Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Learning through the Olfactory Sense

Many of our learners who have multiple disabilities we are often somewhat limited in what sensory pathways we can use to teach new skills or build cognition.  Our students may be deaf, blind, have reduced tactile sensation, be unable to eat or even taste foods by mouth or be unable to participate in most vestibular and proprioceptive activities because of medical conditions like orthostatic hypotension or brittle bones.  These means that the sense of smell may be the most powerful means of accessing our students skills.

Most of us are sure to include the sense of smell in our cooking lessons, passing around the vanilla extract or onion for every one to sniff.  Yet how can we include the sense of smell in other areas of the curriculum.

1.  Consistently call attention to the scent of items in natural settings, if possible pairing the scent with another sense such as touch or hearing.  Have your student notice the smell of the crayon while feeling its shape and making the movements for coloring hand over hand.  Notice the odor of the playground ball as you roll it and bounce it.  Observe the smell or the toothpaste and hand soap while doing activities of daily living.

2.  If at all possible consider embedding scent into a visual schedule/calendar box system.  A few drops of an essential oil like evergreen or gardenia can be added to the "outside" symbol, a minty toothpasty kind of smell added to the ADLs symbol or a lemony smell for vocational tasks that involve using citrus scented cleaners.

3.  Ask people to try to stick to the same perfume, aftershave, scented lotion or or even deodorant so students can associate a person with a scent.

4.  Attempt to embed scents into theme units.  Learning about India?  Introduce each lesson with the smell of curry.  Learning about gardening?  Introduce each lesson with the smell damp soil (put some in a baby food jar).  Think about this when you plan out your unit.

5. Using a systematic program (such as Every Move Counts) do a preference assessment on your student's favorite scents.  You can then use this scent to reinforce learning activities.  For example teaching switch use using a scent diffuser and an environmental controller.

If I Were in Charge of Research and Development at an AAC Company...

  • prices would reflect what the device costs to research, develop, manufacture and distribute - not the highest price health insurance or medicaid will pay
  • every device would weight less than 4 pounds
  • a carrying handle would be integral to every design
  • every device would be durable enough for 16 hours a day of daily use every where they might be used
  • devices would automatically back up - their to the "cloud" or to an external hard drive or other computer
  • there would be a small display showing what the user is working on so the communication partner is in the know or there would be, at the very least, an LED light that signaled a message is being created and to wait
  • all devices would have hot swap batteries (kudos to the Zygo Optimist for being the first in the field and to the Tobii for using on all their C series devices)
  • all devices would have external volume controls
  • their would be a search feature to make finding and linking boards less of a chore
  • instant skype or video chat with tech support on the device 
  • front and rear video/still cameras with adjustable aim (I have more pictures of ceilings taken by my Tobii user!)
  • everything integrates with everything - compose your message and then speak, text or email it all from the same place (Dynavox does this well in the InterAACt software)
  • consistent symbol set use within communication board software (no mixed sets)
  • built in user communities where users can talk to other users while using their devices
  • a means to strip personal information from boards and board sets to be able to share them confidentially
  • AAC companies working with curriculum companies so that board sets relating to theme unit or subjects can be purchased and installed
  • integrated access to the web regardless of access method (yes, I know that is a big dream)
  • speech banking for those with progressive disorders so that early implementation can be for banking speech which is then available when needed for the user
  • high tech PODD sets (that I don't have to make myself)
  • online board/page creation and back up
  • quick printing of the board/pages on the device to make manual backups
  • integrated alternative assessment features
  • DAISY/AMIS reader (good job Dynavox)
  • integrate with Bookshare
  • glare proof screen
  • data collection and analysis on device use, access, language used, etc.
  • water resistant designs
  • usb ports, lots of them, and not in hard to reach places
  • bluetooth/SMS/MMS/E-mail/wi-fi all built in (most devices have this in the "open" version)
  • instant on and instant off features
  • media features in the communication software that allow full control over media (flip through album covers, choose songs and movies, etc)
  • plenty of memory for storing music, movies, etc

For Special Kids Boardmaker Share Groups

Check these out and add you boards and activities.  These groups are for those of us who work with individuals with severe, profound or multiple special needs.  Activities which use creativity to teach functional skills that also meet alternative assessment standards are especially welcome!
  • Language Arts for Special Kids
  • Adapted Books for Special Kids
  • Math for Special Kids
  • Science for Special Kids
  • History for Special Kids
  • Life Skills for Special Kids

Switch Access to iPods/iPads Expands

Several companies have announced new ways for those with physical or multiple disabilities to access the iPod and iPad.  Here is the list of what is currently on the market.

