Monday, August 23, 2010

What's on the Agenda for Your Curriculum?

As the school year approaches I am drawing up IEPs at a Glance (a.k.a Goals at a Glance or One Page IEPs) and thinking about our schedule and the curriculum we will be using. 

Here is what we will be using for curriculum in my classroom:
Supplemental Materials will be drawn from:
and more.

What will you be using for curriculum?

 In a dream world we would also be using the Ablenet Equals curriculum for math, but until then I will continue to design my own math curriculum. (Unique Learning is weak in mathematics and also does not differentiare math content, thus it is never appropriate for my learners.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Switch Positioning

Finding the right switch for the job is just part of the puzzle for our students.  Positioning a switch (or other light weight items) can be a challenge.  We need the switch to stay consistently in one place, yet we might need to accommodate for extraneous or "too hard" movements.  We also may need to position the switch in a way that is tamper or "behavior proof".  Switch mounts without any "give" might mean an injury if hit "too hard" and switch mounts with too much "give" means that all of the effort that goes into a switch hit might be wasted if the switch is not where it is supposed to be.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a switch positioning system and setting it up:
  • how much force can the positioning system sustain without moving or breaking?
  • does the switch positioning system have any "give" for students with movements of varying force?
  • how expensive is the positioning system?  is it possible to by the same thing at a lower price?
  • is it preferable to have a permanent or movable switch positioning system?
  • how many moving parts do you need the switch positioning system to have (remembering that the more moving parts the more likely it is to break)?
Some tips and reminders:
  • many of the switch mounts/positioning systems look the same because they are; most use Manfrotto clamps and joints with an Ablenet switch base, because they all use the same parts quality will be consistent so price and warranty should be the deciding factor (also you can order Manfrotto pieces from non-AT sources and an Ablenet plate from Ablenet and make your own system much more cheaply)
  • consider using the Manfrotto cable clamps for "cord fiddling" students
  • if using an adjustable "easel" type system be sure to check on how the angle of the easel is selected and maintained, both velcro and knob style systems can wear out and slip, making the system useless over time
  • a sheet of pegboard, some plastic table ties and some C-clamps can be your best friend
  • the more "joints" or moving parts the more likely the system is to slip and/or break over time
  • remember a drill and a set of screws and nuts can be the best mount you have, drill holes to aline with those on the switch and mount directly and permanently on a chair ( or easel or tray or table) (make friends with the janitor if you need to!), mind you don't void a warranty!
  • remember that a round clamp on a round pole is likely to slip, Manfrotto sells clamp wedges very inexpensively to avoid this in systems based on the Manfrotto super clamp
  • also a piece of Dycem or non-slip material between tubing and the clamp can prevent slipping
  • suction cup based systems can often be revived by wetting or washing the suction cup and removal is easier if you slip a thin piece of plastic (like a credit card) under one edge
  • Dycem and other non-slip materials can also be revived with wetting or washing
  • it might be in the users best interest to install permanent switch mounting and switch(es) on the users wheelchair/bed/stander, ASL and other companies vend these systems

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Free Programs to Make Communication Boards and Free Symbols Sets

 Free Communication Board Making Software
  • Picto Selector/PECS for All
    • windows based software
    • includes several free symbols sets (Sclera, Arasaac, Mulberry)
    • makes grid style communication boards
  • Tico
    • make printable and/or dynamic display boards
    • uses the Arasaac symbols in addition to their full photo library
    • simple software is easy to use
    • see previous review of Tico
  • EdWord with Grid Maker
    • allows import of entire files of photos or symbols (using a second application called Symbol Maker)
    • has a "symbolate" like program
    • windows based
  • PHOTOsyms
    • use photographs or import images from other symbols sets
    • very easy to use
    • makes grid based communication boards
    • flash based application
    • see my review from November 2008
Free Symbols Sets for Communication
  • Axelia - freely available French symbol set
  • Arasaac - full set of color or black and white line drawing communication symbols available in multiple languages, it is also possible to add this symbol set to Writing with Symbols 
  • Imagine - focusing on core and topic vocabulary this is a full set of colored line drawing symbols (note based on personal experience Imagine symbols sometimes do not import well into other programs)
  • Mulberry - full set of line drawing communication symbols, register and download one at a time or the entire set
  • Sclera - black and white, high contrast images which are excellent for low vision and available in multiple languages
Please also note that Slater Symbols are available for free download one symbol at a time and for classroom using Unique Learning System or News-2-You or supporting Tobii, AMDi, Jabbla, Proloquo2Go or Tap to Talk AAC users, the SymbolStix symbols can be downloaded and imported into the above board design programs with a $99 dollar yearly subscription fee if you don't happen to own the SymbolMate or Communicator software.  Similarly if you are overseas and supporting Divertic symbol users you can subscribe to that symbol set for 55 Euros.

