Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fine Motor Work Boxes

Sorting by color.  Cups and blocks from Dollar Store. Pizza box was free.

Containerizing pom-poms with some size sorting.

Sorting dollar store clips.

Popsicle sticks from dollar store into a coffee creamer bottle or spray paint bottle tops to sort by color.

Sorting silverware.  We also wash with our power dish brush.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Writing on the Wall

A few different educators have made Mock Facebook activities for classrooms and all are creative and wonderful.  A couple of the ones I like (get it?) are these ones at Plug-n-Plan and this one at Teaching Blog Addict.  Also this teacher's explanation of using a Facebook style bulletin board to post her schedule.

Today I saw the Plug-n-Plan Mock Facebook on Pinterest and thought it might be perfect for encouraging choice making, reflection and combining symbols into sentences.  Students find their name/picture to replace the standard image.  They can dictate a "status update" using communication boards or devices.  If needed they can even choose from prepared "status updates".  This would be a great accompaniment to journaling or school-to-home notes. Students can "like" other students "status updates" to work on interconnection between students and pro-social behavior.

A mock Facebook is great for reflecting on activities, emotions and the self.  A mock Pinterest might be fun to use to hang photos and work on choice making and learning about peers.  Discussion can be held about what we learn about a peer who "pins" a picture of himself skiing or herself horseback-riding.

So here are my "Facebook" and "Pinterest" boards.  The originals are in Power Point and can be downloaded from the SlideShare web site or you can download from Google Docs (or choose make copy from the pull down menu on the left to save to your own account and edit).  You will want to edit the info in the "profile" to fit your class and make it more relevant.
As always if the SlideShare doesn't work for you please check out the Google Docs version or email me to ask for the .PPTX file.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Core Vocabulary Learning

Here is a new project: Core Vocabulary Curriculum.  It will focus on learning 30 or more core vocabulary words through symbols and auditory language.  It will focus on one to two words a week.  The idea is to embed this into normal routines with one or two lessons about the word/symbol meaning as well.  Here is a sample of what is coming, The Core Vocabulary Learning Book which I am posting below.  Please share your thoughts and ideas!
If you have trouble with SlideShare here it is in Google Docs.

In case you don't have Boardmaker, Communicator or some other program here are Core Vocab Cards in PCS and SymbolStix.  Email for the Communicator file (.cdd).

Finally here are core word communication boards in Arasaac, PCS and Symbolstix.  Email for the Tobii Communicator file (.cdd).


Somehow I missed my blogging anniversary!  On November 19th this blog turned 5!  I can't believe that it has been five years!  Five years, 1800 posts and nearly 150,000,000 visitors! 

There may be some changes to this blog soon.  Some of you have already pointed out some changes.  Most are due to my two hour a day commute.  I apologize to those of you who miss more regular posts.

Anyways, Happy Bloggerversary!

Please comment below if you have enjoyed or benefited from the blog in the past five years!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Free Printable Books (for Older Students)

First a free printable color book for learners with significant special needs that has no picture of toys, children our kid's clothing.

View more presentations from Kate Ahern.

If you have trouble with SlideShare you can also get it on Google Docs.
You can use as a slide show.  You can print, laminate and bind.  Play "Eye Spy" with the pages for receptive language, use descriptions or functions of objects to add new skills.  Hand out the pages and have the kids collect items the same color as their page and then share with their friends.

Here is a book that has the numbers 1-10 appearing on each page.
If the SlideShare link doesn't work try Google Docs.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do you Pinterest?

Pinterest is a visual social networking site.  Members "pin" images or even videos to their pin boards.  Membership is free, so you might as well check it out.  And, like everything else, there is an app for that.

Some of my Pin Boards you might like to look at include:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wicked Proud!

I am so proud to share with all of my readers that my brother, Brendan, just became on of 34 Board Certified Behavior Analysts in the state of Hawaii and under 5,000 worldwide.  He is one of only 46% who passed the recent boards.  Also he is the only person who has even given me a way to explain an extinction burst in a way everyone will understand.  You rock, Brendan! 

Please leave your congratulations in the comments!  

Ohhh... I am such a proud sister!!!

(And thanks in advance for all of the help with all FBA's and behavior plans I will continue to send you.  That one you helped me with before worked out, by the way. We have maintained a 97% decrease in the behavior for over six months.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Things to Do with Extra Picture Symbols

What do you do with those left over communication symbols that seem to multiple everyday?  (They are especially prolific if you use the Unique Learning Program.)  Do you throw them away?  Hold on to them for some other purpose?

Here is a multiple part activity you can do that includes sorting by part of speech and then using the symbols for MadLibs style activities.

