Monday, April 30, 2007

Freebie Alert!

If you haven't been over to the Free Page of Slater Software lately you should check it out. The new May Freebies are up and some of the items include a hand washing social story, a history of Mother's Day and instructions to make a litter bag for the car (maybe a Mother's Day gift?). Also a bunch of items for Cinco De Mayo. All of these are made with Pix Writer with literacy symbol support for non-readers.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Product Review - Overboard by Gus, Inc.

Overboard is augmentative and alternative communication software (heavily) marketed (try typing Boardmaker into Google and see what the paid ads are) to compete with Boardmaker by Mayer-Johnson. At $169.00 for a program that claims to do everything and more that Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro ($389.00) does, Overboard is very tempting and I fell for the bait.

First some background, I have been in the special education field long enough to have used the Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols back when you had to photocopy, enlarge, hand color and glue together communication boards. If you compare Overboard to that method of making a communication board or book it is far superior. I have used Boardmaker version one, version three, version five and am yet to try version six. Thus this is mostly a comparison of the currently available Overboard and Boardmaker 5 (not the new and improved six).

Let us start with what Overboard actually does better: the draw and paint features are quite a bit better than Boardmaker w/SDP, letting you do things like change the opacity and make exactly one more button shape than Boardmaker. Other nice things about Overboard include not needing the CD in the drive and getting free upgrades for life. Other than those four things - the price, the draw/paint features, no CD and free upgrades Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro is far superior to Talking Overboard.

The symbols in Overboard are different, as proclaimed they do not have "stick men", then again none of Overboard's images of people have any hands to speak of, which is just creepy. I thought for a second I had searched for amputee, but I hadn't. Overboard claims the symbols are more "adult" however a study presented at ASHA showed that adults did not prefer Overboard to Boardmaker symbols or vice versa. Also, I teach students ages 16-22; my students have had 13 or more years of Boardmaker symbols. It doesn't seem fair to switch to symbols that look totally different this far into their education, when in all likeliness they will be back to Boardmaker symbols when they move on from my class.

(Although I only describe making one board using Overboard in this post I actually made about two dozen in order to feel I was being fair to Overboard. I also watched all of the Overboard training videos online, which have a horrible background noise. Overboard has no other help system to speak of other than the videos.)

For starters the Overboard symbol search engine is slow, and I have a fancy, fast computer. You also cannot create boxes or use the provided templates and expect your symbols with or without labels to go neatly into the boxes - they don't. You will spend gobs of time resizing images and moving text to fit into your grids. By gobs of time I mean a twelve symbol board about insects that took me exactly three minutes in Boardmaker took me 37 minutes in Overboard. If you choose to have buttons automatically made around images then the buttons will not be a uniform size, they will be a size proportional to the size of the image, thus my button for "bee" was much smaller than my button for "beetle" (which makes no sense when you think about it) and I had to resize the buttons, the images and move the text by hand.

There is also no "snap to grip", so have fun aligning those buttons by hand, too. You cannot spray buttons, empty or full. Also the program considers the text, image and button to be three separate items and even if you select them all to move them the text stubbornly stays put while the image and button move. You cannot chose to "replace" or "add to" an image that is already in a button. In the image search engine you cannot switch languages, you cannot have more than one language (English only), you cannot chose a font size or location for your text, in fact if you want text with your image you have to remember to click on the "image plus text" icon every symbol time you paste in an image. What's that you want to search by first letter, or word part or whole word only? Sorry, not a choice. I searched for "L" hoping for words that started with "L". I got 1169 images including words that have the letter "L" no where in the word! (Like "absent", "about" and "Board Games" - huh?)

Now let's make my misaligned insect board do some Speaking Dynamically sorts of things. Making the buttons talk and link was easy, but forget any of the cooler things that Speaking Dynamically does, like scan, launch programs, play a recorded sound, etc, etc, etc. I have to say that Overboard has no business comparing itself to Speaking Dynamically Pro, maybe, just maybe it is in the same ball park as Boardmaker Plus. No, forget that, Boardmaker Plus does animations and video as well as features to make interactive games. Overboard doesn't even come close to Boardmaker Plus.

For $220.00 more than Overboard you can have Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro with all of the picture symbol addendums. It is money well spent. If you already have any version of Boardmaker, which someone in your school or agency probably does, you can get an upgrade, which will most likely save you close to the difference between the two. Not to mention that the time you save not hand aligning and resizing or searching out all the "L" words is probably worth $220.00!