The Communication Matrix and Seven Levels of Communication

The Communication Matrix describes seven levels of communication:
  1. Pre-intentional Behavior
    1. the behavior is not under the individuals control
    2. the behavior is not intentional for communication 
    3. the behavior reflects the state of the individual, 
    4. the behavior is not yet differentiated
    5. interpretation of the behavior is dependant on the communication partner
    6. example - crying may mean hungry, uncomfortable or tired
    7. in typical development this occurs from 0-3 months
  2. Intentional Behavior
    1. the behavior is under the individuals control
    2. the behavior is intentional for communication
    3. caregivers continue to interpret behavior
    4. example - differentiated vocalization meaning hunger
    5. in typical development this occurs from 3-8 months
  3. Unconventional Pre-Symbolic Communication
    1. behavior is under the indivduals control
    2. the behavior is intentional for communication
    3. the behavior is non-symbolic
    4. the behavior is not "socially acceptable" as we grow older
    5. example - tugging someone to the location of a desired item
    6. in typical development this occurs from 6-12 months
  4. Conventional Pre-Symbolic Communication
    1. behavior is under individuals control
    2. behavior is intentional for communication
    3. the behavior is non-symbolic
    4. the behavior is "socially acceptable" as we grow older and we continue to use them
    5. the behavior may be related to culture (shaking head for no)
    6. example - pointing to a desired object or waving "bye-bye"
    7. in typical development occurs between 12-18 months
  5. Concrete Symbols
    1. concrete symbols look, feel or sound like the thing they represent (parts of items, miniature items, photos, line drawings)
    2. example - patting chair to mean sit down or using a picture of a shoe to mean shoe
    3. this stage is con-current with conventional pre-symbolic communication and language based communication in typical development between 12-24 months (not usually a separate step in communication development)
  6. Abstract Symbols
    1. symbols are not related to the meaning for the symbol (i.e. picture symbol for want, most spoken words, printed words, sign language words that do not resemble the action/item)
    2. symbols are used one at a time
    3. in typical development this occurs from 12-24 months
  7. Language
    1. symbols both concrete and abstract are used in combination to express an idea or thought
    2. combination of symbols follows grammatical rules
    3. individual understands symbol order impacts meaning
    4. in typical development this occurs from 24 months and older
Each of these seven levels calls for different teaching interventions and methods to facilitate learning in our students.  We know that all of these levels of communication have two basic meanings - to obtain or to avoid (aka to get or to get away).  Within those two basic meaning we can desire to obtain or avoid attention, tangible items and/or sensory experiences, which brings us to six basic things to communicate.  Our job is to meet our students where they are at in this six basic communicative purposes and to us shaping to bring that current means of communicating to the next level.

This means we might play simple contingency games, i.e. spinning a favorite toy and waiting for an indication of pleasure (smile/laugh) before repeating the action, thus reinforcing that this non-symbolic communication.  It might also mean requiring a different student say or use a method of AAC to say a full sentence, "I want more, please" before we repeat the same action, this time reinforcing language.

If we understand where our students are, where we would like them to go and how to embed appropriate communication instruction strategies into every moment of the day our students will become better communicators.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Switches Galore Slide Show

Just updated, with new switches and labels, all of the switches available on the internet.  This are all single (and a few double) switches to use to give input to a computer (via a switch interface), an adapted toy or device or an environmental control adapter like a PowerLink.

Remember that Tash Switches are now vended by Ablenet.
Also if you cannot find a certain switch in the USA then check ATNAD or QED.

