Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Inclusive Click-On

From the Inclusive TLC a new environmental control unit.  The best thing is it costs $195.00.  Also it allows you to use one switch to turn something on and another for off - imagine the possibilities!  Here are the specs from there website.

Click-on is a new, fully featured control unit from Inclusive Technology. It makes it easy and safe to operate electrical appliances using switches.
With two fully independent channels it can operate two appliances simultaneously using the same settings.
With easy touch controls and clear indicator lights, it is simple to choose the desired functions. There are different control methods:

  • Direct - the device operates as long as the switch is held down.
  • Latching - press the switch to turn on, press again to turn off.
  • Timed seconds - set for seconds and choose the desired operating time - 5, 10 or 15 seconds and so on.
  • Timed minutes - set and choose the time.
Click-on also has these great features:

  • Cooperation - connect two switches. Both need to be pressed at the same time to switch on the device.
  • Two switch on/off - connect two switches. Press one to turn the device on and the other to turn it off - a simple, easy to grasp concept that is ideal for introducing two switch skills.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ning Alternatives

Well voting is over and some people have been discussing what to do now that Ning is closing free services.  It is telling that people have been discussing it on Ning and via e-mail but not on Facebook!  Good thing Facebook lost, it doesn't look like Facebook was a good replacement for a discussion forum!

After exploring many services (about 25) and figuring out what we need/want to some degree from an administrators stand point our options now, I think, are:
  • Leflora - more like an old school forum, old school look and set up
  • Grouply - more like an online group, looks more like the Ning (has Ning import)
  • Shout 'em - more like a private Twitter group, does cool things like Geotagging and posting from mobile devices (has Ning import)
Terri, our wonderful and amazing group moderator is checking to see which groups are open to her at her school (this is a must moderation wise) and I have created a group in all three services.  Please check out all three groups and vote on what you like!  Terri and I will look at the vote and what sites are easiest to moderate and maintain (help us out by joining and practice posting to the groups) and then do what we need to do to import the Ning to the new group and delete the unused groups.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Teacher's Pet Resource Sharing

Teacher's Pet is a resource sharing site along the lines of Twinkl and Mrs. Pancake.  Like Twinkl it is still a new site (in case you aren't up on your UK educational scandals Twinkl and Teacher's Pet have stepped in to fill the void as many UK schools and agencies are boycotting Sparklebox.)

Teacher's Pet has the usual array of signs and posters, dice and labels.  There is a nice assortment of story and nursery rhyme prompts for younger learners that could be printed, laminated and have textures added to them for our learners. There are some nice feelings thermometers, self assessment fans (might be useful for alternative assessment) and emotions resources too.  Not to mention curriculum resources for subject areas.

One of the ways I like to use the signs and posters on these sites is to make matching games for early readers (match the word Monday to Monday) or to make concept books by laminating all of the posters or signs in a set and binding into a book.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Updated AAC Demands


A couple of years ago I wrote a post of my AAC demands (and in retrospect wasn't it bold of me to make
demands?), with a new Tobii C-Eye in the classroom I thought it might be time to review and renew my demands.  I have to say I am more pleased with the Tobii C-Eye each day we use it, especially the demands that it does meet from that first list, like external volume control and hot swap batteries.  However, there is always room to grow and there are other AAC companies out there, all of whom are probably working on their next generation devices!

So here are my new and updated "demands" (some things have stayed on the list because not all companies listen):
  • AAC content automatically backed up online and available online with full access to family/SLP/school for use when device is down, for troubleshooting by the tech support and for programming
  • external AND internal volume control
  • MP3 (and other music files) played from within the communication software via a MP3 player like set-up (and the ability to stop and MP3 once it starts!)
  • MP4's and videos with the ability to do the same
  • constant, free updating of communication picture symbols
  • bluetooth, SMS messaging, e-mail, built in cell phone calling
  • full array of wireless environmental control options (Tira, x10, infrared...)
  • wi-fi and 3G or 4G options
  • USB, AC, Switch ports you can get at (please don't make us tip over a nearly $20,000 device to plug in the keyboard)
  • built in stands that still work with mounting plates attached
  • integrated eye gaze option
  • add on curriculum packages for schools (both to teach AAC use and to teach content areas - especially literacy)

