Sunday, May 31, 2009

Throw Paper: A One Switch Adaptable Game

Meant to be a time-killer for bored employees in a cubicle farm this is an easily adaptable one switch game. Just set your switch to left mouse click, press to aim, release to throw and enjoy! Age appropriate for older switch users.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Resources for this Week's News-2-You: Kobe and LeBron

On the Web:
Adaptive Technology:
  • Basketball Jars/Bottles - using large clean clear plastic jars or bottles (i.e. mayo, peanut butter water bottle or new dollar store jars) make Basketball sensory jars. Option one: offer students small objects to sort into "you find it at a basketball game" or "you don't find it at a basketball game" include things like a small toy basket ball, pieces of a cut up net/hoop, pop corn, a mini sneaker, cheerleader pom pom, etc. once objects are sorted put into jar and hot glue the lid on. Option 2: fill a water bottle with 10 parts water or clear corn syrup. Add beads and confetti from the craft or party store in a basketball theme. Hot glue the lid on and shake away. Sensory Bottles Link.
Adapted PE:
  • Play table top pong pong basketball
  • Play trash can basketball (with or without one of those little clip on hoops you can get at discount stores) or another version of adapted basketball
  • Have a basketball obstacle course which includes skills appropriate to your population (bouncing, dribbling, lift the ball over head, pass the ball, roll the ball, etc.)
  • Play other ball games with a basketball (instead of hot potato play burning basketball, etc.)
Arts and Crafts:

Life Skills:
  • work on personal information by making "Basketball Trading Cards" that include name, birth date and other "stats"

  • while playing any of the adapted PE games or Hoop Stars online keep score and work on counting, adding or probability
  • recruit some peer buddies to have a shoot out, again work on counting, adding and probability
  • collect various objects about half of which are spheres and half of which are not sort them into "ball" and "not ball"
Don't forget to check Adapted Learning and Classroom Suite Sharing for activities. Join the Adapted Learning News-2-You Group if you make Boardmaker, Boardmaker Plus or Boardmaker SDP News-2-You activities. (You must login in to Adapted Learning and then click on link.)

New Hitch Switch Interface

Ablenet has announced its new switch interface, Hitch, which will be ready to ship in July. Hitch needs no software to be installed (fantastic for those of us who do not have administrator privileges on school computers), can control one to five switches and can be used as a switch driven mouse emulator set to up arrow, down arrow, right arrow, left arrow and enter.

Bonus: Hitch can be set up to make switch hits act as certain function keys (F3, F5, F7, F8) which in secret code means you can use the Hitch to run Clicker5 (which uses F7 and F8 for switches). Until now you had to use a proprietary Crick Switch Interface to use switches with Clicker5 (which was annoying). Yee-Haw!

Hitch will retail at $99.00 (Sixty bucks cheaper than the Crick Switch Box).

Widgit Point: Symbol Support for the Web

Widgit Point is new software that allows website owners to add symbol support for their websites. Visitors to sites that use Widgit Point need only hover their mouse over a word and the symbol or symbols for the word will appear. You can see it in action on the website. An introductory video and technical description are also available.

Kudos to Widgit for again harnessing the power of the web for accessibility. Let's hope this is broadly adopted!

(Thanks to Barrie at One Switch for bringing this to my attention.)

Monday, May 25, 2009


I have had a few inquiries lately about my availability as a workshop presenter and I have checked my summer schedule and actually have quite a few openings left June-August of 2009.