If you are a parent you can get Boardmaker at Home for $149.00, twenty dollars cheaper than Overboard and then your child's home and school symbols will match.

Also see "Why buy or use Boardmaker these days?" by Call Centre.

P.S. Just for the sake of full disclosure when I purchased my Overboard via download using PayPal Gus Inc. claimed to have charged me $169.00, however they actually charged me $185.00. This is still not fixed.

Also, it took more than 30 hours after my purchase, via what was supposed to be a fast electronic process, for Gus to get me a registration code - 22 hours to respond to my request for a code, then they claimed the computer identification number I sent them was wrong (it wasn't), then I told them it wasn't wrong, resent the information with copies of the PayPal and Gus electronic receipts and they sent me a code, but did not fix the billing error.
Caveat Emptor!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ability Net on You Tube

Today link of the day comes (again) from Barrie at One Switch. After I posted the overview of AAC video below he e-mailed me the link to Ability Net On You Tube. If you have some time this weekend, why not check out these assistive technology videos

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Latex Free Classroom

If you don't currently work in a latex free environment it is likely that you will eventually. Natural Rubber Latex or NRL contains a protein that can cause severe allergic reaction in people who are genetically susceptible (e.g. those with eczema, other allergies, etc).

An allergy to NRL is different from an irritant rash or contact dermatitis, an allergy is a may include a rash, even a severe rash, but is also likely to include sneezing, watery eyes, swollen lips/throat, hives and possibly anaphylactic shock, which can cause death. Each time a person with a susceptibility is exposed to latex his or chance of developing an allergy increases and each time a person with a NRL allergy is exposed the reaction can become worse than the time before. Therefore limiting latex exposure in the first place can prevent allergies from developing and keep developed allergies from getting worse.

Individuals with congenital disabilities, like spina bifida (individuals with spina bifida are 40-60% more likely to be allergic to NRL), and healthcare workers are at the highest risk of developing an NRL allergy, because they have the highest exposure. Many hospitals and special education schools have eliminated latex gloves, but they are only one source of NRL.

NRL is also found in many adhesives like glues and tapes. Cling design packaging, like that for band-aids may contain latex. Many mobility aids, such as wheelchairs contain latex (in the tires and the cushions especially). Also some toys, such as Koosh balls have latex.

The Spina Bifida Association offers a list of latex free alternatives to products that may contain NRL (which includes toys and arts and craft materials) and the ALERT Foundation has an excellent list of latex free products with phone numbers. There is an article in Exceptional Parent that discusses latex allergy and lists NRL free toys and materials and the phone numbers for makers and distributors.

Here is a fun list I am calling, "Surprise, It's Latex!" All of these products most likely contain latex, see the ALERT list for more information.

  • paste, glue, tape, rubber cement
  • calculator and phone buttons
  • some theraband
  • koosh balls
  • ball pits
  • basketballs and playground balls
  • tire swings
  • erasers
  • clay
  • mouse pads
  • no slip foam on plates
  • pencil grips
  • baby bottle nipples
  • elastic cords in fleece clothes
  • tooth brushes and gum massagers
  • pacifiers
  • rubber duckies
  • old Barbies
  • some dolls
  • elastic in clothing
Basically if it has any of the "S's" you should be suspicious:
  • sticky
  • stretchy
  • smelly (like tires or rubber bands)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Website of the Day - ORI Wheelchair Mobility Training

The Oregon Research Institute (ORI) has available free software for use in training children (and adults) with multiple or severe orthopedic disabilities in use of a power wheelchair. All they ask in return is for you to keep data (on children between 5 and 21) and share it with them.

The software can be used with a specialized computer joystick, an unadapted gaming joystick, a gaming joystick adapted using the free JoytoSwitch software from One Switch.

Thanks to Barrie from The One Switch Blog for this link.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A few months ago, during a blog field trip to the Netherlands, I asked if anyone knew who the vendor for the TouchSpeak device was, well David from Great Talking Box answered my call. It turns out, in the U.S., the TouchSpeak will the sold by Great Talking Box.

