Alltogether

AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

Apple Computers Allow Talking Word Wall

by Samuel Sennott

You can utilize the OSX Voice over feature to create a personalized word wall system that has simple text to speech by clicking or arrowing into the letters or words on the word wall.

TTS Word Wall pic

Doing a daily word wall practice as part of a systematic phonics instructional program is a terrific way to provide the exposure, anchoring, and visual memory connections to the high frequency words of the language your learners read and write in.

Download the guide at the OTOT wikispace. Here.

ww tts guide pic

Enclosed is the Dolch list in alphabetic and frequency orders, the template, the guide, and sample word wall with the first fifteen words in Karen Erickson and Gretchen Hanser’s Literacy Through Unity 45 Location systematic phonics instruction program for learners who use augmentative communication.

On the QIAT Listserv, Ruth Fuller brought up the excellent idea of how cool this concept is on an interactive whiteboard. Gosh, Word Wall goes high tech! I bet if we change those voices around to the hysterical or robot, you could have quite the Friday Word Wall Sessions! Anyway, here is a mockup:

smartboard mockup

I think it would be cool if you could have the color coding aspects.  To color the text is not hard, but to do the color blocks behind the words presents a formidable challenge.  It would be terrific if you could color the background of each cell in a table.  Oh, wait.  you can, as I just figured it out.  Look for an update soon.

January 8, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, OTOT, Special Education, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Motivation to Write

By Sam Sennott

We can share many things when we write. We can share our selves, joy, pain, insights, laughter, encouragement, discouragement, a kind word, information, or curiosity. For many people, being highly motivated to write is an assistance to the writing process. What do you think motivates you most to write? What motivates your students?

Here is an idea: Use “YouTube” videos to motivate. You can do it in as many ways as you can think of. Here is the first of many to share. Gizmo Flushes: The cat that cost his family a great deal in a water bill! All day long that curious cat was flushing! Download Intellitools File: Here at the OTOT site Download PowerPoint File: Here at the OTOT site

Giz screenshot

After a good hearty laugh, you can go to it and write your impressions or what you thought about the video. Maybe this spurs your mind to think of something else that made you laugh! Maybe you want to write about your cat and something they did that is funny. These writing starters are meant to be something that someone may want to write about, and intended to be a choice. Please consider, how you give “writing assignments”. I hope you and your students like them and I also hope you are spurred on to think of others ways to use this basic premise.

December 1, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, family, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing, YouTube | 1 Comment

AAC: Display Characteristics That Support Aided Symbol Use: Color & Animation at ASHA

By Samuel Charles Sennott

Visual display shot 1visual display shot 2Visual Display shot 3visual display shot 4

This session foreshadows the influence that digital natives will have on the AAC systems and software systems we use in special education. Additionally, the research focus on clearing the unnecessary access challenges with traditional AAC systems is terrific. Seeing the presenter, Lacy Donofrio, speak about authoring her lessons in Flash was a moment I will mark in time. Our method of presentation will certainly change, as we are on the cusp of having very inexpensive displays and computing systems entering into our classrooms. The work of this team seemed to be one part brainstorm and one part research. It was terrific to see. What do you think will happen in special education over the next five years, as many more digital natives are at the helm of classrooms across the country? Here is the abstract from the presentation:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):
Display Characteristics That Support Aided Symbol Use: Color & Animation

Download the Handout Here

Presenters:
* Krista Wilkinson
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA
* John McCarthy
Ohio U, Athens, OH
* Lacey Donofrio
Ohio U, Athens, OH
* Janice C. Light
Pennsylvania St U, University Park, PA
* Michael Carlin
U of Massachusetts Med Sch, Waltham, MA
* Vinoth Jagaroo Ph.D.
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA
* Jennifer Thistle
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA

The speakers in this symposium will discuss how various physical characteristics of aided AAC displays might influence responding by children with or without disabilities. The first presentation examines whether PCS symbols that share a color are best arranged together (providing a subset within which to search) or distributed throughout a display (enhancing the salience of each symbol individually). The second presentation describes how animation can be exploited to facilitate scanning as an access method in visual scenes. The final presentation illustrates the utility of FLASH methodology for display construction. Clinical implications will be identified by the presenters and the discussant.
——

