Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad for Our Rooms

I would be remiss if I did not mention the potential the newly announced iPad from Apple may have on severe special education, especially for AAC. there is no way I can do justice to the topic like Ricky did over at ATMac.  Thus, I send you there to read all about it!

(I just want to see Proloquo2Go run on it.  And hear how loud the speakers are.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Check It Out

Gillian over at Special Classroom has a great post about a math game she uses to teach 1:1 correspondence and counting.  Within it is a tip I love about color coding the plug end of the switches to match the color of the top of switch so you know whose switch you are plugging in!  Makes me want to run out and buy rolls of tape to match the colors of our switches.  (And suggest to Ablenet and other companies that they do that pre-sale!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Answering Some Reader Questions

The other day I had these questions in the comment section from a reader.  I thought I would make the answers into a post.

Hello! I am brand new to blogging. Your blog was on a "sample" list of blogs to preview. I am not a sp. ed teacher, but have all our school's sp. needs students in my art classes. The work you put into your blog is amazing--and helpful to sp. ed teachers. Just exploring a few blogs today has been sooo time consuming! When I saw your list of "Blogs I Read," I was bowled over! How do you find the time to do your own blog and keep track of all the others? Really, do you have a system? How do you prioritize and organize your "blogging" time?

Wow, this was on a list of blogs to look at?  That's interesting.  I think you will find some of your answers to your questions in this blog post.  I will also answer your questions here though.  First a little history.  I started this blog when I had ankle surgery the day before Thanksgiving about 3 years ago.  The idea was to keep myself busy during the two to three months of recovery.  I never, ever imagined that it would take off like it did.  If I had known I would have picked a shorted blog name!

My goal is to provide resources for other special needs teachers, particularly those who teach low incidence populations.  We tend to work in isolation and it can be so helpful to know there are others out there doing the same thing.  I know that general educators, parents of children with special needs and assistive technology professionals also find the site helpful and I am glad about that.  I think that writing this blog likely helps me more than it helps anyone else though.  It helps me keep on top of my professional development and keeps me organized with my theme units.  It also gives me a way to "be a know-it-all without being annoying" as I have said on this site before.

Of course one of the ways in which one becomes a know-it-all nerd (something I am often called) is having a "knowledge is power" attitude and when you have that attitude you tend to read everything you can, hence my blog roll.  I actually only post the blogs I read that are relevant in some way to special education on my blog so you're only seeing a fraction of them!  My favorite blogs to read are those by parents of children with special needs.  Their love for their children is just so profound and it helps me every day to read what they write; it reminds me to believe in their children and stay grounded in what we work on at the same time.  My second favorite blogs are those by others in the same field.  I adore that so many others have come to blogging and thank me for inspiring them.  It means so much to me to know that some day, when I just can't keep this up anymore there are others who will.

As far as the time thing, I used to have more time, before I took a job that meant ten hours or more a week in the car.  I must say the blog has suffered since that happened!  My number one priority is my own health, I can't be anything for my family or my students if I am not healthy.  After that my family and then my students/job.  Writing this blog enables me to give so much more to my students.  It lets me learn about resources for them.  It gives me access to people that can help me be a better teacher.  So, in reality I do it for me and I do it for them.

In reality one of the ways I find time for blogging is that I don't have kids (yet?) and I don't have a TV.  You would be amazed how much free time you have if you kill your television!  Essentially with that free time I sometimes surf the web.  When I surf the web I look for things I find interesting and often times they have to do with educating individuals with severe disabilities.  I might start out looking for lesson plans to use with my class related to safety with items that use electricity and end up discovering five sites that are good for people with developmental disabilities around safety or I might start looking for timers I can use to cue a student and end up with 50 links to various timers for purchase or for download.  Somewhere in that process I decide to make my research into a blog post. 