  • online user communities
  • online SLP/teacher/communication partner/caregiver communities
  • free resources, lesson plans and materials online to prepare for and teach students who have or will be getting a device (like PRC has)
  • free materials sharingbb
  • accelerometer
  • better voices, especially child and teen voices
  • automatic grammar correction and verb tensing (like on Proloquo2Go)
  • automatic data collection/analysis/graphing, perhaps with a way to switch data collection on/off for when a communication assistant helps (this would be pretty easy on eye gaze systems or even switching systems - collect data if selections are made with eye gaze or switches, do not collect data if selections are made by mouse or touch screen)
  • option to run the device via morse code or power chair joystick (why are companies dropping these options? to those who use them they are vital!)
  • always excellent customer support (recently our rep from Tobii actually came and set up the mounting system for our student's new Tobii, in all our years using other AAC companies I always battled the mounts with the assistance of the PT and Deassy on the phone, that kind of customer support made me want to have every student pick a Tobii)
  • better tech support (seriously, I should not get fantastic tech support because I am a blogger, with an option to e-mail the big wigs, while everyone else gets hit or miss support and instructions to do stupid things like delete the preference file or re-install the software) and to state the obvious we can search the knowledge base ourselves, tech support needs to do better than that!
  • up-to-date, cross referenced knowledge base and no registration needed to access them
  • sharing sites for communication software
  • every device comes with 2 AC chargers, FREE
  • free one or two week trials of devices (yeah, we should pay for shipping and maybe insurance)
  • lower rental rates
  • lower purchase rates (or else all direct selectors will have iPads with Proloquo2Go, not that that is a bad thing!)
  • low cost handheld, "palmtop" AAC devices (smaller than the Xpress, more dedicated than an iPod with P2G)
  • teeny, "screenfree" device for the blind that can be accessed via auditory scanning, morse code and other "sight-free" methods and attached to another computer for programming
  • smaller screen or "mini-screen" on the communication partner's side of the device to help the partner understand and cue the user, if not possible at least some kind of indicator light or something that lets the partner know if the user is formulating a message or is just "zoned out" (what we call "being a teenager")
  • option of a communication partner main page that links to every page on the device
  • multitouch that can be turned on and off (because multitouch can be a problem for some users)
  • completely waterproof devices (there is a company that does a special spraying of electronics to make this possible)
  • completely glare proof screen options
  • take PRC's lead and allow trial downloads of communication software or Tobii's lead and send out the discs of a trial version of the software
  • also taking Tobii's lead and issuing two copies of the communication software with every device purchase (one for school or SLP and one for home)
  • devices should have case (in colors that match devices) AND built in handles (don't want to be dropping these expensive items!)
  • more options for live and web based trainings at all levels, basic, advanced and extremely advanced
Most importantly responsiveness to users and their SLPs, communication assistants, teachers and caregivers - you should be assessing our needs, surveying us and asking us what we think - and then doing it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

25 Things to Do with a Switch Activated Pouring Cup

  1. pour glitter onto a craft project
  2. pour sand into bottle to make sand art
  3. pour paint onto a Spin Art Machine
  4. water plants
  5. roll dice (especially fun for multiple dice games like Yathzee and Boggle)
  6. set up dominoes to be toppled, attach a ruler or cardboard to the cup and knock 'em down
  7. combine chemicals to make silly putty or oobleck
  8. pour crushed Oreos on top of "dirt cups"
  9. add the chocolate to milk
  10. fill plastic ziploc baggies with liquid dishsoap to make freezer packs for lunchs and boo-boos (soap is gel like and takes longer to defrost so is better than water)
  11. fill bags with ice for the trainers office or the school nurse as community service
  12. measure ingredients for a cooking project
  13. toss a handful of coins for a probability experiment
  14. drop blocks onto a fragile surface (like damp tissue paper over a trashcan) to experiment on how much weight will cause the surface to break
  15. use two pouring cups and drop items from a height to see which falls faster
  16. blindfold a contestant and drop different items so the contestant can guess what you are dropping
  17. drop a ball onto a slope to learn about velocity
  18. fill the class pet's food dish
  19. dump fish food in the tank
  20. fill the candy dish before important IEP meetings
  21. pour coins into the coin sorter/wrapper
  22. position the pouring cup over someone's head and allow the winner of a contest to activate it to pour ice cold water or ice cubes down that person's back
  23. tape the cloth covering a surprise to the edge of the cup and press the switch to unveil the item
  24. remove the cup, attach an arrow and use it as a choosing device 
  25. write the names of every student on a small wooden block and pour out a block a day to pick the day's helper at random

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ning Shutting Down Free Services

As posted to our Ning Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs group Ning is shutting down their free services (and laid off about 40% of their staff).  Many Ning Groups founders and administrators are advocating for free or extremely low cost Nings for education (much like how Voicethread and Wikispaces offer free premium services to educators).  It can't be said how likely or unlikely this is to happen.

However this may be an opportunity to really discuss what people who are or would be members of a social community for teachers, service providers and even some parents/caregivers of individuals with multiple, severe or low incidence disabilities would want in a social community.  Most of us who used the Ning used it to ask and answer questions and to share ideas (i.e. how do you manage having too few paras? what does your schedule look like? have you tried XYZ curriculum program?).  This could certainly be done on a listserv that comes into our e-mail box, perhaps with more participation.  For people who uses the Ning solely for that it sometimes becomes just another site to check on (I am the founder and often feel that way.  I have also often wished that Ning forwarded full e-mails to me and allowed me to reply from my e-mail instead of forcing me over to the Ning site to respond.).

There has been also been a certain level of photo sharing on the Ning, which leads me to believe that people benefit from seeing how others set things up in their classrooms.  The music and videos sharing went highly unused, which is not surprising, especially given the confidentiality issues inherent in our field.