Part One: Teach your students the three basic parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective.  Although you may want to teach the parts of speech using the words that the student's AAC system uses/will use i.e. action words, describers, people/places/things.  (If you students are able to learn more then go for it!).

Then do a class or group art project.  Decorate a cool container that will be used to hold each part of speech you teach.  You could use some of the left over symbols and magazine pictures to illustrate the type of word the container will hold.  Be sure to include a picture symbol label that matches the category in the AAC books/devices.

Now you can set aside the symbols left over each day until you have a tidy pile of them and then allow a student to sort them into the correct containers.  This is a great way for emerging AAC users to work on catagories.  You can hold up a symbol and ask the student to show you in his book or device where they would find that word. (I would consider printing out a few sets of core vocabulary word symbols and adding them to the pile to be sorted on a regular basis.)

Now you have containers of words to use for activities.  Some ideas include:
  • MadLib Style Activities - print out free, "easy" MadLib style activites and then allow student to pick from a field of two or three (or more) words from the correct container to fill in the blanks (we did this with some free Halloween MadLib's last week - so fun!) or you can go through a theme related paragraph or book you have already read to the students and turn it into a MadLib
  • Silly Sentences - have students pick one word from each jar and make a sentence 
  • Charades or Pictionary -play with peer tutors using words pulled from the containers
  • Art - use the symbols in art projects and collages related
  • Play Clap/Slap (adapt the movement as needed)
  • Sort the words even more - by topic or other criteria
  • Use spare symbols as "foils" when asking questions
Free MadLib Style Activities

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Starfish Awareness Month

If you work in this field long enough Down Syndrome Awareness month starts being about Cory, Sean, Christian, David and Ricky.  Rett Syndrome Awareness Month becomes thoughts about Kelly, Jen and Becca.  AAC Awareness Month is about every kid who you ever helped say yes, no, help or "I love you!" for the first time with a "talker".  And that is just October.

November brings Epilepsy Awareness Month and thoughts of every child who you've sat with, holding their hand and reassuring them, while you watched the clock and waited for the seizure to end.  Last month was Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Month and my thoughts were on Astrid, Ingrid and Sarah.  March may mean spring to some but it is both Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  Students with CP and Developmental Disabilities have made up the preponderance of my caseload for 15 years.  And I have loved every single one of them.

I have walked, rode, crafted, rocked, danced and quilted for so many causes I can't begin to remember them all.  Not to mention all of the raffle tickets, candy, cookies, calendars and gift wrap I have bought.  Sometimes it all seems like it can't possibly make a difference.

I know it is sappy but that is when my mind always goes back to the Starfish Story.  You know the one, with the little child tossing the drying starfish back in the ocean when the old cynic says it isn't going to do any good.  And the child says, "It makes a difference to this one."

The thing is my students aren't starfish.  They are only helpless if we teach them to be helpless.  My job isn't to toss them back in the water.  My job is to teach them communication, independence and self-advocacy.  My job is to keep them from being beached in the first place and to teach them how to make sure they stay in the water where they belong.

So I'm going to fight for more than awareness and for more than cures.  I am going to fight for all my students to be able to become who they are - fully and without compromise.  Are you with me?

Switch Adapted Fiber Optic Lamp

A couple of years ago our I received a Starlight Fiber Optic Lamp through a grant.  This wonderful sensory device has many features including a spinning bouquet of fiber optic lights, sound sensitive LED lights that glow through the fibers and soothing ambient sound effects.  Students loved watching, touching and listening to the lamp.

In the back of my mind I have been intending to adapt it to be switch controlled for a while, but with so many knobs and buttons a simple battery interrupter would not work.  So when I finally found a few free hours I broke out the toolbox and soldering iron.

I knew I wanted to switch adapt the sound effects button, which would allow even students with CVI and/or low vision to use the lamp with a switch.  If I did it correctly pressing an attached external ability switch would allow my students to scan through the sounds of the sea, crickets in a field, an organ playing and a few others.