Practically I have a bunch of ways I keep ahead of what I want to post.  I use lots of web 2.0 features to stay on top of things.  I am one of those people who like to have lots and lots of tabs open in Firefox.  Just yesterday I had 67 tabs open and most of them were about Environmental Print (expect a post soon).  I love the "save all tabs" feature that lets me save all the open tabs in a folder.  Then I have them all when I am ready to write the blog entry.  I also will bookmark items in a folder called "Post to Blog" for times when I can't think of anything to write.  Sometimes things sit there for a day or two and sometimes months.  I often times get blog ideas from e-mail and Facebook notes, from people I know and sometimes strangers.  Sometimes I use them and sometimes I don't.  Both of my wonderful teaching assistants read my blog from time to time and will give me ideas and one, who is an excellent photographer, will take what we call "hands photos" that I can post and send them to me.  Finally when I know I have a busy week ahead I will write four or five blog entries and use Blogger's "Post Later" feature.  If you see blog posts that have a time stamp between midnight and seven in the morning that means I likely wrote it several days ago! 

That's about it.  Let me know if you have more questions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking at the Tobii C-Eye the past four months I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore a number of eye tracking communication devices with one of my students and her family as we move through the process of selection.  Just yesterday we met with our wonderful Tobii rep, Chris, to try out the Tobii C-Eye.  About nine months before Chris had visited and my student tried out the Tobii P-10, which is also an eye gaze device.  Since then she has trialled essentially every eye gaze device on the market (the Eyemax, the Erica (now owned by Dynavox) and the Eco). 

The trial was a joy from the word go.  Some of the things that made it wonderful were that the user knew what to expect from calibration and for the first time was able to calibrate a device, she had been exposed to the board sets because we had been sent a trial copy of the Tobii Communicator Software to look at and we use SymbolStix (the picture symbols on the Tobii) everyday.  Also our rep was able to both engage the user and answer the question of the SLP, myself and the family at the same time (that takes some doing).  Additionally the student was able to keep on her bifocal glasses, which she was unable to do in any other device trial.  Also we were able to remove her chest strap and give her the freedom to move backwards and forwards in space and access still wasn't and issue.  The best part of the trial, by far, was when at the very end the TEAM started chatting and the user was left to explore  (sort of by accident).  So she launched an American Idol video in Windows Media Player!  We were stunned and she laughed!

Beyond the trial the Tobii Communicator software really is a joy to use.  I am such an "old timer" at Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically Pro and at some of the other devices at the market that sometimes I have a hardtime rewiring my brain to do new devices, however the Tobii is a breeze.  It converted all sorts of Boardmaker SDP files over no problem (except it doesn't drag and drop - although none of my boards do that since none of my students do that).  You can do all the fancy things you can do in other programs from shuffle to stretch to instantly resize and often times without hitting as many buttons as you need to in other software programs.  I am excited to be running a trial of an AAC device for a student on a program that is so easy to learn to use.

Tobii is a local company for us, just a few towns over, which makes arranging the next step of our journey towards an eye gaze AAC device for this user a little easier (renting a device to collect some data) as there is no shipping involved.  It will take about 30 minutes for someone to go pick up the trial device once our name comes up on the waiting list.  Hopefully our user will have one of her own soon!

Apologies to Chris for calling him Brian in the frist version of this post... someday I will get better at names!  Chris is one of the best AAC Vendor reps I have worked with.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Low-Cost, Static Display AAC Device: Talk to Me 100

Designed by a speech therapist, the Talk to Me 100 by SydSpeak is a new static display AAC device that retails for $59.00.  It uses core vocabulary (the 100 most commonly used words) and is not programmable. 

The voice on the Talk to Me 100 is recordings of a 10 year old actress.  

You can download an image of the board for free to use as a low tech intervention or to pre-teach before receiving the device. 

The symbols on the Talk to Me 100 are unique to the system and the designers intent to offer the symbols in a free download eventually.  They also offer advice on using the symbols and creating low tech AAC boards.