Interested in sequentail switches?  Many folks think there is only one choice, but here are a few.  Most come with levels standard or levels as an option, all have either a recording time or message number limit.  All allow a sequential message to be played by pressing the switch top or an access switch attached to the sequential switch.  Some allow the attachment of an external speaker for when you need big sound.

New AAC Device: The Zingui

Before I get started with this post, remember how I suggested that Tobii get a little more creative than S32 or whatever when they pick names?  Zingui is precisely the kind of thing I was looking for, Zingui, it's even fun to say.

The Zingui is a new AAC device from Jabbla.  Weighing in at just over 2.5 pounds it is light weight for its 8.4 inch screen.  Zingui basic has only recorded voice and Zingui Plus has recorded speech and a choice of Acapela or RealSpeak voices.  The Zingui runs MindSpeak software for communication, which uses SymbolStix symbols, Widget and PCS are also available.  Other options include WordPower, Picture WordPower and CALL vocabularies.  Programming can be done on the device or on a PC computer with MindExpress installed. 

Access is via touch screen, one or two switch scanning and any other USB based controller.  Windows based applications will run on the Zingui (i.e. Media Player, Power Point).  The Zingui Plus includes word prediction and grammar morphing.  The Zingui comes with your choice of decorator frames for the screen.  A carrying case is available and the Zingui has a built in stand.  The Zingui runs 6 hours on a regular battery and 12 on a double capacity battery.  GEWA Environmental controls are optional.

The price is similar to that for smaller, handheld devices in spite of the 8.4 inch screen. 

Currently the Zingui and Zingui Plus are being vended by:
Bridges (CAN)
Handicat (FR)
Techess (UK)
Zygo Australia (AU)

LocLine Assistive Technology Kits

For those of us who have, or maybe have just thought about, using LocLine Modular Hose to make switch mounts ModularHose.Com is now offering AT kits!

The kits are designed to use the most common pieces for AT intervention at a lower cost than most other switch mounts.  (Around $25-40 each.)

One tip I have is to make the Modular Hose only as long as it needs to be to meet your needs, the longer it is the less study it is.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School Contest for SpEd Teachers and Their Students

Morgan’s Wonderland, PCI Education and WeAreTeachers announce the launch of a back-to-school contest for special education teachers and their students. Teachers can nominate a student and his or her family for a chance to win a free trip to Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra accessible family fun park.

Located in San Antonio, Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre park designed specifically for children and adults with special needs. The park is completely wheelchair-accessible, and features more than 25 elements and attractions, including rides, playgrounds, gardens, and an eight-acre fishing lake. Morgan’s Wonderland is a unique oasis that allows people of all abilities to play, learn and share life-changing experiences together in a fun and safe environment.

In addition, the five teachers with the most votes for their nomination will receive free educational products from PCI Education. A panel will select the family finalist to receive the free trip approximately valued at $5,000. Online nominations will be accepted until Oct. 1. For more information, visit PCI Education.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

A Few Apps for Cognitive and Language Development

Kindergarten.Com offers their ABA series which includes multiple apps which range in price from free to $0.99. The apps ask a question such as "Which one do you wear?" And the user touches the photograph of the correct answer from a field of three. It is possible to use this App with partnet assisted scanning with indivudals who do not have to motor skills to access the iPad or iTouch.

The App iTouch, iLearn Words offers mutiple games to teach vocabulary and sight words. This includes animations which label words and content in text, a "memory" like matching game with the levels, a game requiring matching a sight word to a picture with a text prompt and more. This App is $0.99 but occassionally goes on sale.

Sorting by Toddler Teasers works on visual discrimination of letters, numbers and shapes and/or categories (i.e. Letter or number?). Students need to drag and drop the answers into the correct treasure chest. A triple tap of the screen reveal a menu for the adult to change some settings.

E-Touch and E-Touch Lite are interesting apps that use visual scene displays to teach vocabulary. A scene is displayed and the name of items are said aloud when tapped. There are also options to play question, answers, examples or random play. Examples is a nice feature which add the function to the word, i.e. "Aquarium. We keep goldfish an an aquarium." This App could even be used as AAC with some adaptations, for example if you added a low tech picture strip to the top, bottom or side of your iPad or device case and that strip had "yes", "no", "I want", "I dont want", and so on, it would be an even more complete system. (Actually adding a low tech communication strip or even a "Flip Talk" to an iPad case for indivuals who are non-speaking, whether or not you use this App, proloquo2go or no AAC App at all is a great idea.).

