AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

Get in Touch with Your Wild Self and Write!

by Samuel Sennott

So its Friday afternoon and your students are getting a little wild. Go with it! In fact, go right to and have them create their wild selves. Here is my wildself that I made.
sam wild self

What a terrific fuel for creating a story. With countless options for a character and a number of good backgrounds, you really do have a neat creative tool. Thanks to Flash, there is decent two switch step scanning built-in. The click, clack sound designed in by the programmers is appreciated as well.

Nice literary connection with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak .

So now that you have your main character, how about describing them with some of your vocabulary you are practicing on your AAC device. Wait, how about making a few more characters for your story. Too much scanning effort, try the Go Random Feature to create other characters with one press.

An additional feature is the multimodal aspects of this web application: there are many sound effects. The character I randomly generated now is surrounded by laughter samples that are actually making me laugh! The next one I just did created an ambient underwater sound.

So in closing what a great multi-level and simple tool to share with your students or other teachers. Children of all ages will enjoy this and even some teenagers might get into it as an abstraction tool. I read about this on the site and first heard about that site from the Tech Savvy Educator blog.

So go wild!


January 25, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, art, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Project 365 …er…6

by Pam Harris

I’m delighted that Sam asked me to share one of our AAC projects. Josh and I showed a powerpoint presentation about Project 365 at the 2007 Closing the Gap.
Project365 is something I heard about from my daughter last year. The premise is simple – take a picture every single day of the year. The idea came from Taylor McKnight at I started to think about it, and how my son Josh and I could try it. We wanted Josh to practice writing, and he needs structure to do so. What if he wrote daily about the picture he took?
First, he needed to learn the vocabulary of photography.

From there, we created a light tech board.

And then we were ready to go! He would take his picture, upload it to his blog and then use his talker to write a few descriptive sentences about what he saw or how the picture made him feel.

This is Josh dad red Shelley Grandma and mom
This has been a wonderful experience for many reasons. Josh isn’t only getting the writing practice we hoped for, but is able to make connections to people through his blog. He is paying closer attention to the people and things around him. His responsibility for this daily task is increasing. He is learning and mastering technology popular and important to other people his own age (19 now).

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we’re doing it again. We’ve begun Project 366, but now we’re using Flickr to upload, write about and host our pictures. Want to join us? It’s a great investment of your time and Josh would love to see what you have to share. You can google Project365 for tips and variations or make your own – who says you can’t do it weekly? With themes? All of one location? The possibilities and outcomes are as infinite as your imagination.

January 24, 2008 Posted by | AAC, family, Literacy, photography | 7 Comments

Listening to Research as MP3 Files on Your iWhatever

by Samuel Sennott

I have been listening to PDF research articles converted to MP3 files on my iPhone on my early morning walk, in the car, and in the evening working out. As teachers of many kinds, we work hard serving our students. We work tirelessly preparing, teaching, caring, and assessing. Many of us are working on degrees at night and on the weekends(Ya Simmons AT). Do you ever resent that professional journal that comes in the mail? I really love sitting down and reading research in my interest area when I have the time and space. Yet, as my teaching interests call me deeper into my academic pursuits, I find myself facing a crunch. Leveraging knowledge of assistive learning technologies to benefit ourselves is very helpful.

There are many different software solutions for this task including:

  1. Kurzweil 3000
  2. Texthelp’s Read and Write Gold
  3. TextAloud
  4. iSpeak It
  5. iThomas (That’s when you get your friend to read it to you as your falling asleep)

I have been digging around for few weeks and finally found a free resource that is working quite nicely. Thank you very much .

spoken text diagram

This free resource has a decent sounding voice and is sent to you in your email in a timely manner. There is much to speak about this terrific Read/Write Web application. From busy parents receiving the newsletter as an MP3 attachment to a cool way to help kids access articles on the web to graduate students being able to read and incorporate those stereotypical five research articles for their review, this technology can help. What other applications do you use for this? Ideas for use?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, GoogleDocs, Special Education | 13 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

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. ūüôā 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

Using the iPhone for Digitizing Books

by Samuel Sennott

We started a E-Book project today that we are correlating with the Building Blocks kindergarten literacy framework. It is very exciting and I can’t wait to share more about it in the future.