Hello Blog Readers,

Sorry about my absence, especially to those of you who use my posts to keep tabs on me :-).
This past week or so will go down in my personal time line as the week stuff broke.  From the transmission on my car to the bulb in the LCD projector at work essentially stuff kept busting in my hands.  This included my internet access as I connect to the internet via one of those USB Wireless Internet Dongles.  The USB part decided that it no longer needed to be attached to the Dongle part.  Being a holiday weekend that included 7 inches of snow the local wireless store has not received the shipment of USB Wireless Dongles I have been waiting on.  I have had access to e-mail and Facebook via my Blackberry, but no internet or blogging capabilities.  Sorry about that.

I am going to try to get up a few posts now, but then you will likely have to wait until I have internet access again.


Kate Ahern

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kiz Club Learning Resources for Kids

Kiz Club has some excellent resources for those teaching young children with and without special needs.  Indeed it has some nice resources that can be age appropriate for older children with special needs as well. 

For the younger set the Stories and Props has some wonderful items you can print out and use with common early childhood stories.  Buried in that section are some nice, simple, online, switch adaptable, read aloud stories for all ages.  Be sure to give them a look. 

The topics, crafts and flashcards sections hold nice materials for all ages.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Learning About Hot and Cold

Today our little class did a fun lesson on hot and cold (as part of our unit on energy).  We started by touching hot and cold packs to review vocabulary.  (I was able to pick up hot and cold packs in the dollar section at Target.)  Next we did a "story problem".  The story problem read, "George wears a hat and long sleeves when it is cold outside.  He wears short sleeves when it is hot outside.  Look at each pictures and talk about it.  Decide if it is hot or cold outside in the picture.  Glue the symbol for hot or cold under the picture."  Students answers by speaking, pointing to a symbol, placing the symbol on the picture or using their eye gaze boards.  Some students goals were more about exploring hot and cold as a means of sensory exploration and they touched or held the hot or cold pack to match each picture. (Much data was collected for alternative assessment during this phase of the lesson.)

After finishing our work we had a most excellent competition.  The students and staff divided into two teams, Team Hot and Team Cold.  Each team had to cut out as many pictures of people dressed for their named temperature as possible and glue it on a poster board.  The team with the most pictures of people glued on their board in 45 minutes would win.  The only other rules were no duplicate images and students must be fully participating (as we can be a pretty competitive bunch of adults).  In the end the music therapist arrived in time to be our judge.  Team Hot has 115 people dressed for hot weather on their board.  Team Cold had 111 people dressed for cold weather.  However, after calls for a re-count it was determined that it was a tie at 112 to 112.  Thank you to music therapist Monica for judging our competition.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dynavox Acquires ERICA

In yet another acquisition announcement Dynavox now owns Eye Response Technologies makers of the ERICA system.  (Previous mergers and acquisitions include Blink Twice (the Tango) this past July, Enkidu in January 2004,  Mayer-Johnson and Dynavox merged in May 2004 as Dynavox left Sunrise Medical).  Dynavox also today filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its Class A common stock.  (Coincidence?)

This merger could be good for customers, the ERICA had one of the best eye tracking systems out there, but the software is so-so.  Dynavox is well known for its comprehensive communication software.  Currently, however, the Dynavox EyeMax uses an eyetracking system developed by EyeTech.  This leads to all sorts of questions around how and when (assuming it happens, they could just be eliminating competition) the EyeMax will move from being EyeTech based to Eye Response Technologies based. 

My larger concern is with the Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox empire as a whole.  They are getting bigger and bigger each year, but are they true to their mission?  What are your experiences?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Fan of Fans

Number FanLearning fans are educational props that are used more in the UK and Australia than in the US.  In our classroom they can be used as visual cues, communication aids and even low tech eye gaze communication.  Students can point (or look at) a choice, a match, an answer, what's next in the schedule, etc. 

Communication/Social Skills


Blank Fans

Contact Me at:

Contact Me at:

Visit our advertisers:

Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation, LLC Try Nick Jr. Boost FREE for 7 Days ... Label the things you love !! Build-A-Bear HearthSong - Toys Outlet