Friday, July 31, 2009

Visual Recipes

Cooking is a favorite activity in many life skills and severe special needs classrooms. Here are some links to websites with picture recipes.

Make Your Own Custom Picture Recipes

Books ($)

Special Needs Clothes, Shoes and Accessories

Socks and Liners
Temperature Control Clothing/Accessories
Body Jacket Undershirt (TLSO Sock)
Chewable Jewelry
See also G-tube clothes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Using Unique?

Some of us at the TLWMSN Ning have been discussing the best way to share adaptations, ideas and extensions of Unique Curriculum materials for learners with severe special needs. Should we use the Ning? A new Unique Curriculum Ning? A wiki? Adapted Learning? A Google or Yahoo Group? Something else? What do you thing? You can comment here on this post or log onto the Ning.

Also here are the Unique topics for this school year so we can start planning (especially for alternative assessment):

School Year 2009-2010

This is My SchoolWe Have LeadersWe Live in the United StatesI Am a US Citizen
Life Science
Animals in Their HomesAnimals and Plants Around UsWhat is an Ecosystem?Knowing our Ecosystem
City and CountryTraveling AroundGetting to Know the United StatesPlaces to Live and Work
Physical Science
See It, Feel It, Describe ItSorting for RecyclingCombining and CookingEveryday Energy
People In Society
I Live in a CommunityCommunities Near and FarIt's a Big WorldWho are the People In the USA?
Science and Technology
Tools at SchoolTechnology in the CommunityTechnology in Our LivesTools That Help Us Every Day
We All Work TogetherI Can Make Good ChoicesWhat is a Good Citizen?I Work in My Community
Earth Science
I Can Help the EarthWater, Water, EverywhereCaring for Our Good EarthRecycle and Reuse Our Resources

Monday, July 27, 2009

PISP Website

You are going to want to give yourself plenty of time to explore the PISP website because it is chock full of rich resources. For example, any one section of the Training and Inservice pages you will find dozens of amazing PDF files that will offer you valuable information or allow you to better teach a trainings for others. Topics range from IEPS to assesment to AT to vision and more. Similarly there are learning modules which can direct your professional development process. There are instructions to create all sorts of participation kits to inhance meaningful inclusion and a thorough FAQS section about many different areas of intensive special education from freeding to behavior and there are some instructional videos about these topics as well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Activities at Help Kidz Learn

Help Kidz Learn has added three new activities. The first is a mouse, mouse emulator, touch screen or interactive white board accessible coloring book. Next there is a mouse, mouse emulator, touch screen, interactive white board or switch accessible bubble popping game. Finally there is a mouse, mouse emulator, touch screen or interactive white board accessible piano.

Photo Cuff Bracelets

These hip bracelets are for sale at Shanalogic. They hold four photos or for our purposes picture symbols. They come in these glitter styles, blue, green, crean or black with embelishments, green or blue with a bold accent, and a very masculine black or brown studded style.They could be a very stylish and cool way to bring some low tech communication or visual support to our students. They could be worn by teachers, aides, parents or students themselves.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Web Sites for Teaching Reading

Symbolizing Tips

  • each symbol should represent one idea or concept
  • more abstract symbols can be eliminated (might, so, the)
  • rewrite and simplify your text to make the symbols more appropriate
  • attempt to make sure each sentence is only on one line (design your page to act as punctuation)
  • be sure to use the symbol that matches the meaning of the word (avoid homophones, i.e. bee for be)
  • be consistent in the symbols you use (and symbol set you use)
  • review the text by "reading" only the symbols to be sure the symbols say the same thing as the text when read along
  • remember that new and abstract symbols need to be taught
  • be very careful cutting and pasting text into symbolizing software, you will likely need to do a lot of editing

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kate's List of Free Software for Severe Special Education Classrooms