Once the black chassis was unscrewed and taken apart several small tact switches were located inside.  Luckily they were labelled and it was easy to pop off the one marked "audio".  It took a few tries to determine which two of the four places where the tact switches were attached were the where the new switch port should be soldered.  Once that was done I soldered the other ends of the wire to a 1/8" female switch port.  In this process my soldering iron broke and I replaced it, meaning everything sat in a box for about a week.  Since so much time had passed remembering how to put everything back in the chassis was tricky.  Next time I will snap photos of every step of the process, just in case.  Finally we tried it out, it worked perfectly and has been in heavy rotation during our brief daily independent leisure periods. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Dynamic Display AAC Device in India

Avaz is a new dynamic display communication device in India.  It is a fully featured speech generating device which works both as a text and/or a symbol driven device.  It uses the SymbolStix icon set and has many options for set up.  It is accessible via mouse, touchscreen, switch scanning and mouse emulators.  Surprisingly the device is in English only, although you can record speech in any language if need be.  The website does not list a price but states the Avaz is 5% the cost of a PRC, Tobii or Dynavox.  They also have a program of volunteers and sponsors who can sponsor a device for a child in need.  (Wouldn't it be great of the companies in the US did that?  Actively pursued sponsors for individuals who didn't have any other funding?)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flash on your iPad!

Did you know that for just 99 cents you can use Flash based websites on an iOS device?  That includes great games for those with significant special needs like those at Shiny Learning and Help Kidz Learn! The Puffin Browser works on all iOS devices, iPad, iPod and iPhone.  I don't know how it works, but using it to visit websites allows you to see and interact with Flash items! (Admittedly with a bit of a lag.)  For switch based games the entire touch screen becomes your switch and the game becomes even more fun!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New AAC Device - The Papoo Touch

 The Papoo Touch is a unique new communication device.  It combines text and symbol based communication with multi-media capabilities.  The Papoo Touch, from France, runs board sets from The Grid 2, a popular AAC program.  It also provides text-to-speech through entering text.  Text can be entered through typing or by writing on the screen with a finger.  As for it's multi-media capabilities they include music and video players as well as video games.  It is also multilingual working in English, French, Italian, Spanish and German.

The Papoo Touch weighs just under 5 ounces.  It is 6 by 3.5 inches and about 1 inch thick.  It can be operated with one or two hands using the touch screen or a switch.  It comes with a USB cable for syncing to a PC, Mac or Linux computer and for charging as well as a neck cord.  The volume from the built in speakers can reach up to 80 feet.  The batteries last for 3 hours of speech and 48 hours on standby.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carrie Communication Cards

Carrie Communication Cards are a new product coming out from Super Duper in December 2011. They are color-coded 2.5 x 2.25 inch plastic cards that use the SymbolStix Symbol Set.  They have a pre-punched hole for carrying on a key ring.  One side of the card has a color symbol and English word, the other a gray-scale symbol.

These cards will be useful for instruction, cueing, games and  more in the classroom.  They will be especially useful for working with students who are learning SymbolStix Based AAC Programs like a Tobii, Proloquo2Go, TouchChat or Saltillo's Chat Series.

My only wish (besides having 2 or 3 sets for my classroom) is that Super Duper add a "Core Vocabulary" set of cards to the 22 other sets that come in Carrie Communication Cards.  And maybe that the cards be magnetic.

Carrie Communication Cards will retail at $249.99.

(The information below is taken directly from the Super Duper page.)
The 22 card categories include:
  • Animals
  • Around the Home
  • Body Parts
  • Calendar & Time
  • Clothing
  • Colors/Shapes/Numbers/Letters
  • Descriptions
  • Drinks
  • Food
  • Grooming
  • Money
  • OT/PT Words
  • People
  • Places
  • Safety
  • School
  • Social
  • Sports
  • Toys
  • Transportation
  • Verbs
  • Weather
Carrie Communication Cards includes:
  • 740 color-coded cards (2"x 2¼")
  • Instruction Booklet with ideas for use
  • 5 key chains with rings
  • Black briefcase for easy transportation

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free Online Switch Activities - Updated 11/9/2015

Updated 11/09/2015

This is an update of the post listing online switch activities for learners with multiple or significant special needs. The activities listed are chosen because they can be used with switches, they are simple and they are enjoyable. The activities listed are free. Some activities may require set up by an assistant before switch use. Although care has been taken not to include switch activities with any violence or graphic images teachers and others still need to check activities for age and general appropriateness before use.

Cause and Effect (and Press to Play):
Single Switch Scanning/Timed Single Switch Response (sites may include some cause and effect games as well):
Two Switches (unless otherwise noted you must click in the area of the game and then use tab and enter to play):
Chrome Apps and Extensions

iPad Apps

Note: using the Puffin Browser app makes many switch accessible websites work on the iPad! 

Subscription Sites with Free Trials
  • Busy Things is a switch accessible site for young children out of the UK.  You can try it out for free for two weeks.
  • Ginger Tiger is another switch accessible subscription based site.
  • Help Kidz Learn Subscriptions are listed here.  They DO take PO's.
Also be sure to check out Game Base and One Switch for other (usually more advanced) switch games.

