AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

A Contemplative Morning

by Samuel Sennott

Saturday…November 15, 2008….North Pomfret, Vermont….thinking….working…communicating

Vermont Mist

Vermont Mist


November 15, 2008 Posted by | AAC, inspiration | Leave a comment

Closing the Gap in the Star Tribune

by Samuel Sennott

Check out this video made by my uncle, Richard Sennott, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Closing the Gap 2008 Video Link

Closing the Gap 2008 Video Link

October 20, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education | , | Leave a comment

Introducing the Vantage Lite from Prentke Romich

by Samuel Sennott

It is exciting to report the arrival of the Vantage Lite, the newest AAC device from Prentke Romich Company.  In my early childhood classroom program we have been greatly appreciating the Springboard Lite.  The most important advantages of the Lite series in general is that they are physically lighter, have brighter backlit displays, are far more rugged, and have very useful handles.  The bluetooth features of the Vantage Lite is very exciting connecting to computers and other devices.  Here is the press release with a more full review to come when I am scheduled to get a chance to trial one next week.

Vantage Lite in Green

Vantage Lite in Green

Contact: Bob Nemens, Director of Marketing
Phone: (800) 262-1984 X243

PRC Introduces Vantage Lite,

a Portable AAC Powerhouse

Compact, Rugged, Take-It-Anywhere AAC Device Enables Robust Communication on the Go

Wooster, OH, September 8, 2008 – Prentke Romich Company (PRC), the leading manufacturer of alternative and augmented communication (AAC) devices for individuals with speech disabilities, today announced the release of Vantage™ Lite, a dedicated device designed for AAC beginners and those ready to advance toward fully independent augmented communication.

The second in PRC’s popular new line of “Lite” devices, Vantage Lite offers the same powerful language and communication features of PRC’s classic Vantage™ Plus  but adds an array of hardware and software innovations, including:

  • Compact case with built-in handle for greater portability;
  • “High brightness” display with LED backlight and wide viewing angle;
  • Magnesium frame that prevents damage from bumps and drops;
  • Bluetooth® connectivity for computer access and wireless access;
  • Integrated Bluetooth® phone interface, a PRC exclusive.

Like all AAC devices from PRC, Vantage Lite enables rich, independent communication through PRC’s proven Unity® language system, which allows users to progress from simple words and phrases to novel and spontaneous communication.  The device’s expanded Unity Toolset features make it easy to build vocabulary, while 4-, 8-, 15-, 45-, 60- and 84-location display options allow communication capacity to grow along with the user’s abilities.

“Vantage Lite is a breakthrough in dedicated devices because it combines our critical focus on language development with exciting technological and design innovations,” stated PRC President David L. Moffatt. “The new design is a direct result of requests from SLPs and PRC device users for a durable, powerful, and portable speech device.”

As part of the Vantage Lite launch, PRC is donating a free device to a school or center.  Those registering online at by October 31, 2008 will be entered in a drawing for a free Vantage Lite in their choice of five bold colors.  The winner will be announced at the ASHA Convention in November.

PRC will be demonstrating Vantage Lite at the Closing the Gap conference October 16-18 in Minneapolis.  Onsite demonstrations can be arranged by calling a PRC Regional Consultant at (800) 848-8008.  Details about the new device and PRC’s other AAC aids are also available online at

About PRC

PRC is a global leader in the development and manufacture of augmentative communication devices, computer access products, and other assistive technology for people with severe disabilities.

An employee-owned company founded in 1966 and headquartered in Wooster, OH, PRC has enabled thousands of children and adults worldwide with severe speech disorders to achieve spontaneous, independent, and interactive communication regardless of their disability, literacy level, or motor skills. 

In addition to its powerful communication devices –ECO-14, VanguardPlus, VantagePlus, Vantage Lite, and SpringBoard Lite – PRC also provides a wide array of high-quality teaching and implementation ideas, therapy materials, curriculum sequences, funding assistance, and training to speech-language pathologists, special educators, and the families of AAC communicators.