Here is a list of workshops I have presented in the past:
  • Positive Behavior Support for Teachers, TEAMS, Parents and/or Paraprofessionals
  • Introduction to AAC for Teachers, Paraprofessionals and Parents
  • Integrating AAC into the Daily Life of a Classroom
  • Introduction to Boardmaker (TM), Boardmaker SDP and Advanced Courses
  • Introduction to Low Incidence Disabilities to General Educators or Paraprofessionals
  • Free and Low Cost Assistive Technology for All Learners
  • High Incidence Disabilities and Accommodations for General Educators and Paraprofessionals
  • Low Cost Adaptations and Assisitive Technology for Learners with Low Incidence Disabilities
  • Making Peace with Challenging Parents
New this Summer:
  • From IEP Objective to Fun Activity for the Classrooms Serving Learners with Low Incidence Disabilities
  • Creating A Community Based Instruction Program
I am also happy to design new workshops to meet your training needs or fulfill requirements for your grants or stimulus money. Consultation is also available to districts, schools and families.

Please contact me at:

for rates, references and information.

Adaptive Worksheets Website

Silverlining Multi Media, the folks who bring us Picture This and the Picture This Addendum for Boardmaker (which I use all the time) have a new worksheet and photo card download site, Adaptive Worksheets (I can't stop myself from noticing the name's similarity to Adapted Learning). There is a limited free area with just over 30 samples to download and check out.

There is also a paid membership area for $9.95 a month or sign up $39.95 for a 1 year membership. The membership offers access to all worksheet generators and all PDF worksheets (which are added to weekly - although it doesn't say how many a week) and free support. Hopefully someone can comment to offer some specifics around how many free PDF worksheets are there, how the generators work and how many PDFs are added a week, and the quality of support to help folks figure out if the $39.95 is a good deal. (Also you need to pay by credit card, no Pay Pal or P.O.'s that I can see.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

iPrompts iTouch App Review

iPrompts is an application for the iPod Touch and iPhone that offers vertical visual schedule, a countdown timer and a simple choice making utility. It is designed to replace carrying those bulky (and annoying) visual schedules and choice making boards so many of us are used to using. It has recently come down in price and now retails for about $75. This review comes from using it a few weeks in my classroom.

The Good:
  • the visual schedule picture does allow for a much more portable way of carrying a visual schedule for individuals who need it
  • the choice making feature allows very quick, on-the-fly, choice making from a horizontal field of two of two pictures
  • the countdown timer could make transitions easier for some individuals and displays an image or photo as well as a numeric and a visual image of the time passing
  • the price just dropped to about 75 dollars (I paid 80)
  • an iTouch is a much more portable and socially acceptable way to present visual scedules and cues to individuals with disabilities, especially in public, especially to older individuals in schools
  • the product was designed by a family of a little boy with Autism to meet his needs for visual supports and I am all for families creating solutions and sharing them with the world

The Bad:
  • the software is buggy, closing without notice and refusing import of many images (the company promises a release soon with a bug fix, no word on when)
  • there is no way to "lock-out" the option menu, allowing students to "accidentally" or "accidentally-on-purpose" change into different parts of the program, put in new pictures or remove pictures
  • the choice feature is used up and down to create the choice menu and side-to-side to offer the choices, meaning that for our students who always pick the left on (or the right one) you cannot really switch to a vertical choice (unless you want them to enter the library when they choose)
  • the countdown timer sets off warning chimes before the countdown ends which are confusing to many individuals ("why is it beeping if I still have time?") and there is no way to change those settings
  • the visual image of the countdown can be confusing (at least it is to my students)
  • in general the software is not very customizable, sure you can change the pictures in the schedule, choice or timer but beyond that not much else, in our field, with our students being able to individualize is everything and this app just doesn't meet the need - in fact iPrompts does not even appear in the iTouch's settings app
  • if you use with an iPod you cannot take pictures directly, although you can import from iTunes, but again, that is buggy
  • according to the website they only trialed the software with about 12 individuals
  • there are no special education teachers, SLPs, OT, BCBAs, AT specialists or other professionals listed on any sort of advisory board - not that you need to have these people, just that a little input and access to the research you are trying to emulate doesn't hurt (there is an autism specialist in their promotional video)
  • as far as I know there was no closed or open public beta trial, there was no recruiting of professionals to try the software from places like the Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) List Serv, the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) or the RESNA group
  • The presentation of the software as "AAC" in some places create the illusion that this is "talking" software when it is not, I fully expected the app to speak and it doesn't, caveat emptor, it was my mistake, but one easily made