Updated July 23, 2009
  • Access Apps is a collection of free assitive technology softwares
  • Baby Smash is cause and effect software that allows banging on a key, a switch or multiple switches (try the Intellikeys without and overlay)
  • Camera Mouse is head or other body part tracking software that works with a standard web cam (try using reflective tape to increase accuracy)
  • CamSpace is a body part or object tracker (mouse emulator) that works with a standard web cam
  • Choose It Player allows you to run activities made with Choose It Maker on a computer which does not have Choose It Maker installed
  • Classroom Suite Player allows you to run activities made in Classroom Suite on a computer which does not have Classroom Suite installed - note you must be a subscriber to News-2-You and logged in to News-2-You for this to work
  • Click N Type is an onscreen keyboard with many different lay out possibilities (and the option to make your own), there are also options for speech output and scanning
  • Dkey is an onscreen keyboard that acts just like your cell phone, including the word prediction
  • DSpeech is a text-to-speech program which allows multiple methods of saving audio (scroll down on the link)
  • Dwell Click automatically clicks the mouse when you hold the arrow over an item
  • Eagle Eyes Software are free, simple programs which work well with head and eye trackers
  • EdWord is a talking word processor which allows automatic symbolization with symbol sets you convert and install (i.e. Imagine Symbols or Scelera Symbols)
  • Every Day Skills is a program that allows users to create or use pre-made sequences of photos and videos to teach life skills in a switch accessible format
  • eVia Cam is head tracking software that works with a standard web cam
  • FX Software has many different applications including large and extra large cursors and mouse arrows, text-to-speech and more
  • GCompris is early learning and elementary aged software that works with a mouse, mouse emulator or touch screen/interactive white board
  • HELP Read is text-to-speech software
  • Hiyah is Power Point based cause and effect and life skills teaching porgrams
  • Hot Spots allows you to make standard software switch accessible
  • Jim Luther's Assisitive Technology Resources has many applications including a web based AAC software program(which also works offline)
  • Joy2Key allows you to use any commecial game pad or joystick for alternative access
  • Joystick to Mouse allows you to use any commercial joystick for alternative access
  • Kidoz is a safe web browser for children
  • KidThing is a learning platform with books and games
  • KidZui is a safe web browser for kids
  • MiniSebran is early learning software that is great for low vision
  • PHOTOSyms allows you to create communication boards using any photographs or icons you have on your computer
  • Power Reader is a (plain text only) text manipulation and text-to-speech program with multiple controls for maximum benefit, it also has the ability to define a chosen word and show and image of the word
  • Power Talk adds text-to-speech to Power Point
  • Quicks Pics is software to make communication boards
  • Read Please is text-to-speech software
  • Sense Factory is a free alternative to Switch It Maker allowing you to create switch activated videos and activties
  • SEN Switcher is a progressive program to teach switch skills
  • Switch It Player allows you to run activities made with Switch It Maker on a computer which does not have Switch It Maker installed
  • SymVoc is a picture based AAC program
  • Thunder Screen Reader is a screen reader which can be run from a memory stick
  • Touch CD is a cause and effect CD player program
  • Tux Paint is a children's painting program which works well on a Tablet PC or an interactive white board
  • Word Predictor is a word prediction program
  • Word Talk is an add-on for Microsoft Word which provides text-to-speech with highlighting
  • Zac Broswer is an internet browser for kids on the spectrum
See also Fabulous Freebies and OATS Soft for more free AT.

If I missed something let me know and I will update the list.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I know I've said it before but: I love Mayer-Johnson's Symbol Request

I keep a pretty careful list of every picture I import to Boardmaker from the web and every time I need to "creatively re-purpose" a symbol (i.e. life jacket for body jacket) and when it gets long I submit it to Request a Symbol at the Mayer-Johnson website. A few months ago I submitted the list below and was thrilled with the symbols I received. My new symbols pretty much fall into three categories this time: medical, vocational and sensory. I also like knowing that these symbols will probably be in the next addendum for everyone.