So what is it we want?  The 250+ people who join had something in mind when they signed up, how can we meet those needs and more for ourselves in this field?  Shall we stick with Ning until they give us a final word on premium networks for education?  Shall we discuss what it is we really want/need from a social network for teachers of learners with severe or multiple disabilities (and then match features to find a new platform)?  Any suggestions or ideas?  For those 2,000 or so readers who aren't on the Ning, what would you need to join in a social network, personal learning network or listserv?

I am going to eliminate all levels of comment modification to encourage a discuss here or people can discuss on the TLWMSN Ning or our Facebook Group Take the short (seconds long) survey to help guide us.  Please, please, please participate in this discussion.  If you have used any Ning Alternatives please share your experiences.

For the record what is important to me, though others may and likely widely vary on this, would be:
  • free or free for education
  • private
  • accessible
  • not generally a site blocked at schools
  • ability to moderate members and comments (SPAM issues and "flaming" problems)
  • push to e-mail - with full content
  • photo and files sharing
  • easy connection to/integration with mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.)
  • stable business model (so we don't have to do this again)
  • ability to import from Ning?
  • connection to other larger social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?
  • blog community? power user blogs? micro-blogs?

Just for everyone's information here are some of the social networking sites:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Classic Games for Two Switches

simonSMART Board Goodies pointed me in the direction of these online interactive games that most of remember, Tic Tac Toe, Simon and Connect Four.  All of these games are accessible with a touchscreen, interactive whiteboard, mouse/mouse emulator and two switches set to tab and enter.  It is even possible to go many rounds on Simon playing with two switches!

Silly Books Adds Click Through Books

Silly Books has long been on the TLWMSN Blog Alternate Format Books and Stories list, (since I reviewed it in 2007) but now many of there books have a "click through" option which allows switch users to turn the page.  Just set your switch to "mouse click" and place your mouse arrow over next.

I hope they will continue to add to the "click through" collection, consider an option that teachers or caregivers can choose to block out page turning until the text is read and maybe add scanning and switch access to their games!  I know it is a tall order to ask from a free site, but they have never disappointed in the past!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I don't know how I missed this site, but it was enough to make me want to leave the comfort of my couch and go back to work right NOW and use it with some of my students.  (Too bad my students would not be there right now!)

The site is SwitchMusic.  It is a scanning menu of teen appropriate music videos (via You Tube, sorry to those who have it blocked at work) that works with a switch set to "mouse click" with the cursor left over the image of a switch... it is self-explanatory, go give it a try!

Monday, April 12, 2010

If I had a VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aid)

AAC Devices are rarely refered to as VOCA's anymore, but I suppose "If I had an AAC Device" or "If I had a Speech Generating Device" doesn't really fit. 

Let's all make sure of students have a way to tell their stories!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Abilities Box is IEP time for some of us.  (Tis' the season.)  Many of us are always looking for ways to make our IEP meetings focus on the positive, be less challenging for families and caregivers to face (how easy it is for us to forget that IEPs can be so difficult for families when we sit so through so many year after year) and help all TEAM members focus on positive goals, expectations and new beginnings for the next year.  
The abilities box is one way we can keep the focus on a student's gift.  Offered by the Disability is Natural Store for ten dollars each, including choice of slogans on the sides, "gift cards" and bow. you are at the Disability is Natural Store you can check out their other products from training materials to magnets and posters.  (My  personal favorite product line of theirs is the "Presume Competence" products.  I also think it is my dearest held believe and that which has the potential to make biggest difference in the life of my students.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Do-N-Slide Visual Schedule

Do-N-Slide is a simple now/all done visual schedule that could be used in our classrooms.  Retailing at $19.99 with a change to save on larger orders it is slightly less expensive than similar tools.  It comes with a small assortment of picture cards or use your own picture symbols.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ablenet Acquires Madentec

Ablenet, having acquired Tash April 2008 and SoftTouch in January 2009 Ablenet has now accquired the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the entire line of Madentec products.   (Madentec retains the brand and will provide engineering support.)

Madentec (some of us old timers will remember this) once upon a time took over making the Discover line of products from Don Johnston (and in a move that happened to hit a student of mine pretty hard at the time dropped the Discover Ke:nx product and did not offer Morse Code on newer products, but that is a story for another time).

Madentec is best known for its head tracking device the Tracker Pro (people usually say, "Is that the one with the dot?"  Yes, it is.  Meaning the user wears a reflective dot for the camera to follow, often times the dot is worn on the center of the forehead.)  Other products include a head worn cheek switch (the IntelliWisp), a switch interface (the Intelliswitch), the Discover line of products (the Discover Pro and the Discover Envoy) and some other computer access hardware and software.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Online Voice Output Switch

Check out the sidebar and you will see an online voice output switch.  Record a message and use like a Big Mac but leaving the mouse arrow over the play message button and having your students press a switch (set to mouse click) to play.  You can also do this by setting your browser to Vocaroo.  You can even do this with the browser on a mobile device!

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