For more information, go to or call (800) 262-1984.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, Literacy, Special Education, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tango Tutorial: An Exercise in Not Reduplicating Training

by Samuel Sennott

In the context of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication course, it is often challenging to teach the subject matter framework information, general device knowledge, device programming, as well as all of the intangibles such as Velcro strategies and light tech board hacks and modifications. As more and more information and research comes onto the scene coupled with the ever expanding list of mid-tech to high-tech speech generating devices, we need to start finding ways to compact the information. One clear focus of assistive technology research for the foreseeable future is looking at ways to get massive amounts of framework and technical knowledge to students who are often busy either in full time school programs or both in a combination of school and employment settings.

Personally, I am being called on in an ever greater way in the speech language division I work in to provide training and tutorials to students in the graduate degree program. While it is important to have a personal touch and bring the concepts to life, it has been helpful to find ways to not reduplicate training and efforts.

Here is one resource my friend Amir Shasavari and I created. It is authored in Keynote, but here is the PowerPoint version. The focus is to help train people about the relatively new Tango! AAC device from Blink Twice. Here at Nova Southeastern University, we are finding it a helpful resource for training graduate students in Speech Language Pathology in their diagnostics as well as their AAC course.

The presentation/ tutorial has features that are important for both online learning and for self study:

  • linkable information that goes out to increasingly rich levels of media (video, more directions, downloads)
  • solid navigation tools inside the tutorial
  • a uniform look and feel to the whole user experience

I hope you find this resource useful and consider the importance of this topic.

Download the tango tutorial in MS PowerPoint

Click the image or here to go to the online flash version.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | AAC, AT, Special Education | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Downloading YouTube Videos for Education

by Samuel Sennott

YouTube is very likely blocked at your school. No the debate on viral video will not ensue. Instead we focus on application of YouTube in general and special education, specifically as a way for teachers of AAC users to help build background knowledge and to provide writing motivation. Let’s discuss both why we want to use YouTube videos in writing and how to download those videos in YouTube is in fact blocked where you are.

Students will be successful if they have a good accessible writing setup, writing strategy instruction, and the motivation to express themselves. YouTube videos can be a powerful way to engage students. Creating that feeling of “I just have to say something” may be elicited by the very funny videos of Gizmo Flushes or Eating Insects. Yet, others may be amazed by the Painting Elephant. Yet, others may be interested in sharing about the National Geographic Video Stream or the Discovery Channel’s. Maybe your more sophisticated students might like to email a friend about the Museum of Modern Art’s YouTube Video Stream. The goal of all of this is to provide fuel for the writer, inspiring them to pick up their pencil, click away at the keyboard, or use their alternative pencil.

So, check out some videos we have screened the old fashioned way, by watching them.

Here are the directions (with screenshots) for how to download YouTube Videos for free:

Download the PDF:downloading-youtube-videos

Goal: To create a library of downloaded videos that can be used to build background knowledge or be written about.

GECO Your Way to Downloading and Using YouTube Videos in Education

o Ex…

  • Enter the URL of the video you want to convert
  • Convert the video to your preferred movie format using

o We like .mpg for use with PowerPoint!

o Modify the template with a title, etc.
o Insert your video in the right spot. Resize as necessary.
o Make sure to cite the URL on the back page.

Here is a PowerPoint template that you can use for student to write about the videos you download.

Download the PowerPoint Video Connection Template: videoconnectiontemplate52908

So have fun and get motivated this summer with YouTube, even if it is blocked at your school!

