Monday, November 24, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

For the holidays on the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival the theme is "My Favorite Things". Before I begin, please keep in mind that for 9 of my eleven years of teaching I have taught learners ages 14-22, for two years I taught grades 3-5. Developmentally I have taught learners who are working on everything from basic alterness and cause/effect to typing and spelling with Morse Code or switch scanning (or regular old paper and pencil). I have also taught life skills and for many years ran a community based vocational training program. There is likely some bias towards older learners. Here are my favorite A.T. Tools for the classroom, community and vocational training sites:

  • The iTalk2 Communicator by Ablenet. This is a two sided voice output switch (which is now available with levels) that is durable (ours has been dropped and tossed) and has many, many uses. IN our room the most common use is yes/no, but we also use it for more/done, few/many, big/little, first/next, joke beginning/joke punchline, request/thank you, rude noise recording/excuse me, poll question/thank you, etc.
  • The Powerlink by Ablenet. This is a power interrupter for "plug in" power. Bascially it allows you to plug in the Powerlink to the wall, a lower wattage appliance (no microwaves) and a switch to the Powerlink and then students have several different ways to control the appliance (direct, timed, latch).
  • A variety of switches including Jelly Beans, Big Reds, Specs Switches, Wobble Switches, and a few I made. I am happily anticipating the arrival of a Jelly Beamer I just ordered. (See a post about sixty ways to use a single switch.)
  • Switch Scissors, we have three pairs, plus and unadapted pair of battery scissors. One pair is from Ablenet, one from Enabling Devices, and one pair is self-adapted with a battery interrupter I made (the scissors are from Wal-Mart, $7.00 in kids foam crafts and you can purchase battery interrupters from Ablenet or Enabling Devices). (See a post about switch scissors.)
  • Switch activated pouring cup from Enabling Devices which is on loan to the class across the hall for watering the plants on a daily basis (they have sun, we don't) but is also used for cooking, crafts and dirty tricks. (See a previous post about this device.)
  • Universal Mount from Ablenet, this is the best mount for switches. For the record most companies that sell mounts sell this exact same thing, but you need to make sure it is the Manfrotto Universal Arm with the knob NOT the lever. Trust me people, you do NOT want the lever. Seriously. Ask anyone who has been in the field longer than eight or ten years. As long as you are getting the Manfrotto Universal Arm with the Knob it doesn't matter where you order it from. In fact I wrote a post about how to get it cheaper via because it is really a photography mount, or go with Ebay. But, Ablenet has the best quality mounting plates, theirs are metal, not plastic and have screw holes in case you do not want to go the velcro route. They also have a better return policy than most, except if you get the knob and not that stinking lever then that doesn't matter much.
  • The Don Johnston Switch Interface Pro is, as far as I know, the only switch interface that moves from Mac to PC, doesn't require software, isn't proprietary, supports two switch scanning, supports non-special education/non-commerical software (like PowerPoint, online switch activities and downloads fron Oatsoft) and doesn't (in my experience) break. (This one time at band camp, I mean at student teaching, I had a switch interface literally go up in smoke, IN MY HAND!).
I am also tempted to add the Step-by-Step, but I actually don't use it that much because my learners mostly have their own higher tech devices or the ability to use something that allow more choices. That makes me want to add higher tech devices like the Go Talk 9+, Go Talk 20+, the Dynavox Palmtop, Four and V series, and the Chat PC series, but generally those are for individual students and not a class or group.

So there you have it, my favorites!


  1. Great list.

    I personally really like MERU's Flexzi mounts for switches - which are really easy to set-up - and not quite so ridgid.

  2. I have long coveted those mounts, but you can't get them in the USA. Sadly. -Kate


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