The Ugly:
  • the "stock images" provided are pretty terrible, clip art (and babyish) and not-so-great photos - no picture symbols provided (you can import, with some effort Mayer-Johson Picture Communication Symbols Meta Files (if you own them $199.00 - there are some less um... legal ways to do this of course) or a free symbol set like Imagine Symbols with considerable effort and use of your iTouch memory
  • although this is not really an AAC application (simple choice making yes, AAC not-so-much - if this app wants to compare itself with AAC it needs compare itself honestly, not with devices that do millions and millions of times more what it does) the website feels the need to "bash" AAC companies with high tech, well developed, specialty products, not realizing, perhaps, that without those companies we would not have the research and development, the knowledge and the ideas to do what we do with AAC and technology with individuals with communication disorders everyday - in addition they state that these companies "prey" on vulnerable school districts and parents, that's a gutsy accusation to make publically when opening a new company
  • the company uses the term "Social Story" (which is trademarked) in its documentation incorrectly (Social Stories are a very specific format with a very specific focus) and does not credit Carol Grey
In summary, this is a very expensive app for what it offers that is buggy, not terribly customizable and meets very limited needs. However it might be perfect for some individuals who just need those basic picture schedules and simple visual, horizontal two choice options. If you think it might be you should check out the YouTube tutorial video and their website, or download from iTunes. You should also consider using it with the iPhone versus the iPod for the avaliability of a camera to help overcome the lack of symbols.

In some cases it may be best to spend a little more money ($75 more) and get Proloquo2Go (introductory price currently $150), then you will have a high quality, well researched AAC, fully tested application that, when place in "list" format can do the same type of visual scedule and will allow you to create endless "choice" boards (that talk with your choice a top of the line voice) and then just use the regular count down timer on your iTouch for countdowns (the only app Proloquo2Go can't currently do).

P.S. That makes me wonder when there will be a Time Timer app. Wouldn't that rock?

Proloquo2Go hits the big time!

See that, fourth picture down in the iTunes showcase? It's Proloquo2Go! And if you go into the iTunes store from iTunes itself chances are you will see Proloquo2Go featured in the large scrolling gallery at the top.

Right up there with American Idol, Linkin Park and Hotel for Dogs!

Imagine what this could do for AAC users and poternial AAC users!

Help Wanted

For quite a while there has been a Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Ning (online group), but I have not had time to promote it, manage it or even participate in it the way I envisioned. I am looking for someone who would like to take it over. This would look fantastic on the resume of a special education graduate student or even undergraduate major or might be a great role for many other people. Please comment or e-mail me (my address is way at the bottom of this page) to let me know if you are interested. If I can't find a taker by the end of the month I will likely eliminate the Ning altogether.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Basic Skills and Switch Accessible Activities at HiYah and Help Kidz Learn

Both Help Kidz Learn and HiYah have posted new basic skills and switch activities on their sites. Just in time for those end-of-the-school year blahs.

Help Kidz Learn has an Early Mouse Movements activity that also works with touchscreen, interactive whiteboard and was super fun on a Tablet PC with stylus for us. It can be set the color changes as you go over the paint spots and you can set it to have additional music or sound effects to add to the fun.

Help Kidz Learn also added a two player switch curling game with is higher level than many of their switch activities both in switch skills and in cognitive ability, but is a nice addition to the library of activities they have online.

Finally Help Kidz Learn has added a textless animated story called How We Used to Wash.