To me the most important component in this type of work is the connection to good teaching. Making good teaching and good learning more easy and prevalent is the goal. You could have a gold iPod that changed size to whatever you needed, but unless it has the good instructional concepts and tools, it is worthless. I liked the thought process of this group and definitely will look to see the work that comes from them in the future. : )

November 25, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, Literacy, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

OLPC and AAC for the Developing World with Adam Bowker at ASHA 2007

By Samuel Charles Sennott

OLPC ASHA shot

This poster board session at ASHA was authored by Adam Bowker and Dr. Janice Light, both from Penn State. There is one powerful, clear message that was presented here: that you could never hand a child with disabilities something like a Dynavox Series 5 Device in a developing nation. Yet if everyone has XO’s and the learner with a communication disorder accesses it with switches it is no big deal. This is a strong message and chance for universal design. What do you think about that for AAC in the nation or nations that you care about in the world? What do you think about that for AAC in the United States?

I mistakenly forgot to take an image of the excellent poster, but here are the top resources for finding out about the OLPC project.

http://www.laptop.org The main project site

http://wiki.laptop.org The wiki site that provides in depth information, specific hardware specs, as well as ways to get involved such as the listservs and wikispace sections.

www.laptopgiving.org The best way to try one of these laptops out. The deal is that you donate one and you get one. $399 with an extended period to December 31rst.

Most importantly in the USA, this movement comes as a challenge to specialized instruction, ese, sped, whatever we name it. My interpretation of this movement is that we, the people who care deeply about the education of people with special needs, need to create and design the one laptop per child in the United States. It is certainly coming and it is up to us to be ahead of the curve in arguably the best chance we have at narrowing the gap.

Just think about the alternative: trying to retro fit what is created and given to us. I have been following part of the developments by monitoring the OLPC Project, the intiatives in the state of Maine, and the Intel Classmate.

The presenter, Adam Bowker, and I spoke about how excited we are for receiving the laptops, which are promised by OLPC before Christmas. The most promising use initially seems to be as a literacy tool for people who use AAC. The Tar Heel Typer can serve as an option for an electronic pencil and it will be great to look at the best way to port electronic books into the system. As soon as the devices are shipped it will be fun to look at this as an inexpensive way for people to connect to the Internet with their AAC devices, most notably Pathfinders, Vantage/Vanguard Devices, various Dynavox Devices, and the Tango.

Overall, this is the technical domain I am most encouraged by out of all the emerging technologies found in AT, The Read/Write Web/ Web2.0, and in Special Education. Additionally, it was terrific to see a well thought out and progressive presentation by the researcher, Adam Bowker. He is a second year doctoral student at Penn State and looks to have some notable and promising research interests.

November 25, 2007 Posted by | AAC, ASHA2007, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, OLPC, OTOT, phonics, Special Education, Uncategorized, writing | 1 Comment

Tar Heel Typer: An Open Source Alternative Pencil

by Samuel Sennott

THT screenshottar heel pic

The Tar Heel Typer is an excellent new open source writing tool that is a flexible alternative pencil with word prediction that is both available online and as a standalone download. Created by Daniel Parker, a Computer Science Student at UNC Chapel hill and is a collaboration with The Center for Literacy and Disability at UNC. The program runs best in Firefox and is created in Flash and Java. Here is what you first see when you are setting up your alternative pencil. (only a portion of the whole menu)

setup ss

You can choose your input type between the options of Braille, a keyboard, automatic single switch scanning, and two switch step scanning! There are excellent customization options during scanning such as seeing one letter at a time, or for seeing the whole alphabet. Additionally, you can set for group scanning. The word prediction is a bit basic involving importing a list of your own, but this level of control may be helpful for scaffolding the writing of early learners and I am sure that a text file will float around soon to augment the sample list provided. There are some fun extras as well, including a music player, which in the future could be modified to be a juke box.  Also there is a helpful feature that allows you to email the writing when you want!

Here is what it looks like to two switch step scan seeing only one letter at a time. Click on the image to go to that setup.

THT screenshot

This project is not only valuable to use with learners right away, but it shows the power of open source software for who we are trying to help provide learning technology to individuals with special needs. This project, as it is created in Flash and Java, running on Firefox, can be easily adapted to run on the XO laptop as well. Just think of what else can be created to run on a machine like that.   It will be interesting to look at how the Hawking Toolbar can be integrated with this writing tool on the XO.  Thanks goes out to the creator for the excellent work done on the Tar Heel Typer!