So…have you ever come upon a flatbed scanner that seems to be a decendent of a tortoise? Well in our electronic book making project today, we sure did. It was a terrific first thing in the morning laugh. As we did not have anything else to use, I remembered someone posted on QIAT that Judith Sweeney of Onion Mountain Tech had been teaching using digital cameras for your turning books into electronic books. I have tried experimenting with this as well at times, but today it really clicked with me.


So we tried using the iPhone for taking pictures of the pages. It worked well:

  • Having good lighting was important.
  • Natural light worked better than the florescent.
  • Be still!
  • Downloading from the iPhone was easy. Just plug in USB, drag and drop.
  • The images were good enough quality for our use in PowerPoint and ICS based books, where we rewrite the text into a text box.
  • You could also use another comparable digital camera.

The result was a quick way to produce a decent accessible version of the book, without the labor intense file naming, page aligning, and mouse clicking often involved in scanning. What else have people experienced using cameras for digitizing books? What have you found to be the best resolutions and picture quality settings? We are constructing a guide and would love vicarious input!

Listen to This Blog Entry

September 18, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, AT, ebooks, family, OS X, photography, Special Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Donna Williams on Siblings

Donna Williams shares a terrific musical slideshow about how children with autism and their siblings get along. I really like it because of the musical and visual format. The point at the end about seeing each other as individuals, but respecting everyone’s individual needs is a nice message.

See it and her blog post on the subject here: Autism and siblings

August 26, 2007 Posted by | family, siblings, Special Education | 2 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

ÔŅľKind 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

Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress 2007 Conference

Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress 2007 Conference

Inspiration and care is what was found at the 2007 Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Conference. Driving two hours through treacherous ice, snow, and slush brought me to downtown Worcester this past Saturday and to the conference location at the DCU Center. Originally, I was motivated to attend the conference because I have been following the literacy work of David Koppenhaver and Stephanie Spadorcia. Yet, immediately after arriving, I thought to myself that I was in for a special day. That prediction came very much true.

Something was very special about this conference. I have been attending many conferences lately including Closing the Gap and ATIA the past two years and love the community created there. Yet, there was something about this small gathering that was definitively different. Truly there is an excellent sense of community on the listserv groups I participate in and in the group of people that surrounds the work of special education and assisitive technology. It is excellent to be a part of it. Yet, this group, which has a mission of being the best resource on Down Syndrome in Massachusetts has a feel that is something that I know from another place.

I felt it as I began speaking with people. First it was a woman who is designing a program to educate doctors about what it is like for families with children who have special needs. Then it was with another woman who has created an on-line social networking system for children who struggle socially. Then I started meeting children and their families. Although I knew about the MDSC and that it mainly was run by and serves families, I did not know how that aspect would permeate the experience so thoroughly. As I walked around it felt in a way like I was back at the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center. What I was experiencing was the simple feeling of people who care and people who have shared similar experiences. At the Respite Center, I may not have had a child of my own with special needs, but I surely spent a great deal of time with children and adults I cared so much for. At the Respite it feels like we are all family. That feeling of care and support is truly special.

Then as I listen to Stephanie Spadorcia speak, I hear her connecting with the families. They are responding so well and their questions build and are so right on with the presentation that it almost seems planned. Then I move onto David Koppenhaver’s workshop. I definitively get the sense from him that he cares about these learners and wants to see them get the literacy skills that will benefit them. Although I have read his work and know first hand the messages that he and his colleagues are spreading, I am completely inspired by hearing the way he states these things. Then I see him coaching and collaborating with a first year doctoral student, Amy Williams, who seems like she is very excited about her work and is very smart. What a good example for me to see. It seemed like everything I experienced was so infused with people who are committed and who care in a major way. So as I walk away from this experience, I realize more fully where I am meant to be: in a place where people care and are working together. That means doing your best, but in the end it is the overall experience of a place like the Respite Center that is what is so long lasting and helpful to the families and people who are a part of it.

Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress 2007 Conference

March 19, 2007 Posted by | AAC, AT, family, inspiration, Literacy, siblings, Special Education | Leave a comment