of products. They include a symbols based day planner system complete with pictogram stickers (they seem to love their white on black pictograms in The Netherlands), a series of workbooks about various kinds of big schedule changes like trips to the hospital or vacations, and a disk that will print out more pictograms for use with either or with something else entirely. These are some very enticing products.

Most of the higher tech communication products I saw online were the same as available in the USA. I saw plenty of AMDI, Enabling Devices, Assistive Technology Inc. and and Ablenet Products. I also saw this TouchSpeak handheld, which I have never seen before. If anyone knows the designer please comment.

This joystick is called the Funkey Joystick. (Google wanted me to call it the Funky Joystick.) It is a Dutch invention and hard to find outside of the EU. It is an oversized, easy-to-use mouse emulator joystick with four built in switches. Quite cool looking, if you ask me.

There is quite a bit more, but that is all for tonight

The Alliance for Technology Access

The Alliance for Technology Access is currently offering a complimentary one year associate membership to individuals.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Accessorize Your Ambulation Aid

In the world of mobility devices Rifton has just discovered in color in the past year and wheelchair companies are still embroidering the users name where no one will see it when the user is in the chair (that has never made sense to me).

Thus the need to accessorize. Here are a few cool items to check out and pass on to your students parents when it comes time for birthdays and other gift giving events or just anytime at all. Accessories are a great way to let an individual shine through there equipment.

Thomas Fetterman offers loftstrand crutch users lycra crutch covers in a variety of colors including ocelot. These are created by Broken Beauties which offers similar covers for ancillary crutches and designer walkers.

Allman Products has a leopard print walker bag. 1800Wheelchair has a couple of bags that aren't all together ugly as does Canes Galore.

Okay, I'm going to be honest. This has been an altogether depressing post to research and write. I started it because I ran into a former student who was sporting some cool crutch skins . Now I am realizing "cool" accessories are pretty much non-existent outside of those skins. Perhaps there is someone who will read this who will invent something very cool. If so, please let me know!

P.S. That has happened to me before. I also run a diabetes and insulin pumping website and have a tee-shirt to my credit in addition to some grateful pump carrying case companies. So have hope, maybe in a year or two cool accessories will emerge.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How to Make Firefox Talk

Many of you have made the switch to Firefox by Mozilla as your web browser of choice for a variety of reasons. If so you may be looking for ways to make Firefox accessible to learners who are blind/low vision or who are low-level or non-readers.

Firefox offers an accessibility page which lists various solutions for users who are blind/low vision and whether or not the solutions are compatible. A free screen reader that is completely accessible is Fire Vox.

If your accessibility issue is more towards the low/no reading ability issue then CLiCk, Speak may be an option to make Firefox accesible for your students. CLiCk, Speak is a mouse driven program utilizing text-to-speech on demand in multiple language (thus also making it useful for ESL).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Headrest for When Nothing Else Works

I ran into the PT in charge of the wheelchair clinic for my school today and told her of a problem one of the students in my class is having with falling out of and behind his headrest. She recommended I check out the new i2i head rest.

Although it is not the teacher's role to recommend a headrest, the teacher (me) and classroom staff are the ones (after the parent) who are going to have to deal with the repercussions of a student having the wrong head rest. If a student is constantly hooking his or her head around or behind a headrest then teaching time is lost to re-positioning and alternative communication becomes impossible, not to mention how much impact there is on feeding and personal care.

This new i2i headrest received high reviews from Home Health Products Reader Reviews and was designed by a PT who was actively working with students. One review describes her early efforts with splinting material and foam pads (scrool down to see it).

The headrest can even be made with built in switches for communication, environmental access or powered mobility.

P.S. I am a huge fan of built in switches for communication, environmental or computer access as well as for powered mobility. This is for a variety of reasons. The first is that it ends "where does the switch go?" syndrome. The second is that it is a visible reminder that the student can and should be accessing everything that can be accessed and the third is that eliminates a step of setting things up, which always seems to take too long.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Route 66 Reading

At the 2002 TASH Conference I attended a workshop on literacy and the learner with multiple special needs. Presented by individuals from the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, the information was grim, literacy rates were very low and very few people had any idea if and how to teach reading to these learners. Also, if these students did not show some ability to read by age twelve reading instruction was discontinued. The presenters were working on creating web based software that could use the internet and assistive technology to teach both students to read and their teachers to better teach reading.

Apparently this dream finally became a reality at the 2006 Closing the Gap Conference when Route 66 was presented. Route 66 is, "a comprehensive set of literacy content and instructional tools and services for adolescent and adult learners delivered via the Internet. It combines a balanced set of reading, writing and word study at the first and second grade level... ."

The Route 66 is automatically accessible with screen readers, braille displays, switch use, alternative input devices and a variety of other assistive technologies. It is web based, thus it lowers to price of a software purchase (no packaging or inventory control) and does not require any additional hardware beyond the internet connection and whatever assistive tech the student already uses.

