Friday, February 27, 2009

New USSAAC Newsletter

The United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication has published their winter quarterly newsletter on the theme of "preparedness". Included are articles about college and AAC, a review of the PODD communication system and interview with Gayle Porter, a Family Forum and an article I wrote, which am honored to have included, about better preparing ourselves as teachers and professionals who work with AAC users in schools.

There is also an extensive pull out session on Emergency Preparedness on several levels, with and without symbol supported text, which is a wonderful resource to send home to caregivers and families.

P.S. I expect to be sufficiently recovered from my recent illness to return to both work and blogging midweek...keep an eye out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Under the Weather

Hi Folks,

I want to thank all of you who have sent e-mails of concern wondering where I am. I have been ill and have been at the hospital nearly everyday the past week and a half for treatment. It is a long story, but I should be fine soon. I hope to be back and better very, very shortly.

Thankfully it is school vacation here in New England and I have only missed 2 school days (so far, I hope I will be well by Monday... sigh. I very much dislike being ill.)

Until then, I am resting.

My best to all of you.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two Switch Games on Sadlier-Oxford Phonics

FYI - the memory card games at Sadlier-Oxford Phonics work as two switch scanning games (set one switch to "tab" and the other to "enter"). Some of the others may work as well. Comment if you find any, please.

I have made it a habit to always do a tab/enter two switch test when I encounter an interesting "mainsteam" educational online. Please let me know of any that work well for your students.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kindle 2 Might Have Applications in Our Classroom

The new Kindle 2 is much more likely to have a place in a classroom for learners with multiple or intensive disabilities with some of the changes that have been announced. The biggest news for our students is the new text-to-speech feature. The voices are not the state of the art ones most of us with Dynavox or similar device users are accustomed to hearing, but you can change the pitch. While I hardly see the Kindle 2 as an accessible device until the pages can be turned with a switch or two, the text-to-speech could be a selling point for some of our students.

So where is it? Where is the e-book reader that has a great voice and/or switch accessible page turning? Has anyone hacked a new or old kindle to make page turning switch accessible? Is Dynavox, Tobii ATI or PRC planning on adding some e-book accessibility to there devices anytime soon?

Schedule Suduko

As much as I love the community of support there is online as a teacher of learners with severe or multiple special needs sometimes what you need is another teacher who is right there. My classroom was in need of a new staff rotation schedule to begin after February break (yes, non-New England readers, we get a February break). Not being a sudoku or logic puzzle aficionado I was really struggling to figure it out. How was I going to make five students with 1:1 instructional assistants, four instructional assistants and myself work into a rotating schedule that was equitable and would not create issues with time in learning, toileting or behavior?

Luckily I sat puzzling this out as I awaiting the beginning of a meeting of mentor teachers. I commented that despite a decade in the field I really needed some mentoring to make my new schedule work. Another teacher, from another special needs program, who I see at mentor teacher meetings about four times a year, gave me a great suggestion, but I still couldn't make it work. Finally she offered to show me how to do it, I handed her the paper, she created a grid, plugged in all the students and staff in the bizarre way I needed it done and five minutes later I had the staff rotations for the rest of the year worked out (by the way 16 more weeks for us).

Sometimes this is what I feel I miss out on the most teaching a low incidence population, colleagues who can see and think outside the box or just possess talents that I do not, such as schedule sukodu. I wouldn't trade teaching my class for anything in the world, but I wouldn't mind having an accessible group of teachers who do the same thing I do nearby.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Resources for this Week's News-2-You: Westminster Dog Show

This week News-2-You is about the Westminster Dog Show. (Which for some reason makes me think about my thesis adviser.) Here are some resources you can use to extend your lessons.