Installation of Richard Serra’s sculptures at MoMA

June 4, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, Special Education, video, YouTube | 2 Comments

Ablenet How-To Videos: Step by Step with Levels

by Samuel Sennott

I have had creating a video guide to using a step switch on one of my someday/maybe task lists for a few weeks now. I meant to do this in response to how much trouble people have with using this device, especially when they are learning about both the old and new styles. I was very pleased to stumble upon a set of how-to-videos that highlight a number of Ablenet products. I think this is a terrific resource for AAC or AT labs in SLP, Special Education, AT, OT, and any other teacher training programs that benefit from clear and easily shared training resources. Thanks Ablenet! Click the link or image to play the video.

Step-By-Step with Levels Video

Here is the link to the How-to-Videos page on the Ablenet site:

“How-To” Videos

All-Turn-It Spinner spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Battery Device Adapter with Jelly Beamer spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BIG & LITTLE Step-By-Step communicator spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BIG & LITTLEmack communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BookWorm literacy tool Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
CRUISE adapted trackpad Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH scanning communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
iTalk2 communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Jelly Beamer wireless switch Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Mounting systems Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
PowerLink 3 control unit Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
ROCK adapted joystick spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Battery-Operated Scissors with Jelly Bean switch spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Sensitrac pad with Adjustable Arm spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Switch Latch and Timers (SLATs) Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Step-By-Step with Levels Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
SuperTalker progressive communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Talking Symbols notepads Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
WAVE adapted trackball Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

FL4SH – In-Use Videos

The Out-of-the-Box Experience spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH – A Scanning Communicator spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Automatic Overlay Detection spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Building Language Libraries Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH’s Adjustable Viewing Angle Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Frame Lighting – SEE What You’re Saying Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH’s External Messages Jack Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Flexible Communication Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Ease of Use Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
The Benefits of FL4SH Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
An Unexpected Benefit Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

Flip – In-Use Videos

Easy to Use spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Easy to Set Up spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Quiet and Convenient spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Accessibility Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Flexibility Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Shipping Details Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

Personal Story Videos

Josh’s Story Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

June 2, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, teacher training, video | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ablenet Product Image Bank

by Samuel Sennott

Have you ever took a picture of a Step-by-Step Switch by Ablenet? How about a Jelly Bean Switch or a All-Turn It Spinner. You may search for these things with Google Images. I just stumbled upon the image bank that Ablenet offers. It is great to see companies starting to anticipate both teacher and distributor needs in this way. Click on the the link to check it out.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Ablenet, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education | Leave a comment

2nd Generation OLPC Laptop has Dual Touchscreens

by Samuel Sennott

The new dual touchscreen XO

Things are changing. The second generation OLPC laptop will have dual touchscreens and will be designed to function like a book. What does this mean for early childhood education, special education, and augmentative and alternative communication? Over the course of this summer, we will be exploring this with the goal of being ready for these new technologies. Also, the goal is to be able to play a part in the universal design for learning of this powerful new initiative. For now, enjoy the pictures of this upcoming device.

New XO in typing mode

This opens up amazing possibilities for customized keyboards for all kinds of learners!

Friends playing New XO

Let’s Chat!

Overall, this is probably the best news we could have heard. As many of us have been holding the OLPC touchscreen vigil, the time is here. Much thanks to Pixel Qi for pushing the hardware design to new levels. AAC stakeholders may be interested in their new motto: The future of portable computing is all about the screen.

Additionally, many will be interested to note that Windows XP will be available on the XO.

I originally read about the update to the OLPC at: Xcomony.

This picture is inspirational when considering the accessible books project we are working on!

Here is a portion of the presentation announcing the update.

Other Related Articles

  1. PC World
  2. OLPC News

May 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, CAST, ebooks, inspiration, Literacy, OLPC, One to One Computing, OTOT, Special Education, writing, xo | Leave a comment

UDL Editions from CAST and Google

Sent for submission by CAST

CAST Joins Google and Partners to Celebrate World Book Day

Releases innovative literacy tools to support reading and learning from books, websites

In partnership with Google, CAST today celebrated World Book Day, April 23, 2008, by introducing two new online literacy tools that provide robust, embedded learning supports for readers at all levels. UDL Editions by CAST ( <> ) are classics from world literature in a flexible online interface that supports and engages novice and expert readers alike. CAST Strategy Tutor ( <> ) offers adolescent readers customizable mentoring and support as they conduct Internet research and read websites.