List of my new symbols from Mayer-Johnson:
air conditioner
allergy shot
ARK grabber
Be age appropriate
beaded braids
bladder study
body jacket
chocolate scented
cinnamon creamer
citrus scented
continuous glucose monitor
corn rows
damp weather makes me hurt
don't forget epi pen
don't touch others AAC devices
eggs on top
end of peace
end of war
epi pen
fast acting insulin
find barcode
French vanilla creamer
get attendant
gift bag
gift card
hair straightener
hazelnut creamer
heat index
heat index too high to go outside
heavy items on bottom
high muscle tone
Hillary Clinton
hip dislocated
hip pain
hip surgery
hold fire hose
huge greeting card
I am too old for that
I'm having trouble with my tone
iced coffee
insulin pen
insulin pump
internal baclofen pump
long acting insulin
lower GI study
medical ID bracelet
medical ID necklace
medical ID shoe tag
medical ID wallet card
medical ID zipper pull
move and sit wedge
musical greeting card
national sports team
NPH insulin
orthopedic surgeon
orthopedic surgery
pack grocery bag
pins in hip
pollen count
pollen count too high to go outside
put in freezer bag
relax hair
self checkout aisle
self checkout not working
sit in fire truck
soft knee immobilizer
soldier returns home
spinal fusion
sports wheelchair
strawberry scented
swallow study
textured chewy tube
tilt in space wheelchair
tilt wheelchair back
tilt wheelchair forward
try on boots
try on helmet
turn AC down
turn AC up
upper GI study
weight on scanner
wheelchair mount
wheelchair pommel
wind turbine
You are too old for that

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unique Learning System (and a Downloading Tip)

I have been using the Unique Learning Systems (free) Summer Curriculum with my life skills middle school class and we have been enjoying it immensely. I love the automatic differentiation of materials (although convincing students who can write to do so when others are cutting and pasting their answers proved to be a bit of a stumbling block at first). The students like the topics and the extension opportunities that have been created just for them.

I do have some worries about using the curriculum this coming school year with students who have more significant disabilities. Quite a bit of adaptation is still going to need to be done, inspite of the different levels of the curriculum. Some of these adaptations will need to be done no matter what curriculum is used, such as finding or creating object symbols, adapting materials for learners with low vision and using adaptive tools (i.e. switch scissors) to finish the work. Some of the curriculum will never work for learners with severe physical challenges for example most of cooking activties contain ingredients which are swallowing hazards. However, hopefully as more people begin using Unique they will share customized materials on Adapted Learning and other sharing sites.

One tip I have is to use the Firefox extension Down Them All to download the PDF files in the curriculum. Down Them All allows you to check off all the PDF and then have them all download at once, saving quite a bit of time. Hopefully Unique will at some point allow us to download entire units at a time, but until then Down Them All is a good solution.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sharing for the Unique Learning System at Adapted Learning

Are you using the Unique Learning System curriculum this summer or next school year?

There is now a group at Adapted Learning (the free Boardmaker sharing community) to share materials and have discussions about implementing Unique.

Log into Adapted Learning and the go to the Unique Group and join in with us!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Switch Adaptable Online Spinner, Calculator and More!

Tripico a site that designs e-Learning content has an eight section spinner or a four section spinner that can be run by a switch set to mouse click when the pointer is over the spin button. You can put any text you wish in the eight sections, if you have less than eight things to spin for you can put in "spin again", "lose a turn", or you can duplicate some items. Should be super fun with an LCD Projector on a "Big Screen" or on a SMART Board.

Also completely there is an amazing calculator that works using switches set to tab and enter to enter what you need to solve your math program. Imagine a FREE, ONLINE accessible, scanning calculator! Of course it also works with a mouse, touch screen or on a SMART Board.