Photos and Videos
Articles for Kids
Adaptive PE
  • Obstacle course designed just for your learners (or with different levels for different abilities) including running/moving fast, jumping/rolling over, turning and more - students with significant physical challenges might enjoy being the "trainer" for typical peer or staff
  • dog shadow puppets on a light box
  • fill a sensory box with (edible for human consumption just in case) dog bones, dog toys and collars/leashes
  • do some primping like the dogs do - washing hair and blow drying, combing/brushing, nail care, etc.
Don't forget Adapted Learning (there are already activities uploaded) and the Intellitools Exchange.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Making the Grade

Today I was feeling very grateful for a creative solution. You all know of my struggles with having only one computer online, which also happens to be the one computer attached to the LCD projector. In addition that one computer online does not allow me in anyway to install 99.9% of all software. Oh, and that computer does not have a printer and will not allow me to install a printer. However here is a work around that is going well for us.

1) Using the converter for U3 flashdrives we have been able to run Classroom Suite Player from a flashdrive on the internet enabled/LCD connected computer. (Read how to do this here.)

2) Using a "no software needed" switch interface (we like the Don Johnston Switch Interface Pro), the LCD projector and a Jelly Beamer students who are switch users, have low vision or both can do all sorts of academics using Classroom Suite (most of which I am able to download for free from the Intellitools Exchange)

3) Using the free program Cute PDF Writer (which does not install to the registry and therefore is part of the .1% of software I CAN install) we print completed work to a PDF and I e-mail it to myself for data collection and alternative assessment (and I can e-mail it to parents as well.)

This post is less about the actual solution we are using and more about creative problem solving. Sometimes it is difficult to see it, but most of the time there is a way to make things work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Technology Fails Our Students

On occasion I do some consultation in other special education programs, typically around assistive technology. During a recent session an OT commented about how frustrating it must be to do this kind of consultation and have half a session (or more) wasted when, for example, no one knows the password to install software (or no one has administrative priviledges) or free online switch programs will not run because the system does not have the current version of flash player installed (both of which happened in one session).

It was so saddening for the TEAM in the room and myself to watch this little boy, who according to all reports has never been so motivated or so engaged, become so angry when the technology failed him. He was so excited when as a final activity for the session I challenged him to a basketball game at Help Kidz Learn and then we couldn't play it!

Today Lon over at No Limits to Learning makes a call for us to change how we use computers in special education. I would like to not only second his call but to take a step back and ask school districts and administrators to think about how they limit students who's entire lives, from communication to recreation and beyond, depend on access to current, working, accessible technology.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Valentine's Fun

This year my class will be hosting a Valentine's Day Parent/Student Tea. My students will be giving their mom or dad a special gift (which I cannot reveal in case any moms or dads decide to catch up on the blog). In the event of low turn parent turn out we will join the class across the hall for a more traditional Valentine's Day party.

Here are some link's to some Valentine's Day crafts and activities to try out:

Don't forget to check in at Adapted Learning (which appears to be down at this precise second, but when it is up I will post a Valentine's Feelings Book I just made) and The Intellitools Exchange.

Also I have changed how I have been adapting materials, especially comprehension materials, from sites like ABC Teach. Instead of cutting and pasting the essay or story into Boardmaker or Classroom Suite and then rewriting the questions and creating multiple choice questions with answers that can be marked using a bingo marker (I do this instead of electronic materials because it is easier for alternative assessment, because it is difficult for students to run AAC devices and a computer and because I don't have enough adapted computer stations to go around during a group) I just use the worksheet as printed and create "cut and paste" symbolated answer strips. I make one strip for each question and one "foil" (answer that doesn't match anything). The students can point, use a pointer, use their AAC device or use partner assisted scanning to make selections. This saves tremendous amounts of planning time and saves on ink and copying.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Resources for this Week's News-2-You: Jackie Robinson

PowerPointsEducational Readings/Worksheets
Sensory Ideas
  • switch activated "Take me out to the ball game"
  • sensory box filled with sand, bases or pieces of bases, the soles of old baseball cleats, baseball caps (especially Dogders since that is what Jackie Robinson played for) baseballs, and bats (or miniatures of these things)
  • switch activated slide shows set to music of baseball items, players and games
Adaptive PE
  • Baseball of course, throwing baseballs, swinging a bat, hitting a ball off a T of some kind (try a large traffic cone)

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