Both UDL Editions and Strategy Tutor draw on CAST’s two decades of research and development of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an approach to creating inclusive educational environments that lower barriers to learning and while supporting learners’ individual skills, abilities, and interests. Carnegie Corporation of New York provided funding, and both projects are featured presentations of the Google Literacy Project (, a joint nonprofit venture of Google, LitCam, and UNESCO, as part of its World Book Day Innovative Projects page.

The UDL Editions by CAST ( render classic texts from world literature in a flexible online interface that provides just-in-time, individualized supports for struggling readers, and added-value features that engage novice and expert readers alike. Texts include English language works by Jack London, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as the Spanish-language classic, The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. Learning features include:

* Leveled supports to build reading strategies and help readers understand the elements of the author’s craft;
* Texthelp® Toolbar for text-to-speech, highlighting and collecting highlights, dictionary and encyclopedia links, and translation between English and Spanish;
* Embedded coaches guide learners in strategic thinking and planning;
* Context-specific multimedia glossaries and enrichment activities;
* Multimedia background resources, including story links to Google Maps.

The toolbar created by Texthelp Systems, Inc., a leading developer of literacy support software solutions with offices in the U.K. and United States, expands access for all individuals, including Spanish language text-to-speech and other features for Lazarillo.

CAST Strategy Tutor ( <> ) is an online multimedia program that provides diverse adolescent learners with customizable mentoring and support as they conduct Internet research, and teachers with supports for using Web-based resources more effectively in the classroom. Strategy Tutor helps students read, research, collect and understand information better and more efficiently.

Students can store all notes in a personal, sortable electronic worklog that can be viewed from any computer. Teachers can access professional development resources, such as a database of teacher-created lessons, and create their own strategy-supported lessons. Get help from embedded coaches there to guide both students and teachers.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, CAST, ebooks, Google, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | 2 Comments

Evidenced Based Practice Article

by Samuel Sennot

Check out this simple and terrific article by Ralph Schlosser from the ASHA Leader:

Evidence-Based Practice in AAC

10 Points to Consider

I really like this section of the article where evidence based practice in AAC is defined.

Therefore, Schlosser and Raghavendra define EBP in AAC as “the integration of best and current research evidence with clinical/educational expertise and relevant stakeholder perspectives, in order to facilitate decisions about assessment and intervention that are deemed effective and efficient for a given direct stakeholder” (p. 3). In most cases, the direct stakeholder is the person who is, or will be, using AAC by virtue of being the direct recipient of any ensuing decisions arising from the EBP process.

This consideration of not only the science, but the stakeholders is a powerful message. Staying person focused and family focused keeps the best and current research and practice workable and in the zone of proximal development. Here are a few brainstormed applications of this definition:

  1. Spending more time than you would think co-programming components of an AAC system together with an individual.
  2. The AT specialist carefully considers what communication, learning technology, and environmental supports are most culturally valued by a elementary level child and family being served combined with considering what will be most helpful for communication, independence, and learning. A lively conversation is had with the child and whole family about this.
  3. An SLP helps develop a holistic AAC system for an individual that considers what the classroom and home environment will best support.

This balance of research, practice, and the expertise of individuals involved is a great focus for us in the field of special education and AAC.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | AAC, research, Special Education | Leave a comment

Photo Ball for Story Telling

by Samuel Sennott

Check out the Talking Photo Ball by Brookstones for creating a simple four location story telling voice output device.

Each of the four sides has a switch that can hold a recorded message. This could be a helpful tool for sharing short co-planned sequenced social scripts for direct selectors. Theoretically you could switch adapt each of the four switches. For the reasonable $15 price tag, I might get out the soldering iron myself and give it a try.