HiYah offers simple spacebar (or switch set to spacebar) programs about basic concepts for download or play online. They have recently redone many of there basic language programs (such as their nouns series) and added some new programs including: Spring, Yummy Tummy, The Earth Last!, Happy 4th of July, Colors-Basic, and Opposites-Basic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Free Unique Summer Curriculum

Unique Learning System, the standards aligned special needs curriculum from the folks who bring us News-2-You and SymbolStix Symbols, are offering their summer curriculum for FREE! The unit is on science and is definitely worth checking out even if you aren't teaching this summer.

All you need to do is register and then you can download all the bands (grade levels).

FYI - Make One Minute Wonders One Switch Accessible

Did you know you can play BBC's One Minute Wonder Videos with play with one switch randomly? Set the mouse arrow over the lever just where that red arrow points in the picture. You will need to press play on the video screen the first time with your mouse and them replace the mouse to the lever. After that your switch set to "mouse click" will change the video to a new one randomly. Very fun on the "big screen" (LDC projector or SMART board).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Memorial Video for Stacey Ahern

It was my intent to post a memorial for my sister on March 20th, one year after her death, but I just wasn't ready. Today our brother, an Autism Specialist in Hawaii, sent me Sissy's Song by Alan Jackson and the spirit moved me. Searches for my sister's name are about 9% of the visits to this site

Our sister Stacey was a remarkable young lady. She was a disability activist and a gifted writer who over came the odds again and again. When told she would never walk, use her hands or speak she went to go on to do all of those things. When told she may never live on her on and that she would certainly never finish community college she not only lived on her own and finished community college; she also transferred to the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College in New York and, two months after her death last March, received her diploma. That was in spite of an in ability to write by hand (imagine taking math or econ without writing by hand) and a speech disorder. She was also a writer.

You can read about her here:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Switch Accessible News Reader

My Blogger pal Barrie over at One Switch brought my attention to the new BBC switch accessible news reader for kids. The website is a well designed interface for children, 'tweens and even teens and adults with cognitive challenges/learning disabilities to read or have read to them via text to speech the news.

Seeing as it is from the BBC the site focuses mainly on UK news, which is why I would love to see PBS, NPR or PRI pair up with BBC and re-create this site with American news (and other countries do the same thing). If that can't happen perhaps News-2-You, who largely ignore access issues, could create something or Ablenet or Mayer-Johnson could leap at the opportunity (which would mean it would not be free, of course).

A great thing about the BBC Accessible News Reader is the level of customization. You can change how many categories of news from 1 to 6, you can use the scan feature or not and adjust it to 3, 5, 10 or 15 seconds for a scan rate. It does not currently two switch scan (except if you turn the scan off and use tab/enter - which means increasing cognitive load as it then scans everything and has no auditory scan). With the scan off you can also use what ever access equipment you have including touch screens, eye or head tracking, alternative keyboard with a custom overlay or a joystick. You can use the text to speech or not and choose from a high quality male or female voice (British accents, of course). You can change the color scheme of the text to high or low contrast or a color overlay for dyslexia (but they do not have a dyslexia friendly font choice in there font choice list). Overall this is an amazing, free resource

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wijits learned about Wijits, an adaptation to the wheels of a manual wheelchair that can benefit many wheelchair users and increase self propulsion from Elina on the Youtube video posted on Eric's Speech Pathology Sharing Site. What a super way to promote independence in some of our students!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Site for Adapting Curiculum for Learners with Visual Impairments

VI Curriculum is a new site from the Maryland School for the Blind focusing on adapting curriculum for learners ages birth-3 who have visual impairment. However, as you explore the site you will find that much of the content carries over into working with students of any age who have multiple disabilities including visual impairment.

Some features of the site include ideas for adapting various common thematic units like "All About Me" and "Insects", adaptations for the curriculum domains and the expanded curriculum domains (including a whole section on switch use and assistive technology), the Tips for the Trenchs Make it Take it Sections with the not to be missed 10 Low Tech Ideas For a Pool Noodle, a blog, and more.

Be sure to add this web site to your bookmarks!

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