*Those sites with a star have multiple activities to try out!  Wednesday's With Sam lists these by activity instead of website if that is useful for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Symbol and Photo Sets and Programs to Use Them

Free Picture Symbols
Commercial Picture Symbols

Free Photo Sets

Commercial Photo Sets

Tactile Symbols
Free Board Making Programs

Commercial Board Making Programs

Do It Yourself Directions

School districts and educational agencies are feeling the economic crisis in painful ways.  Doing your own adaption can save valuable resources for other things.  Often times self-adapted items work as well or better than commercial items.

Additionally making adaptions to items can be a create way to build community during a professional development day.  Gather items you may need for adaptions and store in a central location, then you can grab it and get together with colleagues for an afternoon of purposeful fun.

Adaption Toolbox Items
  • craft, hot and crazy glue (plus glue gun)
  • various kinds of tape
  • sticky tack
  • scissors
  • soldering iron, solder
  • notching file
  • clamps
  • tacks
  • brads
  • dollar store items (things from the toy, craft, kitchen goods and hardware aisles)
  • "junk drawer" items
  • allen wrenchs
  • screw drivers and screws in all sizes
  • hammer and nails in all sizes
  • assorted nuts and bolts
  • cable ties
  • velcro
  • goo gone (or similar)
  • disinfectingwipes/alcohol based sanitizer
  • x-acto knife or similar
  • sandpaper
  • staples and stapler/staple gun
  • foam core board
  • contact paper
  • epoxy
  • switch componets, wire, speakers, assorted electronics
  • PVC Pipe
  • Triwall Cardboard
  • Loc-Line
  • first aid kit
Here are directions to make various adaptations for your students.

School Tools
Activities of Daily Living
Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Switches/Switch Accessible
Academic Helpers
CVI Interventions
Helpful Information

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apps for AAC

There are so many places keeping up with the constantly evolving world of apps for Augmentative and Alternative Communication for mobile devices.  Here are some links to bookmark to find out about new AAC apps and compare features:

iOS (iPod, iPhone and iPad)

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    V-Pen AAC Now in USA

    I have been gazing with longing at the V-Pen (from Unlimiter) system for sometime now.  Until recently it was not available in the United States, however PCI has begun to carry it.  The V-Pen is an electronic talking pen which "reads" letters, words or symbols from a paper.  It comes with two spelling boards and seven adhesive stickers.  You can also purchase a V-Board of symbols and VoiceInk software to make your own boards.  VoiceInk boards can also be accessed using the free VoiceInk app on an iPad.  The integrated system is called Uni-Tech.  Both the VoiceInk boards and the software use the PingPong Boy Symbol Set (also from Unlimiter). Check it out in the video:

    Sadly it is possible that the V-Pen system has made it to the USA too late.  The price point for the pen and boards is $1,499.95 and the software adds another $499.95 to that.  For that price you can buy an iPad2 with Proloquo2Go AND TouchChat plus a stylus and portable speakers.  The tablet movement may be out too far ahead for the V-Pen to take hold.

    If you are tied to the idea of a board and pen system you can try using the AnyBook Reader plus stickers (with is about $55.00 with extra memory) on a communication board you make with Boardmaker or SymbolMate or even Microsoft Word and Google Images. 

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    All Abilities ePlayground

    All Abilities ePlayground is an accessible website that is part of the accessible playground movement in Queensland, Australia.  All Abilities ePlayground includes options to play using a mouse and keyboard, a single switch, Puff2Play (blowing into the mic), blind mode (This includes a blind and single switch version.) and interactive whiteboard.

    All Abilities ePlayground has four games with multiple levels.  Ibis Buster involves "shooing" away birds and other animals from a beach your avatar is walking on.  Memory is a matching game (level one is animals, two is musical instruments and three is weather conditions).  In TrixMix you activate animals which each make a different sound in order to play or recreate music.  In Roo Hill Thrill you control your avatar as it surfs and tries to avoid balls.

    In the single switch version you can use the settings (accessed by pressing "s") to toggle scanning on and off, control scanning speed, frame color (the box that shows hot spots), and switch activation type as well as background sound effects.

    You will need to complete a free registration to use the site.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Science Experiments for Special Kids

    One of my professional development goals for myself for the year is to ramp up science experiments and writing activities in my classroom.  However simple science experiments are few and far between, add in a quest for picture instructions or easy student response sheets and it is tough to do an experiment!

    That's where you come in!  Do you do science experiments with your class of learners with severe or multiple special needs? If every regular reader of this blog (I estimate that to be about 300 people) creates and shares one adapted science experiment collectively we will have access to enough experiments to last us years!