Links to be added soon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Summer St,Haverhill,United States

Sunday, August 8, 2010

iPad Case Options for Significant Special Needs

Easy to carry cases with screen access for ambulatory individuals:
  • Simplism Leather Shoulder Case includes leather case with invisible shock absorption plates and shoulder strap, $50.00.
  • Crystal GABAN Case is a clear polycarbonate case with attachment point to use a carabiner clip to add a should strap, $35.00
  • Modulr Case and Accessory System is a heavy duty impact resistant case, water resistant case with option for interchangeable wall and car mounting, a kick stand and a shoulder strap, $99
Heavy Duty Tough Cases
  • Otterbox three layer, scratch resistant, water resistant and drop resistant (I personally swear by Otterbox cases and have them on my Blackberry, iPhone and iPad), $90.00
  • Modulr Case and Accessory System is a heavy duty impact resistant case, water resistant case with option for interchangeable wall and car mounting, a kick stand and a shoulder strap, $99 
Because he is adorable, here is my friend Little Dude using an iPad in an Otter Box case:

    Water Resistant/Water Proof Cases:
    • Otterbox three layer, scratch resistant, water resistant and drop resistant (I personally swear by Otterbox cases and have them on my Blackberry, iPhone and iPad), $90.00
    • Leisure Jacket for iPad is a water proof, dust proof case in many colors, $45.00
    • Aquapac is a water proof, submersible case with a should strap, $45.00
    • Modulr Case and Accessory System is a heavy duty impact resistant case, water resistant case with option for interchangeable wall and car mounting, a kick stand and a shoulder strap, $99
    • Stabile is a nice looking and sturdy table mount that work in horizontal or vertical arrangement, $60

    Wheelchair Mounts
    • Third Hand Mounts are from Broadened Horizons and off a mean to mount light weight devices such as iPads to wheelchairs, call them and they will work with you on mounting $119-$250.00
    • RAM Mounts is designed to mount an iPad in a car, but works with a wheelchair
    • Note that most switch mount will work with the iPad provided you find a way to attach the iPad, likely in a case, to the mount top
    Other Options
    • The Trabasack Curve is a soft sided lap tray with velcro receptive fabric for a cover, it can be used as a lap tray with velcro to hold an iPad in a case in place and also act as an iPad carry bag, $40
    • I will be adding more to all categories. Keep a look out.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Typ-O HD TTS Word Prediction App

    I am trying out a new iPad App called Typ-o HD It is a word prediction App for those with dyslexia As a dyslexic I have found spelling on the iDevices to be the most frustrating thing I can think of. The automatic word replacement nearly always does not use the word I meant. It is crazy making to have a text you worked hard on read like a Mad Lib. Additionally I often times touch a misspelled word only to have the pop up show that there is no word that is close enough to what I spelled for it to make suggestions.

    The best spelling correction program I have ever used is that which is built into the web browser Firefox. It works for me because it underlines misspelled words and then gives me a list of possible words when I right click on the underlined word; infrequently I have spelled something so incorrectly that this method doesn't work for me, but then I can usually get pretty close to what I meant with a few attempts at sounding out the word (phonetic encoding). I have used word prediction programs in the past, usually Write:Outloud by Don Johnston, but I often times do not find word prediction to be that useful. Luckily I can usually pick the word I want from a list of potential words. So I am capable of using word prediction. Typeo is nice because you can click the "play" icon next to any word and hear it said to be able to find out if it is the word you meant Thus far typeo seems to be working OK for me except it is hard to get used to looking at the word prediction for words I might misspell.

    I do like the spell check on Typ-o HD though. So far it is able to find the word I want for even my worst misspellings. It makes me happy for the dyslexic kids who are out there right now that perhaps they will not suffer some of the embarrassments I did when, for example, my seventh grade English teacher made our spelling lists for the week based on mistakes we made in our writing. My list was horribly long and humiliating when she paired us up to help each other study. Not to mention that I loved learning vocabulary words like obsequious or loquacious but never used them in my writing because I knew I could not spell them even well enough to look them up in the dictionary (remember those?). Typ-o HD also allows you to use text to speech to hear any selection of your text or your entire text read to you. Also you can export to e-mail or to the clipboard to paste into another program (in this case into BlogPress to post this entry).

