Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Reading Programs for Special Needs Students

Most of this post is from June 7, 2008.

June is National Audiobook Month, did you know that?  As part of their "Get Caught Reading Campaign" the National Publishers Association has launched a "Get Caught Listening" Campaign for June.  It is the perfect tie in to a Special Needs Summer Reading Program or a Summer Literacy through Listening Program.  Teacher can order Get Caught Listening Posters and review Get Caught Listening for Teachers.

Summer reading programs are a staple in schools. They are also often sponsored by local libraries, book stores and other programs. As I have written before such programs can be adapted to our learners. An article on LD Online suggests the possibility of developing a summer listening program for learners with special needs. I love this idea and all of the suggestions on how to do it. From e-books with text-to-speech, to parents reading to children, to downloaded MP3 audio books and audio books from the library on a CD player. Also there are interactive books like Silly Books, TumbleBooks, and Bookflix. (Our local library website for access before purchasing)

Sites and Articles about Summer Book Programs
Where to Find Summer Book Programs (There is no reason a student with a disability should not be able to count books listened to instead of read)
Free Recorded Books for Those with Disabilities
Download Audiobooks
Electronic Books
  • Tumblebooks ($ubscription, many libraries offer)
  • Bookflix ($ubscription, many libraries offer)
  • Silly Books
  • RAZ Kids ($ubscription)
  • Kid Thing (purchase individual books)
  • Also E-books for e-readers with text-to-speech (Kindle, Nook, iPhone, iPad)
  • Don't forget books adapted for Boardmaker Plus, Clicker and Classroom Suite at their sharing sites or the Accessible Book Collection
Websites to Share with Parents
Audiobooks in the Classroom
Books About Children/Young Adults with Disabilities

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Million Teacher March Need Your Shoe Laces

Members of the Shoelaces for Teachers campaign are collecting shoelaces in honor of educators who work hard every day to help students to have a better future. These teachers understand the true meaning of education and put the needs of students ahead of politics and savory sound-bites.

However, teachers could not succeed if not for the support of the community. Therefore, shoelaces are also being collected in honor of people who are speaking up on behalf of education-people who demand that teachers receive the support needed to do their job and who insist that public education remains adequately funded and available to all. They also understand that, while some aspects of education (such as creativity, independent thinking, engagement and compassion) cannot be easily measured, they represent some of education’s greatest achievements.

When combined, all of these shoelaces become a “virtual march” in the name of education.

The string of collected shoelaces will be measured and revealed during the world premiere broadcast of the documentary "I Just Keep Going" on July 30, 2010 on Ustreamtv. The stories of several of our honored teachers and supporters will be featured as part of this documentary.

We would be honored to include a shoelace representing you and your ongoing efforts in our campaign. We would also encourage you to submit other shoelaces on behalf of other educators who have made a difference in the lives of students or who have worked hard to improve our educational system. We encourage you to write your name on the shoelace you submit (or on an enclosed piece of paper). We also would ask that you submit the name of other people being honored, should you submit additional laces.

Shoelaces may be old, new, plain, or creatively decorated. That part is entirely up to you!

Shoelaces should be mailed to: Laurie Murphy, 6414 Foster Road, Sebring, FL 33875.

The Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign is sponsored by the SOS Million Teacher March, an organization made of up teachers, parents, students, and other concerned citizens who are rallying together in support of education. To learn more about the Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign or the SOS Million Teacher March, please visit us at

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Key Concepts in Action

Linda Burkhardt's handout "Key Concepts for Using AAC for Children who have Complex Communication Needs" is a valuable resource in our classrooms but often times it is difficult to explain to support staff, general educators, typical peers and/or administrators what it looks like to carry out those key concepts from day to day.

One key concept that is often overlooked is that AAC should always be available, 100% of the time, no exceptions, (just last week our eyegaze device user had a clear plastic bag over her device with a cut out for the cameras so she could paper mache and communicate!  Not my idea, but a brilliant one!). 

Here are some reasons and ideas we can share with others to help them understand why:
  • students with only one reliable switch site working on developing partner assisted scanning or PODD use skills can always have their switch programmed for "That's the one!" and intentionality can be taught by responding to every switch hit as if it was meant, if the student says, "That's the one" while the radio is playing turn up the tunes and dance or if she says "That's the one!" while eating proceed to make a big deal out of how delicious that bit of food was, don't reserve communication for when you happen to be offering choices (imagine what it would be like if you lived like that?)
  • students without speech may not have a means to engage in self-talk, thus setting up an AAC device, even a sequential voice output switch during a "down time" at a low volume becomes an opportunity for self talk; the switch can say, "I am resting on this mat.  It is cool and quiet in this room.  Nice soft music is playing.  My break will be over at noon."  or it could be used as a means of self cueing (something we all do with internal self talk) and say, "I am feeding myself my lunch.  I am scooping my yogurt with my spoon.  If my chin feels wet I can wipe it with a napkin.  If I need help I can press my help switch."  or even during "freshing up" (as we call it) "I can getting freshened up.  Soon I will be clean and dry.  Then I will head over to circle time with my friends!"
  • increased communication skills invariably lead to a decrease in negative behavior, thus a student who is moaning or yelling for attention who is offered a series of sassy messages can be reinforced to learn that those messages get more attention than moaning or yelling and a student who shuts down in order to get a break can be given a way to communicate, "I need some space" and taught to state that through others respecting that comment and thus the student may shut down less - All Behavior Is Communication!
  • we must always be moving towards and teaching with the next step in independent expression of thoughts and ideas in mind - we must always consider the consequences of a life lived speaking other peoples words and participating in a constant multiple choice test and find ways to help our students move past that

Saturday, May 22, 2010

iPod/iPhone/iPad App Round Up for Severe or Multiple Disabilities Update

list updated here!