    If you create materials in Boardmaker you can share by posting to the Science for Special Kids group on Boardmaker Share.  If you use other authoring software (Clicker5, SymbolMate, PixWriter, Classroom Suite) please post to the appropriate sharing site and then share a link below in the comments.  Alternatively you can email your files and I will post them to the Intensive SpEd Resources Wiki

    Here are some wonderful websites full of science experiments to get you started:

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Unique Learning System

    Unique Learning Program has really upped its game this school year.  Some of the new features include:
    • More file formats for the supportive files including Power Point, Classroom Suite and Saltillo.  
    • Unique GPS (which stands for Goals, Preference and Skills) which is an assessment system 
    • addition of Core Materials for all levels
    • addition of Transition Materials for all levels
    • addition of a Transition Passport to the high school level
    • Online Checkpoint (i.e. quizzes)
    • Unique Support Center - online help for teachers and others
    • online library of adapted books in many levels
    My future wishes for Unique Learning Program:
    • improve online accessibility including but not limited to
      • switch access to all online materials
      • low vision support in the form of
        • larger symbol options when using print materials
        • auditory scanning with switch access to materials
        • ability to change formatting of online materials in terms of size of symbols, color of symbols (black on white, white on black, color on yellow, etc) and font sizes
    • more attention to "Participation Level"/"Level One" (students with severe cognitive challenges) in all materials and resources *especially in the transition portfolios and math materials* (Materials continue to be designed for mixed ability classrooms/inclusion classrooms, meaning those of us severing primarily or only students with severe/profound disabilities still will be unable to use many materials without significant adaptations)
    • a least one theme related switch accessible game a month 
    • four-five "Measure It" recipes a month with all or most "low choke hazard", "nut-free" and "gluten-free" (most special education settings cook weekly and most have one or more students with choking precautions or food allergies)
    • at least four writing activities and science experiments per unit that can be used "out of the box" with students who have severe/profound intellectual disabilities
    • attention to AAC instruction, especially on the "Participation Level" (i.e. ability to customize communication boards and symbol training in addition to sight word training)
    • access to materials on iOS and Android platforms
    • a four year rotation of themes instead of a three year (because my students stay with me for four years due to our state guidelines)
    • a broader range of themes so that all areas of the curriculum are touched upon in the theme rotation (in three years of teaching Unique we have done US Civics and History many, many times, but rarely do we do World History or Ancient History)
    • a even broader range of support materials to include Tobii Communicator, Test Me, Score Me, Choose It Maker, Proloquo2Go, Clicker5, Interactive Whiteboards and (I know this is a stretch) Dynavox and Boardmaker
    • activity exchange to share materials made by teachers/therapists
    • automatic updating of AAC systems using Symbolstix to include boards related to monthly themes, core curriculum and transition materials

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    For the Parents: Age Appropriate Back to School Shopping Ideas

      Caselogic PBS-1 ScooterPak fits 16-Inch to 18-Inch Scooters, Black
    • A new backpack is something every student looks forward to at Back-to-School time
      • A Trabasack is can be both a wheelchair bag and a tray (we have one in my classroom and love it!)
      • ActiveCare, Caselogic and Wheelchair Gear make nice wheelchair packs (try to buy from vendors that are not disability specific for better prices)
      • Or just any sturdy and cool new bag would be great!
    • Functional Accessories
      •  medical id is essential, probably the most important thing your child wears every day, definitely the only thing that can save lives
        • These companies offer hip bracelets, necklaces, shoes tags and other options for your child's medical id needs: N'Style, Medic Alert (has 1-800 number for EMS to call) Zoo Bears, Petite Baubles 
        • if you can't or won't do medical id jewelery please be sure a medical id card is in your child's bag
      • Chewable Jewelry is a great way to prevent your child from tooth grinding, mouthing/biting objects and other oral stimming behaviors while providing calming sensory input.  Gone are the days of having to give children washcloths or attaching chewy tubes to clothing
      • Loose the bib.  If clothing protection is a must replace the bib with other options.
        • for uncontrolled drooling multiple layers of bandanas, if needed use clips to hold in place behind the neck 
        • or you could purchase or sew your own lined bandanas
        • for messy eating you can try an adult cloth clothing protector, but try to pick something hip ( has some from time to time)
        • a tee shirt cut up the back and worn while eating can work
        • another choice is a make-up/hair-dresser cover-up/apron or "cutting cape"
        • a box of 500 disposable clothing protectors (think lobster bibs) can be purchased for about $40 and should last more than a whole school year for clothing protection during snack and lunch (restaurant stores are cheaper than medical stores)

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