Sunday, February 27, 2011

Free Boardmaker Boards and Activites List Updated!

Check it out!  Cleaned up and added to for 2011!

Visuals Engine

Visuals Engine from Connectability in Canada joins a number of excellent free visual support and communication board making programs.   Visuals Engine offers a step-by-step online app to make schedule or communication boards with up to 16 squares.  It includes photographs and a limited selection of Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols. The rest of the site is also worth looking through, with games, information on safety, a resume builder for people with disabilities and more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Symbolstix are Everywhere!

Over time the default picture symbol set used for curriculum support and communication in special education is becoming SymbolStix.  Originally designed for use in News-2-You, the current event based curriculum for special needs, SymbolStix are now available in many products.  Some special education programs are moving to SymbolStix instead of other picture symbols in order to offer a consistent symbol set across many materials and programs.

Here are some of the many places you can find SymbolStix being offered for curriculum and communication:

Curriculum and Software:
  • Click to Read Life Skills Stories is a software program designed to teach core vocabulary and social skills as well as early literacy through stories and games, includes switch access $49
  • Clicker5 and ClozePro multimedia authoring software allowing teachers, therapists and caregivers to design learning activities in all curriculum areas, SymbolStix are now available as an add-on package
  • Environmental Print Program Levels One and Two are integrated language arts programs focusing on comprehension and instruction of safety/community signs, includes software $699
  • PCI Reading Program is a researched reading program using sight word instruction for individuals with moderate to severe learning disabilities/special needs $629
  • News-2-You is a current events program for students with special needs
  • Unique Learning Program is a comprehensive and differentiated, standards aligned curriculum for students in elementary school through adult who have moderate to severe special needs $140 a classroom, a year
  • SymWord is a talking word processor with symbol support and the ability for users to use grids of symbols to write, also works as an email program with symbol support and to create symbol supported materials.  Access includes switch scanning and mouse alternatives.  $195
  • Word Problems for Non Readers is three levels of math story problems designed for students to address math skills without literacy, Banking for Non Readers is a continuation focusing on financial skills $49 a level
Overlays and Manual Communication Boards:
  • AMDi Overlay Designer Pro allows users to make custom overlays for AMDi mid-tech communication devices like the Tech/Talk and manual communication boards, it includes a flash disk burner for use with the AMDi Smart Series $258
  • Go Talk Overlay Designer is sold by Attainment and can be used to make Overlays for the Go Talk series of mid-tech AAC devices as well as manual communication boards and books $79
  • Matrix Maker is a communication board making software that had overlay templates for many mid-tech communication devices, worksheets, visual schedules and more $230
  • Pogo Boards is an online communication board design program $69 a year
  • Symbol Mate is a complete board making and curriculum materials solution from Tobii $200
  • SymbolStix Online is a web based subscription that allows you to search all the available SymbolStix, including new ones that many not be in other software programs you use and download those symbols to use in other programs $99 a year
Dynamic Display Communication Software/Devices:
  • Communicator from Tobii is a dynamic display AAC, environmental control and internet communications software program that comes standard on Tobii devices and is offered on other company's devices as well, SymbolStix is the default symbol set
  • Cyrano is a handheld dynamic display device, SymbolStix are available as an add-on
  • Saltillo makes the ChatPC and ALT-Chat series of dynamic display communication devices, these devices are small and rugged, SymbolStix is the default picture symbol set
  • MindExpress is a dynamic display communication software program which now offers SymbolStix, you can find it on software like the AAC devices from Jabbla
  • The Grid is a symbol and text based AAC system in addition to alternative computer control, it is offered on my communication devices, SymbolStix is an add on purchase
iPod/iPad Apps:
  • ArtikPix is an app to assist with teaching articulation through flashcards and games $29.99
  • iCommunicate is a visual cueing and choice making app $34.99-$49.99 
  • Parlerai is a simple dynamic display solution offered along with other features on the Parlerai website $29.99 a month
  • Proloquo2Go is a complete iPod/iPhone based dynamic display speech system $189
  • TouchChat is Saltillo's AAC app, using the same researched vocabulary sets as their stand alone devices $140

Update May 2022 - Symbol Support Text has been proven not to prove much, if any, aid to comprehension and to be detrimental to learning to read.  This post is keep up for historical purposes.  Please don't use symbol supported text.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homemade Conversation Hearts

Ever thought about making homemade conversation hearts?

The recipe can be found at Make Monthly and a great photo version of the recipe is at  On day one prepare the dough using your switches with the mixer and our cooking communication pages.  This is a fun activity that reinforced requesting a turn, fine motor skills, following directions and switch use. Then let every student have a ball of dough on some parchment paper to knead. Once the dough is formed each student smells the bottles of extract (try lemon, orange, root beer, strawberry and mint) and chooses one to use.  Each student is responsible for making one flavor of dough, coloring it with food dye, rolling it out and cutting out the hearts with a cookie cutter.  What a wonderful multi-sensory experience with feeling the sugar and dough, see the colors, hearing the mixer and smelling the extracts!

Once the hearts are done set them out to dry.  The next morning give students were given a selection of 12 picture symbols showing messages that could be written by their adult partner on the candies (love, friends, sweetheart, you're icky, text me...).  Students also have a choice of five colored food dye markers to write their messages.  This portion of making conversation hearts is all about choice making!

Have fun!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Single Switch Games for Young Children

Mother Goose website has two jumping games played just with a switch set to space bar, "The Cow Jumps Over the Moon" and "Jack Be Nimble".  There are also a number of games great for a touch screen and others that work with multiple switches set to the arrow keys (perfect for those learning to use switches for powered mobility).

Feeding Tube Awareness Week

I was reminded by my blogging friend Rose-Marie at Adapting Creatively that this is Feeding Tube Awareness Week.  You can check out her post here.  Also see the Feeding Tube Awareness Website.

Some resources to think about include the free book for children from Mito Action (please donate to Mito Action a couple of dollars, they do great work for kids with Mitochondrial Disease). I have previously posted about g-tube feedings at school here.

Some ideas for awareness week might be:
  • have your students in to speak about using a g-tube in a health class, scout troop or another setting
  • do a lesson or series of lessons teaching your students communication and self-advocacy about their g-tube - practice communicating messages like, "my g-tube hurts", "I am feeling hungry.", "I feel full.", "My feeding pump has a problem.", and directions to instruct someone on giving a feeding or troubleshooting a feeding pump
  • teach your students how a g-tube works, allow them to see and touch things like a mickey, extensions, gauze, cans of formula, bolus syringes, feeding pump backs
  • have your students make posters or flyers for Feeding Tube Awareness Week
  • have your students write or compose letters to people getting a tube for the first time

A while back I printed a list of g-tube friendly clothing and accessories.  Here is an update:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Overseas Products I Wish I Could Find In the USA

  • V-Pen 
    • The V-Pen is a mid tech AAC solution
    • It uses special coding to allow the V-Pen to speak messages that correspond with paper
    • You can use a variety of pre-made manual boards or make your own with special software
  • Recordable Bar
    • with six buttons and ten seconds of recording per button this would make a perfect visual schedule at $25.00
  • Look2Talk Complete
    • a complete set of materials and guides to creating, teaching and using low tech eye gaze communication boards
  • The Talk Time Range 
    • A variety of products that allow recording a voice and hearing it played back
    • Includes a talking block (to use as a dice), switches and dry erase boards (Mayer-Johnson does carry a couple of these items.
  • StoryBoards
    • a set of pictures and story telling boards to allow students to "write" and tell a story
    • reinforces time concepts as it is used

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