One drawback is that the switch tops are removable and could be a constant temptation to pull off. Definitely check this out next time you are in a mall, as sky is the limit with ideas for this tool. Here are six:

  1. Use it to send home a story from the day. Print out four pictures and co-construct the script.
  2. Write four line poems and put the text from each of the lines on each of the four sides.
  3. Buy 7 of them for $105 and you can put one letter of the alphabet on the sides. Countless games can be made up with this from taking all the caps off and matching them back on, to using it in a game with alphabet key words.
  4. Try putting the weeks word wall words and chants on them and use them during your word wall instructional time.
  5. Use it for providing key lesson instructions that student may want to hear repeated.
  6. Use it during the memorization or reminder phases of writing strategy instruction.

Feel free to leave more ideas in the comments section.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Co-Planned Sequenced Social Scripts, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Writing with Comic Creator on Read Write Think

by Samuel Sennott

Things have shifted dramatically where we encourage students to have comic books in school, all because they are reading and are motivated!  Writing a comic can be enjoyable for students of varying ages.  Check out the excellent Comic Creator on the Read-Write-Think site.  Be careful of losing work though as there is not a save feature.  For some users, you may want to create a system of drafting into an open document and cutting and pasting into the Comic Creator. Also, note that by using tab and enter, this application is two switch step scan accessible with a rating of moderate to good.  Learners without mousing ability will still need help to drag their choices of characters, bubbles, or items into the comic window.

Comic Creator Screenshot

May 7, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Back to Basics with the SETT Framework

by Samuel Sennott

As we begin to consider closing the gap in teacher training regarding assistive technology curriculum, it is important to focus on the basics and work outward from a firm foundation. To me that involves reading and working the SETT Framework by Joy Zabala. Whether you are working from a case study or your classroom, the simple and effective way of thinking about assistive technology is invaluable for novice and experienced practitioners alike.

In the SETT Framework you:

Consider the Student, their needs, abilities, and who they are.

The Environments they work in and all that must be considered surrounding that.

What Tasks will the student accomplish?

What Tools can help with those tasks? Which are best to try first?

Go to Joy Zabala’s Website:

Download the SETT Framework:

May 1, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education | 1 Comment

Pogue Reviews the Flip

by Samuel Sennott

Definitely the link to send your principal, director, or superintendent if you are trying to purchase Flip Video cameras for your classroom next year. David Pogue of the NY Times reviews it in a fun, hilarious way that demonstrates both the phenomenon and the practicality of the Flip Video.

Also, here’s the companion article:

April 25, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Special Education, video | | 3 Comments

SETT Framework Templates

by Samuel Sennott

The SETT Framework, by Joy Zabala, a popular consideration framework in the field of assistive technology, a subset of special education, has made a significant impact since its inception in 1995. It has also made a significant impact on me personally as a practitioner. SETT stands for Student, Environment, Task(s), Tools and is meant to help in the assistive technology consideration process.

Here are some simple Templates that I have created and find especially useful to provide to teams helping gather information previous to an assistive technology evaluation.

Letter Size

the-sett-framework Template Letter Size

3 by 5 Card Size

3 by 5 Index Card Size: sett-notecard-1

3 by 5 Card Size (Four Cards)


Direct Download of the SETT Framework Paper:

small apple with leaf 2002 Update of the SETT Framework

April 10, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, AT | , | Leave a comment

IconSpeak for the XO

by Samuel Sennott

Update New Site:

Current Article:

IconSpeak is the first attempts at a dynamic display augmentative communication software for the XO laptop. Recently, I posted about Speak, which IconSpeak is built on. Check out the main screen, as of Thursday 4/3/08:

IconSpeak Main Screenshot

You can see that there are sign language based icons, mixed with English words. Most of the cells, or buttons, link to additional pages. Check out the “eat” page.