November 13, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education, writing | 8 Comments

Digital Picture Frame with Switch Adapted Remote Control

by Samuel Sennott

Digital Picture Frame Screenshot 1

Have you seen a digital picture frame in a catalog, online, or in a store? This emerging technology will make a terrific book reader, photo browser, partner assisted communication tool, and electronic pencil. The good news is that they are quickly shifting to including a remote control with them. 🙂 That is wonderful, because we now have a wireless device to adapt much more easily than taking the whole unit apart! Truly, there will be units with sound very shortly, but until then, what a terrific way to read your PowerPoint books you made with Flickr, your books from the Accessible Book Collection, or whatever adapted books you can export as folders of JPGs.

How do you do this? Well, you need to have the soldering equipment and the switch jacks, but have no fear. The challenge is on for one of our favorite companies to provide this to us at a reasonable cost. Until then, on the assistive technology Ning site we are going to be working the project with a goal of providing directions, recommendations on the best digital picture frame, and a list of applications for the tool.

So, game on and let’s have some fun with this as we give something cool to the learners we serve! Also, feel free to put some pressure on the usual suspects…i.e.. RJ….Ablenet…Enabling…..Enablemart….

Oh, one last thing, this relates so much to the Visual Scene work and the Visual Storytelling work. Just consider how many different people with aphasia could benefit from having a tool like this to foster sharing, expression, and information transfer. I can’t wait to share the recent success we have been experiencing in this domain! Look for it in an upcoming post!

Digital Picture Frame Adapted Pencil Screenshot

November 10, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, art, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, Literacy, Uncategorized, writing | 4 Comments

50 Web 2.0 Tools to Tell a Story

by Samuel Sennott

alan levine blog ss

I think that I am going to send Alan Levine some sort of thank you gift. Maybe we should start a pool. Seriously, his wikispaces site highlighting 50 Web 2.0 Tools to Tell a Story is just terrific. This is a great way to share the multitude of tools available to that excited teacher. It is a place to simply let undergraduate students in teacher training in various courses explore. As I delve ever increasingly into the read/write web, I realize that it just goes on and on. There are some great literacy tools to explore on this list that who would have imagined in 1987? 1997? Yes, 2007 I expect it, but am still so wowed by the possibilities for our learners to express themselves and to explore what they are passionate about.

So share this list. We can work on baking Alan Levine a cake or something and let us see how these tools will be practically implemented with our learners. I leave you with this thought. In some ways, a list like this is dangerous. So many directions, options, and opportunities. What tool will we use, how long does it take to use it fluently, etc.? I say live dangerously and jump in, but jump in with the tool of the SETT framework and stay focused on good teaching and learning. Again, thanks goes out to authors like this, sharing resources we are all thinking and talking about.  The URL is: http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryTools

November 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, GoogleDocs, Literacy, writing | 2 Comments

ASHA 2007 Boston Guide

Asha guide screenshot

ASHA 2007 Boston Guide

Downloads:  ASHA 2007 Boston Guide Word Document

Compiled by Samuel Sennott

I am very excited to attend ASHA 2007 in Boston. Teaching and working in Nova Southeastern University’s Speech and Language Clinic has gotten off to a terrific start. It is so exciting learning more about speech and language. Taking a few days to travel with my new team and colleagues to my home, Massachusetts, should be great. I compiled this guide to share something that may help that tough getting away process. The sections are Maps, Conference Planning Tools, Restaurants, and Things to Do.

ASHA convention Logo

November 7, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, conference, Special Education, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A Word From Katya Hill on Teaching

By Samuel Charles Sennott

This is a new category of post, called A Word, which will usually be more personal in nature and kick off a series of more practical and resource based entries.

Teaching is a terrific vocation. Being able to help learners with communication, literacy, technology integration, and inclusion is such a gift. Closing the Gap 2007 was a terrific experience where I got yet another chance to sit, listen, and respond to my favorite community of teachers, parents, practitioners, and researchers. The words I hear are burned into my consciousness. Having the opportunity to study how to better teach is such a gift. I think back to my first Closing the Gap and what it meant to me to hear Linda Burkhart’s message. Yes, yes, I deeply recognize the key we have in the Internet. In fact, coupled with the concept of One to One Thousand, we will be able to help learners in an unprecedented way. Yet, nothing can replace hearing Linda Burkhart talk about motivation, the power of two switch step scanning, and the engagement of children with special needs. Hearing about the metaphor of the lady with the yellow umbrella just isn’t the same over compressed video…