    I know that, for me Typ-O HD is the best app I have found for typing on the iPad. I have moved it to my dock and don't intend to compose text without it now that I have it.

    My wishes for Typ-o HD would be better voices for the text to speech and a grammar check feature. Also what is up with the letter "I" not automatically being capitalized? I wouldn't mind automatic apostrophes in contraction either. Or at least a way to turn such features on and off.

    If Typ-o HD were to upgrade to better voices the app would be an excellent AAC app. I can see individuals using it to communicate very easily by typing, with word prediction help, what they wish to say and then pressing speak. I would gladly pay five to ten times the cost of Typ-o HD for a version with the best of the best text to speech voices. Perhaps called Typ-o AAC?

    Typ-o HD is for iPad and is $1.99. Typ-o is for iPhone or iTouch and is $.99.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Learning the iPad

    This afternoon I had a chance to spend some time with my good friend and former student, Colleen. Colleen is now 22 and I have know her since she was my student from 2001-2006 and we have been good friends ever since. Colleen is a wonderful young lady with a great sense of humor who likes working hard. She is a power chair user and communicates through alternative methods of communication.

    I brought along my iPad to our visit and she tried it out. First we spent sometime with Colleen learning to slide her finger across the screen. We used Cat in a Rainbow and Picture Pusher for this.

    Cat in a Rainbow is essentially a cause and effect program which rewards sliding a flower across a stripe of rainbow with a pop-up photograph and sound effect. It is a good learning how to target and slide/scroll app and a fun cause and effect app for those who can manage the fine motor skills. Colleen thought Cat in a Rainbow was ok, but she loved Picture Pusher.

    In Picture Pusher a number of photos or images appear on the screen and user slides them into a box. The app is very customizable. Colleen loved sliding pictures of herself, her friends and family into the box and quickly came to understand dragging and dropping on the iPad. Next we moved onto ACT Spelling which is a program that shows one to five large, high contrast buttons on the screen and asks the user to find letters, spell CVC words or spell words from the first three Dolch lists. This app is also very customizable, especially for vision issues. Colleen loved this app, although it took her a minute to move from sliding to tapping (at first she wanted to slide the letters to the top of the screen, but she soon understood to tap the letters.

    After she did all three Dolch lists twice I convinced her to try out Proloquo2Go. Colleen has a love/hate relationship with communication devices. She has all the skills she needs to access a device (she understands thousands of picture symbols, reads on a late grade two level and spells on a grade one level; she can access a touch screen and although she is legally blind a small to medium size screen in the right field of vision is something she sees perfectly) yet she has severe problems with making communicative selections. She will hover her finger over the button she wishes to choose, waiting for a cue to activate it. (Yes, it is a cue dependency/desire to please/learned helplessness issues - I have known her for nine years and still we haven't successfully broken through with this. We have seen some success using a mouse set to dwell in breaking through but that leads to all sorts of issues with finding a device that has dwell for mouse or joystick and not just for eye or head tracking. Someday someone will invent the right device for my friend; I hope.) Thus I started small when showed her Proloquo2Go, just having her spell words on the Keyboard Page like she had been doing in the ACT Spelling App. Eventually we will try out communicating with Proloquo2Go, but we are going to move slowly.

    Overall I was impressed with the simplicity and how much Colleen liked the apps we tried out in practicing iPad skills, especially Picture Pusher and ACT Spelling. Cat in a Rainbow and Picture Pusher are both excellent apps for teaching the fine motor mechanics of using the iPad. ACT Spelling is nice app to teacher spelling to students who know how to tap the screen or targeting/tapping to a student who has some letter and/or spelling knowledge.

    (I will add links to the apps mentioned tomorrow, as well as add them to the iPossibilities Round-Up blog entry. It is just to hard to do that kind of editing on the iPad.)

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

    Gift Card from Different Roads to Learning

    If you are on Facebook and have a minute could you "like" Erin Auclair's sweet nomination of me for the $250 gift card? My students will appreciate the sensory and communication items that will come from the gift card. (scroll down to Erin's post).

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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