IconSpeak Eat Page Screenshot

You can move the cursor to the cell, click it, and the word that corresponds with the icon moves to the message window at the top. You can then activate the play icon for the message window to speak.

Presently,  it does automatically clear the message window when you speak a message with the play button. Yet, if you make a mistake by entering a wrong icon, you will need to backspace on the keyboard to clear the display.  For those not familiar with the most popular AAC softwares, check out theseProxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

hots from Speaking Dynamically Pro, Dynavox, PRC’s Unity software, and the newest Tango software respectively:

pwp shot

SDPro running the Picture Word Power Set (above) Video Demo

dv series screenshot

Dynavox Series 5 Software (above)

vantage core

PRC Unity 45 Location Overlay (above)

tango category screenshot

Blink-Twice’s Tango Software (above)

So it is very clear to see that compared to the much refined commercial softwares, the initial prototype for IconSpeak still needs some work. Also, two switch step scanning needs to be considered for this software. Using tab or the arrow keys helps you navigate, but enter, the logical key command for entry does not work. There may be another key command I did not try that works, but nonetheless switch scanning would be a welcome addition to future builds. Features like switch scanning are representative of much more for this software to be fully valuable to a broad range of users.

Whatever the drawbacks, this software shows what is possible. This software release clearly demonstrates the potential for an open source AAC software running in Python on OSX and Windows. : ) The ability to quickly add your own images, ideally from the XO’s digital camera, would make it a potentially useful AAC tool very quickly. There is much more to be discussed about this software, but as they state on the wiki page that it will be updated rapidly, so we look forward to that and following the progress. So we watch, wait, and see if we can co-participate, knowing that the most important step is the successful release of a touch screen modification for the XO. It happened for the EEE PC.

verbs IconSpeak shot

April 3, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, OLPC, One to One Computing, Special Education, writing, xo | 4 Comments

Keywords in iPhoto ’08 for Organizing Video

an video podcast by Samuel Sennott

You may be preparing student learning portfolios, creating a video and photo enhanced blog to show student progress, or may be recording video in the midst of a research project. Whatever the case, this post seeks to help you create an easily organized and search able database for these precious clips of video. In the latest version, iPhoto ’08, you can add keywords quickly and efficiently, allowing an easily archived and searched database.

Watch the video podcast here or download a pdf of the help page from iPhoto:
Creating or Changing Keywords in iPhoto

Whether you are organizing for project name, lesson name, teaching technique, quality of filming or content, prompting levels, or student description, the point is that you can begin to have these types of categories as tags or keywords. Then you will have a powerful ability to search and find just video clips with those keywords.

Additionally, utilizing the events features of iPhoto ’08, as well as the ability to create multiple libraries are future topics that may be helpful in this ongoing process.

April 1, 2008 Posted by | AAC, research, Special Education, video | , , , | 2 Comments

Printable Making Words Cards

by Samuel Sennott

Making Words lessons are a terrific way to help learners actively construct letter sound correspondences and learn patterns of sounds that work together.  It is a reccomended lesson type in the Four Blocks Framework’sWorking with Words block.

Check out these printable letter cards. They are two inch symbols.   Simply print them with the lower case on one side and the uppercase on the other.  Originally, the pages were constructed with Mayer-Johnson’s Boardmaker/SD Pro.  I recommend using card stock and laminating them with glare free laminate.  Using 3 by 5 index cards cut in half can be helpful for writing down words from the lessons as well.

letter cards shot

Download the Printable PDF files:

  1. a to t lowercase
  2. A to T uppercase
  3. u to z lowercase
  4. U to Z uppercase

Also, you may find these files to be helpful from the 4 Blocks Site maintained by Joe Fuhrmann, Kankakee (IL) School District First Grade Teacher at Lafayette Primary Center 

Recommended Reading:

  1.  Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use by Patricia Cunningham
  2. Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four-Blocks® Way by Karen Erickson and David Kopenhaver
  3. Teacher’s Guide to the Four Block’s by by Patrica M. Cunningham (Author), Dorothy P. Hall (Author), Cheryl M. Sigmon

March 31, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy, phonics, writing | 2 Comments

The OLPC Computer as an AAC Device

by Samuel Sennott

Individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities, may be able to use Speak, the open source software available for the OLPC XO laptop, as an augmentative communication tool to help meet their daily communication needs. The basic function of this application or activity as it is called in the OLPC world, is that you type, press enter, and it speaks.