Sans Internet

For nearly 2 weeks I have not have any internet access at home (at a coffee shop right now) .  Silly AT&T!  Hence the lack of posts, add in the end of the school year craziness and so forth and I haven't had a chance to get much done other than IEPs, progress reports, curriculum planning and AT/AAC work.  Expect more soon when things get back to normal!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Timer Visual Schedule

This afternoon, leafing through a Mayer-Johnson catalog I saw an idea I posted about on September 7, 2007.  They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

The idea was to use the "Mark-My-Time" bookmark as a visual schedule.  In 2007 I had a student who was in need of working on his independence and time management skills as he prepared to leave for the day and using the "Mark-My-Time" bookmark as a visual schedule was just what we needed.  Since then I have used the bookmark/timer adapted with some self-adhesive velcro for not only visual schedules but also for a token holder/star chart for students collecting tokens/star during differential reinforcement of zero rates of behavior or differential reinforcementb of incompatible behaviors.

It seems Mayer-Johnson and Turning Point Technology are both carrying the adapted Mark-my-Time bookmarks created by Augmentative Resources.  Of course the Mark-My-Time Book mark retails at $8.44 on (and you can find it for as low as $6.70) and the adapted version will cost you up to $30.00.  Then again, the original bookmark from Amazon and some self-adhesive velcro strips or a glue gun and some velcro receptive fabric should create the $18.00 version of the adapted bookmark/timer for less than $10.00.  Which saves you enough to by two Mark-My-Time bookmarks at the unadapted price!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In Massachusetts? Support the Wings of Hope School in Haiti!

If you are not in Massachusetts please read anyway as there is an option for you as well!

Assabet Valley Collaborative, a public educational agency which provides services to children and young adults with disabilities, including severe or multiple disabilities is supporting the Wings of Hope School,  a school for children with significant disabilities in Haiti.

They will be having an musical performance and fundraiser for the Wings of Hope School facilitated by interns from the music therapy program at Anna Maria College.  So come enjoy the show:

Friday May, 21st at 7pm
Grace Baptist Church
353 River Road
Hudson, MA

Donations accepted at the door, 100% of proceeds benefit the Wings of Hope School.

If you are not in Massachusetts (and even if you are) please use the comment section below to send your love and support to everyone involved with the benefit and at the Wings of Hope School.  We will make sure your comments are seen.  (You can also comment to be given the information to mail a check.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intensive Sped Resources Wiki

Intensive Sped Resources is a wiki I started a couple of years ago, yet it never really blossomed until recently.  Lately it has had plenty of new members and I am hoping some folks will be interested in uploading Switch It Maker and Choose It Maker Activities, as well as Power Points for those with severe/profound special needs.  Check it out!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Communication During Crafts

This past week our class decorated some wooden card holders we had recently acquired.  We gathered up all our craft materials, with help from the students, especially those with "will gather needed items..." benchmarks on their IEPs and set to work.  As you all know crafting in our classrooms is unlike crafting anywhere else.  While it is a motor skills activity for some of our students, be it directly completing steps in finishing the craft independently, participating with visual/verbal cues or using hand-over-hand or hand-under-hand assistance or using a switch adapted tool like battery operated scissors or a fan and an a Powerlink to dry paint; crafting is often times much more a communication activity.  That too occurs at many different levels, from pointing with a finger or using eye gaze to make choices from objects in a field of two or pressing a sequential step to play a message about the craft to use of middle level AAC like a communication book or static display device to use of a high technology device with dynamic display. 

Here are some of the ways we communicate during crafts:
  • facial expressions and gestures/signs to confirm/deny, comment and make choices
  • voice output switches to comment and request
  • pointing to objects or symbols to make choices
  • eye gaze to objects or symbols to make choices
  • static display devices to make choices, comment, request, deny and more through direct various access methods
  • dynamic display (including Minspeak/Unity at times) do all of the above are some of the things we make choices about in the course of doing crafts:
  • colors
  • embellishments (glitter, googly eyes, craft foam, felt, fabric paint, etc)
  • shapes
  • size
  • placement on the page/craft
  • when we are done with each step and the final product
Finally our class is just starting to work out how to best have each student tell about his or her product and the process of making it, some ways to do this are sequential switch, creating a document using Clicker5, Classroom Suite or Boardmaker Plus, using communication symbols/boards with core vocabulary and fringe vocabulary, using mid to high tech AAC with core vocabulary and related fringe vocabulary or something else.  How do other people do this so as to have every student share his or her product at the highest level of self-generated language possible for each individual?
This student picked brown,3 googly eyes, a red felt star and to write, "play cards" in orange and yellow using craft foam letters.  Choices were made using a combination of a high technology AAC device with direct selection and pointing to objects.
This crafter choose a silver background by picking the paint bottle out of the basket and then choose the googly eyes by picking them up as well.  This student always has the most googly eyes possible on every project!

This student made the card holder white with shiny colored flowers; choices were made using eye gaze to objects and a sequential switch.

As you can see, no matter how communication happened the card holders turned out fantastic!

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