Here is what David had to say:

Touchspeak is really neat stuff, At first sight, it is a software program operating efficiently on a small screen which, in itself, is not unusual. What is unusual is that operating on one of the new Windows CE PDA-style phones, it turns the phone into a very sophisticated communication aid and then enables the user to make telephone calls and use all the communication features to speak to the person receiving the call. It can be picture based or text based with a word prediction system with features that you do not find on many PC based systems. A user could even write on the screen with a stylus and have the written text spoken on the phone! A great feature is found in the programming of pages. It takes a little getting used to but instead of creating pages with links back and forth between the pages, you simply tell the system that you want a key contain a page under it and the page and all links are magically created. The Great Talking Box Company will be marketing a series of complete solutions featuring Touchspeak. You can watch them as they appear on my blog and get more technical information when it appears on the company website. Interesting times.

Thanks, David. I have also had an e-mail from Richard Hill, one of the original designers of the TouchSpeak in the U.K., so expect to hear more soon. I hope to review the device personally once it becomes available in the U.S., but here is the Ace Centre review to hold you over.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Show and Tell

Today I took a hands-on class offered by the agency I work for called "Custom Switches". After our time with exact-o knives, wire cutters and strippers and soldering irons, we all left with two projects. The first was a String Switch (wherein you pull the string to make something happen) and the second a proximity switch (wherein you move a magnet (mounted to a glove, splint, head band, glasses arm, etc) in the vicinity of the switch to make something happen).

Here is a commercial string switch (retail $35.00, plus shipping) compared to mine (less than five dollars with shipping). Next to them both are the innards of my string switch.

And here are two commercial proximity switches next to my proximity switch. The first one pictured costs $55.00 and the second one costs $245.00; mine cost less than five dollars to build.

Most of the parts for these projects were purchased from All Electronics. Stay tuned for the results of the next class in the series where we will learn how to switch adapt computer mice and/or CD players (a week from Wednesday).

Note: My two switches will most likely not stand up to much abuse from my students, which is the dilemma - a custom switch for under five dollars you probably will need to make/buy again or one that will hold up a while longer (how much longer depends on the company you buy it from and how much abuse you give it).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Website of the Day - Reale Books

Reale Books (said Really Books) is, among other things, free software to self publish books. The software guides the creator through a process of putting one image and a text box on each page. It took me about 45 minutes to figure out the process of uploading symbols/pictures and how to layout the pages. Built into the software is capacity to e-mail your books. Also available, for free, are libraries of the book others have made (in Reale Book format or PDF), some basic photographic images to use in your books and ideas (through both the blog and the forum) for what to make your books about. In addition, there are worksheets to download to help plan your book. In the UK there is a RealeBooks UK.

Truth be told, I downloaded the software, made a symbol based book for my students called, "I want a job!" and now I am going to remove the software from my laptop. I can make similar books, that have more than one image and more than one text box in Power Point, which, if I am frugal with the images, e-mail just fine using my regular software and can be printed in a variety of formats (try making mini-books using the handout/note taking format) OR be used electronically with a single switch.

That is not to say that this software doesn't have its place. With some teacher set up many of our students with more academic abilities may enjoy making books for themselves and the idea of creating a library is interesting, however that aspect needs the paid form of the software, I think. Or if you are just not a Power Point or CAST BookBuilder fan Reale Books can be a real alternative.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Website of the Day: New England News

New England News is a free special education newspaper geared towards, as the name says, New England. It is created using Classroom Suite from Intellitools and can be downloaded in classroom suite format or as a PDF. Inside gossip tells me it is created by a very dedicated special needs teacher who has an assistive technology degree from my (double - BA/MS) alma mater, Simmons College.

I debated quite a bit with myself over posting this as a site of the day, because it is rather locally based and this blog is more international everyday. In the end I decided to share it as a resource to teachers from around here and as inspiration to teachers from across the country and around the world. If you know of similar projects more local to you please share the link through the comments section.

P.S. The new links pages are shaping up nicely. They are designed to clarify and simplify the website collection to the left on this blog. Check them out at Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Resource Pages.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Adaptive Bikes

With an eye towards an eventual stop of the rain that is consuming the east coast, today's feature is on Adaptive Bikes (and trikes and quads). Adaptive Bikes are always two things for sure, first of all therapeutically fun, secondly expensive. Here is a list of vendors that sell adaptive bikes:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Website of the Day - Author Jan Brett

Jan Brett is the author of "The Mitten" and other favorite children's books. Her website is one of the most expansive of the children's authors websites available. The site includes activities, online games, printable games, coloring pages, videos and more. There is a chance to win an author visit upon finishing the Hedgie Crossword Puzzle.