I had the opportunity to teach this year at Closing the Gap and it felt terrific to share the work I am engaged in regarding literacy and AAC supports that are cool, using visual scenes and digital story telling, poetry, as well as the Language Banking Project that helps record child friendly voices. Yet, the most amazing thing has happened over the last calendar year. While I have always had an affinity for thinking deeply about the work our community is engaged in, recently, I have had an intense growing desire to know what works and why. I am rereading the AAC textbook by David R. Beukelman and Pat Mirenda and it is the perfect time, as I am considering communication supports so intensely in my teaching work! I am finding myself hungry for the research and also increasingly ready to design my own projects. This searching and testing is important. We have to get it right for these children, adults, and their families. I have been checking out the excellent resource found in The Family Center on Technology and Disability and came upon this quote from a forum Katya Hill moderated in 2003. You can find the full text here: Using a map versus a compass.

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is really not a new term for the same old ways of doing things. EBP is a paradigm shift for practitioners, other stakeholders, and most important, individuals who rely on AT/AAC. Applying the principles of EBP requires all of us to build new skills which we never master. EBP is a life-long process of posing the best questions in order to seek and evaluate the best evidence to make the best decisions with our clients. Data (from several sources) is critical to effective decision-making. Results of a search conducted today should not be the results of the future. Katya Hill, EPP: Using a map versus a compass, posted on Dec. 17, 2003

Those last words, “Results of a search conducted today should not be the results of the future.” are powerful to me in that they tell me what I have heard often: “you never figure teaching out, but you are always learning.”

Last Friday, after a full week of intense teaching in an early childhood setting coupled with seeking answers to the AAC questions that work was bringing up, I stopped and recognized how amazing it is to have a chance to ask these increasingly better questions and to seek the best evidence to make these important decisions. I am so happy that I have the opportunity to both work very hard with children, but also pursue these questions of how to better help them learn. What a gift those two intermingled things are.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, inspiration, Literacy | Leave a comment

Dogs by Samuel Sennott

dogs title page

As part of the initial preparations for an accessible books project called Books Please, check out this PowerPoint based book: Dogs, created using images from Flickr and the principles displayed in the Beginning Literacy Framework by Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite, Dr. Karen Erickson, and Ruth Ziolkowski.

Also, for those interested, this week, the excellent poetry contributions will be posted using the same format, as well as being available for download from the new One to One Thousand Wikispace.

Dogs by Samuel Sennott
http://docs.google.com/Present?docid=dfg8ptwg_16f26gv5&fs=true

Note the power of using the publishing feature of Google Docs. It will be terrific to see how this tool can help in both the book creation, but also in the publishing/distribution process.

download the powerpoint dogs powerpoint

download the pdf   Dogs by SCS

October 14, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, GoogleDocs, Literacy, OTOT, Special Education | Leave a comment

iJailBreak for iPod Touch

by Samuel Sennott

iJailBreak is the automated tool that unlocks and enables your iPod Touch to use installer.app., the third party application installer. It has become very clear that the iPhone and iPod touch can be used as both an AAC device component inside of a holistic AAC system and as a terrific flexible learning tool. The rationale is this: Apple makes superior hardware and it is accessible in that many people already have it and if they don’t it is easy to obtain, i.e. The Apple Store, Best Buy, etc… Using this hardware with excellent software has great potential. What are the applications? Here is just one: when the iPhone and Touch connect to the new slim Apple Bluetooth keyboard, you will have a terrific way for students to type their papers for under $400. Not bad, considering you can also surf the web on your OSX powered mini-computer. Just think about what else you could do…

Do you appreciate the potential seen in the terrific program installer for the iPhone and iPod Touch? Installer.app has changed the way I see my work with children and adults with special needs. Seeing how the community of developers surrounding the iPhone and iPod hacking works has definitely made an impact on me in this way: seeing these folks work so hard on these open source projects for everyone to enjoy shows me ever more the power in working together.

iPhone 4 Blocks

October 14, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inspiration, Literacy, OS X, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

AAC Considerations and the Stages Framework

By Madalaine Pugliese, Stages author

The Stages Framework is based on a balance between what research tells us about both cognitive and language development and is designed to help us best understand when and how to introduce assistive technology tools and strategies in the learning process. Consideration of how and when to introduce AAC is a key piece of the research. Here is a modified excerpt from the book containing the research as it applies to language acquisition from a developmental perspective.