Also at Tripico you can find:

Switch Adapted, Touch Screen, SMART Board or Mouse:
Touch Screen, SMART Board or Mouse

Communication Magnets

Although Velcro is our most frequent way of storing and arranging symbols for communication in our classrooms there are some benefits to thinking outside the box and turning to magnet symbols among them that using magnets generally won't ruin as many pairs of scissors, with magnets you don't need to remember the "soft stays" Velcro rule to avoid having incompatible sets, and the fact that most of use have metal desks, magnetic dry erase boards and/or other metal furniture in out classroom we cab turn into "word walls" using magnets symbols. Last year I kept magnetic picture symbols for eat, drink and the most common items we had in our classroom mini-fridge attached to the door and was thrilled to see one of my students take to that system without any training.

Here are some resources for moving to magnet based communication symbols:

Pre-Made Communication Magnets
Do-It-Yourself Communication Magnets Materials
Since I am thinking about magnets...

Save Those Receipts

The end of this school year I left my job of the past eight years for a summer of working 12 hours a week instead of 40 and a new position in a new agency. Sadly, because of political circumstances at my old job I was forced to leave behind the collection of materials a teacher gathers over the course of more than a decade. From a box of bulletin board borders, Boppy Pillows, drawers and drawers of files and a hand adapted globe for the blind to a huge bin eBay assisitve technology purchases I made (because I love to disassemble and reassemble old devices - yeah, call me a geek) I left it and so much more behind. And yes, because I was asked by a reader, all 17 of my Donors Choose grants were left behind as well.

As much as I am grieving leaving my students and my friends I am also grieving leaving behind the memories in the things I left behind. There were files of bulletin boards I made as a resident advisor in college and re-used periodically in my classroom. There was work samples of former students. There were non-discarded communication boards and books I labored on for days and always imagined some other student might use.

Yet, I have decided this is to be a learning experience. I have already advised a graduate student finishing her degree to inital and scan onto a computer receipts for anything she buys out of pocket and then laminate the receipt and attach it to the item.

That is my plan from now on as well. Though I have changed teaching jobs twice before this job change I have never had this issue before, but I certainly want to be ready if it happens again. I plan to purchase (again, since I left one behind) a Mini-Laminator and a Neat-Co Receipt Scanner.

What will be fun about this is thinking of all the other ways I can use the Receipt Scanner in the classroom. (This being my second mini-laminator I already know how I will use that - laminating quick symbols, name tags and IDs, photographs of students family members and more.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weighted Blankets and More

This is another parent request for a post, this time I was asked about weighted blankets. Here are some articles that reference weighted blankets:
Here are companies who sell weighted blankets and other materials (price listed is for a twin size blanket):Here are directions to make your own.

Although most studies seem to find weighted blankets to be safe there is a need to follow some guidelines with there use. The most important thing to remember, in my opinion are that weighted blankets are a sensory tool, NEVER a restraint or punishment. Here are the recommendations made by the Autism Society of Canada:
  • A health professional’s advice must be obtained to ensure that the use of the blanket is suitable for the child
  • The weight of the blanket must be in proportion of the child’s physique and weight
  • The child’s head must never be, or be able to be, covered by the blanket
  • Vital signs should always be observable
  • The child must never be rolled in a blanket (unless a therapist is constantly at his or her side)
  • A child must never be left unsupervised
  • The child must be able to easily slip out of the blanket if he or she wishes to do so (it is not a confinement)
  • The child must express his or her consent to this, even if it is not verbal

(Autism Society Canada, 2008)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ning into Action

Feeling like you want to get back into the groove and excitement of teaching? Feel like you want to connect and share ideas with other educators, specialists and folks who are committed to working in the strange and wonderful branch of special education known as intensive, severe or multiple special needs?

Time to join (or come back to) the TLWMSN Ning!

Terri Trotter, a special education teacher of learners with multiple special needs at Carbon Lehigh Intermediate District is the TLWMSN new administrator and is working hard to make our Ning a place we can all turn to share information ask, questions or tell a funny story.