Also, a friend of mine, Jan F., a pre-school special needs teacher, is raffling off autographed Jan Brett books to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The tickets are three for ten dollars and for sale online until April 27th. Yesterday Jan F. finished the rainy and cold Boston Marathon in just over five hours after missing training this autumn because of broken ribs. She dedicated her marathon run to children with MS.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Team Hoyt Video

Team Hoyt

Today was the (cold and rainy) running of the Boston Marathon here in Massachusetts. That picture over there is obviously not today. In fact, the Boston Marathon did not feel like itself at all, given that the heart and soul of the marathon for the past 25 years, Dick and Rick Hoyt, were not there.

Rick Hoyt, who has CP, runs in the marathon, with his father acting as his legs, pushing him in an adapted 3-wheeled racing chair. (Rick had the first of its kind, before Baby Joggers and Special Needs Joggers.)

Since you can read about Rick and Dick Hoyt and their athletic career on their Team Hoyt site (or just by Googling them) I will not repeat it. Besides what interests us, as special educators, is the disability awareness work they do and how Rick went from a little kid in a private special needs school, to a public school student to a B.U. graduate to an employee at Boston College.

I have had the privilege of meeting and hanging around with Rick and his dad a few times. Rick is an inspiring guy, even without the marathons and iron man events. When he speaks with his dad sometimes the audience gets caught up in asking about the number of times they have medaled and things like that.

My students are usually more interested in thing like, "What do you do when your communication device breaks down?" (He and his family and friends have a system of partner assisted scanning in which his communication partner says the vowel in alphabetical order and Rick signals with his eyes where to stop, then the partner says the alphabet from that vowel and Rick signals again, when the partner things he or she has the word then a guess is made until the word is complete.) and "How did you learn to spell?" (His mother wrote the alphabet on his body with her fingers, saying the letter name and sounds.) Once I even had one of my students ask, using his Chat PC, if Rick ever got frustrated because people assumed that he was not smart just because he could not speak.

Years before that I actually had a student, who after hearing Rick say that learning to spell is the only way to be able to share your own words, could be cajoled into doing his reading work by teasing, "Rick Hoyt always did his reading!"

Rick is a talented AAC user, switching to a Words+ system in 2001 on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. Previously he used another device and before that an original device created just for him by engineers at Tufts University that Rick called simply "My Communicator".

Once Rick proved himself with "My Communicator" he was allowed (!!!) into public school . He started running with his Dad in 1977 and loved it, so they worked to enter more challenging races with each passing year (like the Boston Marathon and the Iron Man).

Rick went to school at Boston University, where there are stories of him sneaking into the Women's Dorm rooms by doing a sort of belly crawl one of his classmates described as "the worm", but I have no way to verify those stories. Each of his papers took him many times longer than anyone else's because of the tedious process of scanning to type. His switch sight is at his temple.

Rick graduated from BU with a degree in special education. He now works at Boston College on the Eagle Eyes Project and his spelling system is frequently referred to as the "Hoyt Spelling System". He also has a full calendar of speaking engagements done at schools, conferences and businesses. As part of his disability work he is featured in a documentary called, "Rick's Eyes on the Prize", which is included in the "I'm In Here" series. Last time I spoke with him Rick was living in his own apartment in part of Boston with personal care attendants coming in to assist him.

If there is no other message, "I'm in here" is it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Second Home for the Links

I am going to be spending a good part of spring break this week placing all of the links to the left on their own web pages. Take a peek if you wish, but right this minute the pages are just at the beginning stages. Still, even with just ten or twelve hours of work done it is already easier to find some of what you need and know about what you are clicking on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sue Center AAC and More Free Software

I never cease to be amazed that after 30, 50, 75, 100, 120 posts to this blog there are still amazing, free resources out there for individuals with special needs and those who work with them to improve their quality of life.

So many special needs companies create products and increase the price to unaffordable levels to make a huge profit, or worse, place mainstream items into their catalogs and increasing the price by 10% or more, because now it is being marketed "for the disabled". It is refreshing that places like Oatsoft and the Sue Center exist.

Sue Center offers a complete text based AAC system that is compatible with most alternative mice such as head mice, eye trackers, touch screens, joysticks, trackballs and other mouse emulators (even mouse emulating switch programs like CrossScanner).

The basic idea of Sue Center is that instead of using software programs to access standard computer programs one software program would replace the access software and the standard software.

Thus Sue Center includes e-mail, a limited web browser, a digital photo program, environmental controls (x10), e-book, word processing with word prediction, a dictionary, a calculator, an alarm clock and more. A visit to the site and a peek at the slide show, film or documentation will show you all it can do. Sue Center is also very clear about what it cannot do (see limitations on the site). Finally, Sue Center is configurable, so you can set it how to work best for your student.