Also attached is an observable checklist that will help to identify a learner’s current functional Stage.

What follows is a brief overview of communication implementation recommendations for each Stage.

Stage One
Establish reliable cause and effect behavior for learning. Without this behavior it is not advised to expect interaction centered around meaningful communication.

Stage Two
A learner’s ability to work attentively in a receptive vocabulary environment, to comprehend language, and to process information provides us with information that helps us make decisions about communication skills development. Before we can expect a learner to communicate effectively, he must be exposed to and understand words and symbols. Once he understands a word or symbol, then he can apply it, or use it to express himself at a later Stage.

For years it has been understood that exposing learners to all forms of emerging literacy that are meaningful promotes language acquisition. This is the time to introduce a single message device labeled with one photo, drawing or symbol. With a light-tech device placed in physical context with an activity such as this, the learner can activate simple prerecorded messages with the press of a button even without intent. As the learner receives reinforcement for an unintentional press of the device, he can learn the connection toward intentionality.

Language is representative of real objects and actions. Pictures or symbols in isolation carry limited meaning. Therefore, activities to extend understanding are important. We want learners to understand that the object is the same in a photograph, in a representational drawing, and in real life. Is an apple always red? No! We have to provide opportunities for learners to develop an understanding of the nuances in the ways that words and symbols can work. First, make sure that the learner understands the real object. Next, pair that real object with a photograph. Then pair that photograph with a drawing, and finally, if appropriate for your learner, with the symbol.

Stage Three
Stage Three is a time to help learners begin to use more complex language as they learn to communicate choices for the first time. Introduce a light-tech, multiple message communication device at this time. These devices offer a few buttons that are used to deliver simple prerecorded messages, typically centered on a specific theme.

Now is the time to work on expressive vocabulary and expanding concepts. Object and action identification is simply matching an object or action to its spoken name (for example, “Find the cat” or “Which one flies?”). Category identification enables the learner to demonstrate an understanding of language by categorizing or identifying objects that belong to the same group (for example, an apple is a type of food).

Stage Four
Child development research points to the need for a good balance between academic study and social development. Social and academic development goes hand-in-hand in Stage Four. It is important to provide opportunities for social interactions and play at this Stage. Many child development specialists believe that if there is a barrier to working in small groups, interacting in fine and gross motor activities, engaging in pretend play, sharing materials or communicating, then there is a potential roadblock for cognitive and further language development.

Help learners find opportunities to use a communication device in fun and motivating ways. Single message devices, which speak prerecorded text, can initiate successful communication. For example, use the device to tell a joke, contribute to “Show and Tell,” deliver messages and, as in the example above, participate in activities with repetitive lines in stories or songs. These activities will help the learner develop appropriate timing skills as he uses the device.

Stage Five

This is the Stage where a learner’s vocabulary use quickly expands. Prepare for rapid assimilation of new phrases that are context-related in more advanced learning areas. As learners are exposed to advanced concepts, they will incorporate new vocabulary and content words into their written and spoken communication methods.

Before increasing the difficulty or complexity of the content, be certain that the access device, custom settings and other accommodations are appropriate. Also make sure that the learner can use the access device proficiently. Content is almost impossible for a learner to address if the process for the interaction is distracting, unreliable or uncomfortable.

If the learner has been using a communication device or symbols, now is the time to introduce a dynamic display device. This type of high-tech device features a computer-based display that changes based on the learner’s input. For example, the question “What would you like for lunch today?” might lead to additional choices. Once the learner says she would like a hot dog, which condiments would she enjoy?
A learner able to understand the concept of a dynamic language needs a more sophisticated device.

Just as we’ve established a pattern for developing language and academic skills, the same considerations are needed for selecting communication devices. At Stage Two we introduced a single message light-tech device because it was developmentally appropriate for the language use of the learner at that time. At Stage Three we introduced a multiple target light-tech device because this was the first time that a learner would apply choice making in the communication process. The use of this light-tech device should continue until the learner is using the more complex language described here for Stage Five. At this time a dynamic high-tech device is appropriate to consider.

Please see the attached Observable Characteristics Checklist.

Respectfully submitted,

Madalaine Pugliese, Stages author

Stages Observable Characteristics Checklist

More about Stages

http://www.assistivetech.com/p-stages.htm

Listen to This Blog Entry

September 19, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, Special Education | 4 Comments

Art Website Launcher

Having a visual launcher is much easier for many people. Check this one out that is focused on art websites.