Control the iOS Device with Switch(es)
  • iPortal Accessibility allows users with certain brands of power wheelchairs to use their driving mechanism (joystick, switches) to control all aspects of an iPhone 

Control Music on iOS with Switch(es)
  • iScan MP3 single switch access to iOS devices (except the shuffle, the picture is deceiving on the website it DOES work with current model devices) with adjustable scan speed
  • Ablenet Hook auditory scanning of music with one or two switches designed to be adjustable in terms of cognitive load
Control an App with Switch(es)
  • RJ Cooper iOS Super Switch and Switch Interface
  • Ablenet Blue 2

Use the iOS Device as a Switch(es) to Control Other Things
  • Switchamajig turns your iPad into an adaptive remote control for adapted toys
  • Attainment

Special Needs Glasses

Solo Bambini Glasses

As special needs teachers we get asked questions about all sort of topics.  After all special needs teachers are generalists who need to know a little bit about and awful lot, and a LOT about quite a few things.  Glasses for children with special needs is one of those things that comes up.  Here are some places you may want to direct parents.

Unbreakable Glasses 
  • Miraflex's Flexible and Safe frames are solid, flexible, unbreakable for infants to older children and at least one style for adults.  
  • Solo Bambini offers solid, one piece, flexible, unbreakable glasses for babies through adults. These glasses are also non-magnetic and thus can be worn in MRI machines and by those with programmable shunts or VNS devices.  They also offer other styles and brands of pediatric glasses.
  • Tomato Glasses are light, adjustable,  flexible, shockproof, non-slip and retain the shape of the wearer.  Sizes in infant through adult.

Tomato Glasses

Other Special Needs Glasses

  • Bans offers children's glasses frames in sizes from infant to age 5.  You can have your eye doctor change the lenses. These glasses have a neoprene band to hold them in place instead of arms.  A full array of sunglasses with neoprene bands, including infant sizes available as well.  Also swimming goggles and prescription swimming goggles.  (And hearing protection.)
  • Spokiz has Rx glasses and sunglasses with special inter-changable flexible arms they call bands.  They are supposed to be non-slip, extra durable and help to avoid pressure points.
  • Specs4Us has glasses in all sizes which are specifically designed for children and adults with Down Syndrome.

  • Ficklets are glasses charms, super cute and fun!
  • Templelocks slide over the end of the arm of your glasses to help stop them from slipping.
  • Croakies makes a wide range of glasses straps and retainers and other accessories for kids and adults.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Coming in September 2012 - All Accessible iPad from Ablenet

(below is directly from the Ablenet website.)


Enabling the iPad for everyone.

Product will be available September 2012
Keynote AbleNet’s Keynote access solution unlocks the power of the iPad mobile device for users with significant physical disabilities. Keynote provides cutting edge accessibility, brilliant sound and exceptional design to create a one of a kind solution for the iPad.

  • HiFi stereo amplified sound output
  • Wireless and wired switch access with scanning capabilities to control the iPad and apps supporting VoiceOver controls
  • Sleek outer casing protects against moisture and impact
  • Integrated battery, charging and iPad syncing
  • Updatable firmware to add new features as they are available
  • MSRP $349.00

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Your Photos Needed

One of my awesome readers, Rhonda, sent in this picture at my request in the revised version of the, "Melted Crayon Art with Switches" post.  Isn't it beautiful?  She and her student used their switches to make it.

Rhonda's kind email with the photo got me thinking.  I took down quite a few pictures and posts in my revision to get back online.  If other readers also sent me pictures of things they created based on something they saw here then some of the posts could go back up!

So get out your cameras and do me a favor?  Send along any pictures you have related to:

-work boxes (aka work tasks, voc boxes)
-adapted games
-theme units (particularly The Wizard of Oz theme unit I did last summer)
-step-by-step pictures of switch adaptions

-anything else you created because of something you read or saw here!

Email things to:

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