OLPC Speak

Look for a video podcast on this topic soon!

March 31, 2008 Posted by | AAC, OLPC, Special Education, xo | 5 Comments

The Power of Community

by Samuel Sennott

I feel so thankful to be working with and to have worked with some of the most amazing and terrific people. It is such a gift to be working with the excellent graduate students in my classroom. Every day they come to these children and the work with so much. I remember the hard working staff and faculty at the elementary school, where I led an inclusion program. Their dedication to teaching and their late nights and weekends preparing definitely made me feel better on those Sunday trips to that very special classroom. Yet, nothing can compare to the individuals at the MCL Respite Center in Hopkinton. Forever, the care and true compassion demonstrated there has indelibly marked my heart and mind. The friendships and experiences in that house are the foundation of my work. I feel more than thankful for being a part of that house. From the directors to every one of the staff, the feeling is there.

As I begin to take ever deeper steps into being a teacher, I realize how important my colleagues or co-teachers have been. From the success of a student’s first eye gaze communication choices, to the challenge of the tough days in the classroom, I hear the words of my mentors and the practitioners I listen closely to. From words about two switch step scanning to the dignity I learned about at the Respite, I am so thankful for those words and actions. This post is meant to be a simple thank you for the teaching assistants, teachers, therapists, families, directors, and professors that have and are making a difference in my teaching practice. Thank you.

I especially thank the amazing individuals at Nova Southeastern University who are believing in me, supporting the important work we are engaged in, and caring about me as a person. As I have stepped one foot into the world of higher education, see more clearly the importance of that mission and component of the work. Also, much thanks to my friends and family who are so present to me. To anyone reading this post and considering becoming an educator, one thought to put on the “pro” list is the amazing people you will meet and work with.

March 24, 2008 Posted by | AAC, inspiration, Special Education | 1 Comment

iPhone SDK First Looks

by Samuel Sennott

iphone sdk icon

The iPhone SDK has been released! Why is this important? Because it could become a key platform for learning and communication tools for people with special needs. From a 9 location pragmatically organized communication set up for an elderly individual, right down to utilizing digital images and visual scene displays with our youngest learners, the iPhone/Touch may prove to be a more easily accessed avenue to the use of AAC and AT. Truly there are limitations at this time, but there are significant rumors about larger form factors and even the seemingly destined tablet. Some of the features are very exciting, like the ability to capture pictures and also the amazing multi-touch potential. One key feature of the SDK that could prove interesting is the iPhone emulator. While on one hand this is helpful for giving designers a chance to test their applications, on the other it is helpful because it gives a platform for running an application created for the iPhone for users to take advantage of.

See a picture gallery of the simulator here:

iphone simulator

Additionally, I see this tool and genre of tools being a key piece in the implementation of a one to one computing initiative. I look forward to dialogging with friends about this.