I really like this technique for giving children access to specific sites. The visual component is excellent whether you are doing a web based scavenger hunt, simply exploring some art creation sites, or doing a full blown webquest. Patti Rea had great input reminding that using (alt and tab) on windows and (apple and tab) on OS X you can quickly and easily move between an application, like PowerPoint or Classroom Suite, and the web. On the ICS activity exchange, my classmate Cynthia Levine and I posted an overlay that does just this. A Day’s Websites.

Download:
Art Website Launcher PDF

Art Website Launcher PowerPoint
Art Launcher Screenshot smaller

August 21, 2007 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, art, Assistive Technology | 6 Comments

Simple Switch Scanning and Voice Output in MS Word 2004 for OSX

Download the Guide: Simple Switch Scanning in MS Word

Wow, I knew Word was cool, but this one got me.

In the Mac OS X version of Word 2004, open up the Speech toolbar by going to View: Toolbars: Speech.

Now open up a chart, like the one I have attached (This one is a reading overlay).  Click on the first grid. Now position the mouse over the Speak Selection button on the Speech toolbar.  Now you can have one switch set to tab and the other switch set to  click.

Tab, tab, tab, speak!
MS Word Scanning

Kind of cool right?  I wonder how this can be used?  It does not have an auditory preview, but if you could rig the switches so that one switch split and went to both tab and speak, that could hypothetically give you the preview.  Then when you hit the second other switch it would speak it again.  You may have to use two switch interfaces, though. Hmm…what else?

June 12, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, family, inspiration, Literacy, OS X | 2 Comments

On-Screen Keyboard in OS X

Do you know how to activate the on-screen keyboard in Mac OS X? Here is a pdf of a visual guide to the process. On-Screen Keyboard in OS X

In Leopard, OS 10.5, I had a bug that made the Keyboard Viewer not availabe in the Input Menu.  I looked up a fix for this where you paste a few lines of code into Terminal.  http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1896?viewlocale=en_US

June 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Writing Block

I remember vividly last summer when one of my students came into summer camp with a message for me. She told me that the beans we had planted in the spring, had grown well and that she ate some of them through her tube the night before. Not only did I think it was one of the coolest things in the world that she had been able to fulfill the lesson more than I could have dreamed, but it struck something deeper in me.

I have had that same feeling last week in my writing block. We all have thoughts of things we have read or heard in our minds at one time or another. For me when I teach, for the last few months, I have had Karen Erickson’s words in my mind regarding good teaching, being prepared, and having a terrific lesson plan. She spoke about how it frees you to teach well.  Very simply it feels good to become more effective in my practice, so that I can see the smiles on my students faces and see that they are truly learning.   I realize that very similar to my students learning best when they are having fun and are prepared, I too am experiencing the benefits of enjoying the learing process and being increasingly more competent as a teacher.  A final thought that summarizes this is that my students love writing block and I love teaching it!

March 14, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, Special Education | 1 Comment

Padded Head Switches and Loc-Line Mounting Arms

img_8143.jpg

Creating comfortable switches is important, especially if they are being used by the head or somewhere else that is sensitive. When I first heard Linda Burkhart speak about it, I realized the great importance of a comfortable head switch. We are working to help kids access communication and learning. It is not okay for someone to be using an accessibility switch, that physically hurts their head or is simply uncomfortable. Here are the directions I created. Create a Padded Switch The directions are designed for creating the padding to add to an Ablenet Jelly Bean Switch, yet they can be generalized.

I also learned from Linda Burkart about using the loc-line material for creating your own mounting arms for switches. Linda has posted an excellent downloadable PDF how to guide on her website, which is found here under the heading: Make a Switch Mount with Loc-Line. www.lburkhart.com/handouts.htm . Some times commercially available mounting arms are unwieldy. You can find the material to make them at www.Modularhose.com . I find it so helpful to use that material for the students I work with who change position day by day. If you need it to be stiffer, you can add some hard wiring inside the material.

Oh, I forgot to mention that you can build one of these set ups for under $30! Nice!

Additionally, it is great to use foam sheets to cover your padded switch. If you use colors, like yellow for yes/chooser and red for no/mover, it can be helpful for early switch scanners.

March 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education | 1 Comment