There is currently a free demo for students and teacher to try out, which sounds like a great first step (login:initialteacher, password:password).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

iScan iPod: Control an iPod with a Single Switch!

This is just awesome! A company in Australia has developed a switch interface that adapts an iPod to be used with a single switch! It is called the iScan MP3 (formerly known as the Switch Pod) I have at least one, possibly more, students I want this for. The adapter works best on older version iPods, but if you don't need auditory scanning you can follow these directions to use on a new iPod. In the US it is avaliable from Enabling Devices for about $210.00.

Social Stories Site

When I was an undergrad Social Stories were the new, hot technique for teaching students with Autism to hand different situations, especially social situations. I ran across this website, from the originator of Social Stories today and want to share it.

I found the sample social stories to be particularly useful in showing me some new ideas for ways to use them. There are also some ideas for writing your own and items for purchase.

Reading the site made me think about one particular time that using a version of a social story worked when nothing else had. The student was having a hard time differentiating between real and pretend, as well as talking about age appropriate topics. Note that the story was changed from 3rd to 2nd person for confidentiality, stories should not generally be in 2nd person. The story is below (or download in MSWord with pictures*):

Real and Pretend for _____.

Some things are real and some things are pretend.



Read the word real.

Read the word pretend.

You are real.

Batman and Spiderman are pretend.

College wrestling is real.

Pro-wrestling is pretend.

Our school is real.

Angel Grove School is pretend.

Karate teachers are real.

Ninjas are pretend.

Orcas are real.

Free Willy is pretend.

Power lifting is real.

Power Rangers are very pretend.

Adults learn that things that are real can be fun!

Babies and little kids like to think about pretend things.

Which one do you want to be?

We talk about things that are real in high school.

*file download available for 30 days, after which comment for the file to be e-mailed

Monday, February 5, 2007

Interesting and Little Known Concepts in Visual/Pictoral Communication

This is a pure AAC geek entry with little to no practical value for the intensive special needs classroom.

That being said here are some interesting, little known, non-standard visual/pictoral communication systems for all the other special education teacher (and speech therapist) geeks to peruse.

Elephant Memories is "a pictorial language consisting of more than a hundred and a fifty combinable graphic elements (pictograms and ideograms). It invites people from various cultural backgrounds to communicate and explore a new means of expression." I can't even begin to explain this system. You have to check it out.

Phonetic Picture Writing is another completely unexplainable system. The website states, " A phonetic picture-writing is a picture-writing, which also can be read phonetically. For its ideograms (picture symbols) are composed of special letters."

Sign Writing is a system for using pictoral images to "write" in sign language. The sign is mainly about writing in ASL, but has many links to sign writing based on other sign languages. The site is extensive, with downloads, lessons, links to other sign writing sites around the world, and information about other movement based writing languages. The associated site, Sign Puddle, has dictionaries, translation services and a sign writing e-mail service. Another useful sign writing web site is AT-Links Canada. Set aside a bit of time to explore these sites.

Instant English is an icon based system that is intended to use picture icons to teach English in a multi-sensory manner. There are free online English lessons using the system and downloads of the icons. The lessons are designed to show the images and read the text aloud.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Medicaid Funding Changes for 2007

Medicaid issued a number of funding changes that can (and probably will) impact our students. While teachers may have little interaction with applying for these benefits it may be worth letting physical, occupational and speech therapists know about the changes to power wheelchair funding, AAC device funding and the "cap" process for therapeutic services.

The information is summarized here:

Friday, February 2, 2007

Website of the Day - Awesome Library

Awesome Library is a resource of 33,000 articles and resources, all reviewed, pertaining to education. A large section of these are about topics in special education. What makes Awesome Library truly unique is Awesome Talkster. Awesome Talkster is a free talking web browser. It is a full browser with all the features any student will need to search the web. Awesome Talkster is windows only software. There are also links to many e-books that Awesome Talkster can turn into audio books.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Yet Another Bunch of Symbol Systems

I have discovered more picture symbol systems to share with you all. The first is the Bonnington Symbol System out of Edinburg, Scotland. They currently have 600 symbols with plans to expand. They also offer a variety of free symbol based activities. The Bonnington Symbols are ment to expand other symbol systems and are compatiable with MS Word and Boardmaker. There list of links is worth checking out.

The Simplified Sign Lexicon now has a library of 800 free black and white images of American Sign Language words to be used when working with learners who have intellectual disabilities. The dictionary is arranged in alphabetical order. There is also a teaching manual, and everything is free of charge.

Tangible Symbols Systems
offers texture, miniature objects and partial objects. They have many resources to be explored.

There are two companies making customized cards Squarepics and Goosie Cards. Both are worth taking a look at.

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