Watch the Presentation held on Thursday March 6th, 2008

jobs iphone sdk

Go to the Development Website:

March 7, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, AT, iPhone, Special Education | Leave a comment

iPhone SDK: Ready, Set, …

by Samuel Sennott

The anticipation has built and built. The day is finally here. Tech Crunch and Mac Rumors are two good places to follow the big Apple news. What does the SDK mean to us? Well it has potential to mean a great deal. Imagine having your iPod touch be the best step sequencing, digital storytelling, portable direct select or one/two switch scanning device, all for under $500 with speakers and all peripherals.

apple road map

Although back in October for CTG, we had a basic AAC software, thanks to collaboration with an awesome member of the iPhone development community. Yet, it wasn’t right to move forward. It needs to be solid. Families and their children would be depending on it to work. An iTunes update should not break the functionality of a communication device. Also a conversation with a trusted Apple developer, made me realize the importance of respecting the process. Now is the time. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

I still maintain my original theory that there should be an open format for conversion to a shared iPod touch platform. PRC, Dynavox, MJ, Blink-Twice, and on should consider collaborating on a project like this. Wishful thinking maybe, but could be a powerful way to share.

March 6, 2008 Posted by | AAC, iPhone | 2 Comments

XO Keyboard Shortcuts

by Samuel Sennott

As I am preparing for a flurry of XO based posts, I just have to get some of it out. The one to one concept is exciting me as a teacher more and more. It is important for us to learn the operational commands for the tools we use. Check out some of the commands for the OLPC XO computer. Go here for the full page, which includes the combination keystrokes.

Keyboard Shortcuts


Jump to: navigation, search

This page is maintained by the OLPC team.

This page provides a listing of the agreed upon shortcuts for the system at large and for various controls within the activities, which should be referenced for consistency across them. For a high-level philosophical on the usage of various modifier keys, please refer to the HIG.

Please see cheat codes for a list of boot options.

For the general public

[edit] Special keys

  • the Ctrl key has a solid diamond on it (♦);
  • the Alt key has an open diamond on it (♢);
  • the Esc key has a white × inside a black circle (Esc.png);
  • the Tab key has double arrows on it (↹);
  • the Tilde key has a tilde on it (~);
  • the Frame key has an open rectangle on it (□);
  • the F1 key is the same as the Neighborhood view key (Mesh key f1 small.png);
  • the F2 key is the same as the Group view key (Friends key f2 small.png);
  • the F3 key is the same as the Home view key (Home key f3 small.png);
  • the F4 key is the same as the Activity view key (Activity key f4 small.png);
  • the Delete key is the same as Fn-Erase.
  • the Page Up key is the same as Fn-up-arrow (↑).
  • the Page Down key is the same as Fn-down-arrow (↓).
  • the Home key is the same as Fn-left-arrow (←).
  • the End key is the same as Fn-right-arrow (→).

March 5, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, OLPC, Special Education, xo | 1 Comment

Helpful Literacy Images

By Samuel Sennott

These visual supports were created during the Literacy in AAC Seminar this past June at University of Florida Gainesville, taught by Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver. The always excellent CARD sponsored the event. The learning was terrific in this week long intensive seminar. The visuals were created using Inspiration.

Cognitive Clarity

Automatic Word Recognition

February 29, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy | Leave a comment

Microsoft Word and Slater Software’s Free Online Symbol Resource-Video Podcast

An Podcast by Samuel Sennott.

Slater Software, creators of the excellent literacy and communication software, Picture It, generously offer a free online symbol resource search tool. Click here to to it:

slater logo

This assistive technology podcast demonstrates how to create a nine location augmentative communication board utilizing Microsoft Word and this free Literacy Support Picture Search Tool. First we create a button, or cell. Then that cell is changed from the default blue color, and the text is enabled and formatted to be centered. We then are free to add text, search for symbols at, and drag those symbols back into MS Word.
The advantage of using this resource is many people’s comfort level with Microsoft Word. A significant drawback of this resource for extensive use is the limited symbol searching capabilities. Slater Software’s Picture It software is a terrific resource to look at if you ready to take the next steps.

Download the 9 Location Microsoft Word Template Here: 9 Location Get Started

9 Location Get Started screenshot

Here is an example of a greetings and chatting board created using the method outlined in the podcast.

9 greeting ss

February 27, 2008 Posted by | AAC, AT, Literacy, writing | 3 Comments