So, if you have a student capable of text based AAC with a mouse emulator/alternate input device, this might be a great, low cost program to use for evaluation, to start with, to have as a back up or to install on a laptop or tablet PC as a permanent AAC solution.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wordzee Worksheet (and Communication Board) Designer

Wordzee is a free online program to make picture (non-standardized symbols, clip art and photos) based worksheets and communication boards. There are 16 different layouts to choose from including 4,6 or 8 images in boxes or not, with blank lines for labeling activities, arranged for matching activities, fill in the blank with a word bank or matching pictures to text. The software takes a few trials to get used to, don't get frustrated by error messages at first.

In Wordzee first use the search box on the left to choose images. Then assign pictures to boxes, title your worksheet and, finally, chose a layout. This is a quick, free, online alternative to using Boardmaker or similar software when you are in a pinch (i.e. no time to load up software, you don't have Boardmaker, you don't have your Boardmaker disc). Keep in mind you do loose the versatility, broad range of images and standardized symbol system when you use this instead of Boardmaker, but there is definitely a time and a place for Wordzee.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Four Free Special Needs Games

Watling View School (UK) has four free games to download aimed at students learning basic concepts. Some are at a basic cause and effect level others at a pre-K level. All are touchscreen, interactive white board and mouse accessible. Check 'em out.

Monday, April 9, 2007

National (USA) Equipment Reuse Locator

Today, posted on a the RESNA listserv, was information about the website to locate equipment reuse programs across the USA.

This is from the site, "The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP) and the National Pass It On Center are cataloging programs that help consumers and families "reuse" assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, computers, or other equipment for daily living." From there you click on your state on an interactive map and get a display of all the re-use programs in your area.

My small state (Massachusetts) has five programs listed and about a month ago, when I would have given my right arm to know how to reach any one of them, I couldn't find any of them using Google or other search engines/methods!

I recommend you book mark this page!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Boardmaker Offering 30 Day Free Trial

Mayer-Johnson is finally doing what it has never done, offering a free 30 day trial of Boardmaker (v. 5.3+) for Windows. You must download it on a computer which has nothing from the Boardmaker family on it. Now, Mayer-Johnson, you really want to convince us of your dedication and commitment to individuals with special needs (and staying on top of other companies), offer free symbol updates!

I assume this change (and I could be wrong) is due to pressure of the free 30-day trial of Overboard Software from Gus Communication.

You know it is hard to avoid noticing the screenshot similarities, I wonder if Mayer-Johnson has some patent issue they play to come out with? Gosh, even the names, "Boardmaker" and "Overboard". Than again, if competition will cut prices, I'm all for it. Why can't we all just get along?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Upcoming Conferences

The Council for Exceptional Children's annual conference is next week (April 18-21) in Louisville, Kentucky. They are still accepting registrations.

The AAC Institute is announcing three conferences. The first two will run consecutively in Pittsburgh, one on Evidence Based Practice in AAC and the other a conference about employment for AAC users.

The third is a conference on improving clinical practice in AAC. It is to be held in Lexington, Kentucky. The AAC Institute has been offering CEUs for speech and language pathologists for sometime, but now it is also offering CEUs for those in all fields.

The National Institute for People with Disabilities Network holds its annual conference in New York City April 30-May 4, 2007 focusing on Charting the Future. Following the main conference there will be two symposium, on by Carol Grey, the creator of social stories and the other on Postive Behavior Supports by the CEO of LifeStiles.

(P.S. Tonights internet access was provided by the B-R Family of Cambridge, whom I have been babysitting for four years. Thanks.)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Another Great CAST Resource

I blogged about the CAST UDL Book Builder the other day and now I want to share with you there UDL Lesson Builder. This site allows you to create online lesson plans that integrate technology and ensure access for all learners. In addition you can share your lesson plans and see the plans of other teachers. You can see all of CAST's products (free and commercial) here.

Each lesson plan made a Lesson Builder has space for a Lesson Overview, Unit Description, Lesson Description for the Day, State Standards, Unit and Lesson Goals, Methods, Wrap-up, Assessment and Materials. The 'wysiwyg' editing allows you to insure web links, photos and more into the lesson plan. Clicking on "More Information" in each section provides an idea for what information you should be including.

Note: You will need a new log in, your CAST Book Builder one will not work (or at least mine didn't).