Tobii ATI Retires Mercury/Mini-Merc

Tobii ATI has announced the retirement of the Mercury/Mini-Merc series of AAC devices. The Mercury/Mini-Merc has been phased out for the new Tobii ATI C-Series and Sono devices.

Options for Writing with Word Prediction, Symbol Support and Writing Grids

Recently I needed to create a list of software program that had word prediction, symbol support and writing grids. I thought others might be interested, so here it is:

Clicker5 by Crick
-symbol supported writing/literacy
-grid based writing
-no word prediction unless you also purchase PenFriend
-free 30 day trial
-free sharing community with many pre-made grids

Classroom Suite by Intellitools
-grid based writing
-integrated word prediction
-picture symbols supports (but not as many as other programs without additional purchase)
-includes a virtual manipulative program for math that is great for those with fine motor issues
-work beautifully with the Intellitools keyboard which can be a standard keyboard with enlarges keys or can use overlays to match whatever software you are using
-free 30 day trial
-free sharing community with many pre-made grids and activities

Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro
-the ultimate in symbol resources
-word prediction (only in Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamicall Pro, not Boardmaker or Boardmaker Plus)
-grid based writing
-free, active sharing community
-extensive add-on software avaliable for every area of the curriculm and things that are just fun like coloring books and games (some very cool programs can be added on)
-free 30 day trial

Communicate: Symbols by Widget (Distributed in US by Mayer-Johnson)
-symbol supported writing
-writing grids
-as far as I know, and I could be wrong, no word prediction
-free trial

Monday, July 6, 2009

BlinkTwice and Dynavox Merge

DynaVox is the leading provider of symbol-based communication software and speech generating devices for children and adults with speech, language and learning disabilities. Blink Twice is the developer of the Tango, an innovative, synthesized symbol-based communication device designed primarily for children and teens. Today's merger reinforces our joint commitment to providing the appropriate communication solution for each client's unique needs.

DynaVox recognizes that augmented communicators have different needs, and our goal is to offer the right product to best meet the needs of each individual. DynaVox is excited to have the Tango as part of its product offering. We admire the innovative approach that Blink Twice has taken towards creating an easy to access, aesthetically pleasing device, along with engaging symbols and voices which are particularly appealing to children and teens.

For more information about the Tango, please visit the DynaVox Website

Read the press release »

Get answers to Frequently Asked Questions »

Sales, support and manufacturing activities for the Tango will be integrated into DynaVox, with all key employees of Blink Twice joining the DynaVox team. With the Tango as part of the DynaVox family, customers will enjoy the benefits of DynaVox's industry leading support capabilities - what we like to call the DynaVox Difference. Tango customers will now benefit from:

  • Increased local support through our team of over 100 North American Sales Consultants - find yours online at
  • Enhanced technical support coverage, now provided by the DynaVox Tech Support team, from 8 AM to 7 PM Eastern time. 866-DYNAVOX (396-2869)
  • Expedited and accurate management of the reimbursement process, with the DynaVox Funding Team handling all Medicaid, Medicare, and insurance processing.
  • Tango's inclusion in the DynaVox DREAM and rental programs.
  • High quality manufacturing and the DynaCare service you've come to expect from DynaVox.

We're ready to assist you with all of your needs for the Tango. All new orders should now be placed with the DynaVox Customer Support Team at 866-DYNAVOX (396-2869). We are also working to expedite the delivery of all Tango devices currently on order.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Making Websites Easier to Read (or have read to you)

A number of options exist to decrease visual clutter on websites, which in turn makes it much easier to use a text-to-speech reader to read the website to you or simply to view the site without distractions or to customize how the site is seen for easier reading.

Online or Bookmarklet Options

Browser Add-Ons

De-Clutter Specific Sites
Also useful: Directions on Re-Formatting Websites for JAWS

Contact Me at:

Contact Me at:

Visit our advertisers:

Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation, LLC Try Nick Jr. Boost FREE for 7 Days ... Label the things you love !! Build-A-Bear HearthSong - Toys Outlet