(P.S. Thanks to Panera Bread Shop for the internet connection to make this post, as I am still sans internet at home.)

Be A Behavior Einstein

Hopefully the presentation I gave yesterday (Be a Behavior Einstein) will be hosted on the Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs Group Page soon, however, I am running into some problems. So, for the next 30 days (which restarts every time some one downloads it). You can access it on

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Files for You

As promised to those wonderful members of the audience of my Tewksbury workshop today I have posted the power point of the workshop. In fact, I have created a Google Group to be associated with this blog for discussion and materials sharing!

The group is Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs and the PPT can be found in the file section (will be when it finishes up loading).

If people feel like it we can use this Google group for some great international discussion about working with student who have low incidence disabilities. Sign up if you are interested.

Tewkbury folks today's PPT is called "It doesn't take an Einstein", which had been the working title for the presentation. The January workshop is there too.

p.s. Internet still down, borrowing a local network at the slowest speed humanly imaginable.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Internet Down

Hello All,

I just wanted to let everyone know there will be no posts until a week from tomorrow (April 12th) because Verizon accidentally shut off my internet. I just got off the phone with them (always an adventure) and they have no idea why they shut it off, but my account was terminated. So, they are giving me three months free, but it will take a week to hook back up. Thus, no posts until it is back (this is getting posted at work, but I don't like to research here).


Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Student's Favorite Games

I asked my students to tell me their favorite games that we have in the classroom for this post.

20 Q is a game based on twenty questions. This game can read your mind! The class thinks of something like "apple" or "Red Sox" or "wheelchair" and the game asks us questions. Most of the time the game does guess what we are thinking of. 20 Q comes in a table top version (shown) and a handheld version (that's what we have). You can also play 20 Q Junior Online for free. This game is a fun way to work on yes/no skills. We play by voting on something to thing of and then I read the questions aloud. The students use their voices or AAC to answer yes/no/sometimes and we discuss until we reach a consensus and enter it into the game. That way it is all of us versus the game. 20 Q costs about $20.00 and you can pick it up at Target or Kmart.

Super Duper, a great speech and language therapy product company has been branching out over the past few years. This year they came out with the Webber Functional Communication Games Set. I was lucky enough to win this game at a conference I went to early last month. Actually it is many games rolled into one. It includes bingo, tic-tac-toe, board games and card games; not to mention adaptive playing pieces and an electronic adaptive spinner. Designed for non-verbal students, the games focus on receptive and expressive communication through Mayer-Johnson PCS. At nearly $65.00 this game may seem expensive, but for all it includes it is a bargain. Just the Mayer-Johnson symbol cards would set you back nearly as much purchased alone, making this a worthy purchase.

Also from Super Duper, my students are fond of some of the fun decks. Mostly they use the various fun decks in their speech sessions, but I have a few for the classroom as well, including All About Me, All About You, a favorite. The deck includes directions for several ways to play this as a game, but the simplest is to go around the group letting each student have a turn picking a card and then letting each student answer the question. This is also a good way to see if you how well students AAC devices are programed to tell about themselves. Each fun deck costs $10.95.

Trouble with the Popomatic Bubble is a long time math game favorite of my class. With built in adaptive features that aren't even suppose to be adaptive like the game pieces holders and the popomatic bubble and the simple game concept it is a winner every time we play it. I love that it is a way to work on that elusive concept of 1:1 correspondence without feeling like I am torturing my students.

Like every other special needs classroom out there my students are also fans of Bingo. We have a variety of versions of Bingo, including PCS Bingo, picture Bingo, color and shapes Bingo, number Bingo, sight word Bingo and safety sign Bingo. You can find these games at your local teacher supply store or online at

Of course we also have a large variety of teacher made games. A favorite is Pick-a-Poll, which we play almost every day. Pick-a-poll consists of simple questions, usually yes/no or two choice, written on Popsicle sticks an placed in a magnetic cup on my white board. At the end of the day we usually Pick-a-poll, that is a student helper chooses one question from the cup and we go around the room answering it (kids and adults). I tally the results of the poll on the white board. (If I don't tally the results the kids get annoyed and point at the board, frowning.) Here are just a few of the questions:

  • which do you like better winter or summer?
  • which do you like better spring or fall?
  • which do you like better weekdays or weekends?
  • do you like field trips?
  • do you like to swim?
  • do you like parties?
  • do you like country music?
  • which is better McDonald's or Burger King?
  • should we have a dance this year?

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