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

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
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Quiet and Convenient spacer
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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

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

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

AAC Authors with Caroline Musselwhite

by Samuel Sennott

Thursday Morning ATIA 2008 9:45

AAC users as authors is a terrific concept that is incredibly exciting in this age of near instant publishing and really simple syndication. This workshop looks to be a terrific sampling of potent ideas to help us be better teachers of the writing process for our learners who use AAC.

Vocabulary Brainstorming & Rehearsal

Dr. Caroline Musselwhite is teaching us how to help students brainstorm a wide range of vocabulary. She tells about how she learned the technique from Dr. Karen Erickson. She show how creating a web of possible vocabulary is so helpful to fuel the authoring process.

Eye Gaze and Partner Assisted Writing Templates

Use the eye gaze frames and auditory scanning templates loaded with writing set ups that provide tons of vocabulary to use during drafting. This connects with the pragmatically organized communication displays that Linda Burkhart just showed, made by Gayle Porter.

Book Pick

Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver

4 blocks book sn

10:04 AM

Caroline tells about the portion of the Learning Magic website that helps with the connecting of  the Raps stories into your literacy curriculum.

 Performing Your Works

Seeing the pictures of the young children looking up at the AAC authors presenting their creative writing really drove home the point.   What an empowering process this is!

I am super inspired by this workshop and look forward to the writing camp we are hosting at Nova this summer!

Final video of an AAC author presenting on stage!

10:15 close

January 31, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, ATIA2008, inspiration, Literacy, OTOT, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

AAC Intervention Tip of the Month

by Samuel Sennott

Have you ever checked out the excellent resources at the AAC Intervention website by Dr. Caroline Musselwhite and Julie Maro? The tip of the month feature is terrific. I have found fabulous and very useful resources there, including literacy support materials, simple accessibility ideas, AAC resources, AT resources, and more.

The archives go back to 1999, so definitely go digging!

Here is the 2007 archive.

January 2007 Barrier Communication Games for AAC Users July 2007Matching Activities to Standards
February 2007Wiley and Durrell List – On Steroids! August 2007Tech Tips and Social Scripts
March 2007Conversation Parts September 2007 Songboards as Visual Supports
April 2007WAV * AIFF * MP3 * MP4 * WMA * M4A – Managing Sound Files October 2007Honey, Not Vinegar
May 2007iTunes for Us

Ten Terrific Reasons to Use iTunes

November 2007Talk of the Town
June 2007Rhyme, Rhythm, Repetition December 2007


January 2006 – AAC Device Tracking July 2006Songboard Websites
February 2006Moving and Grooving and Talking! August 2006Initial Letter Cueing
March 2006Talking Everywhere September 2006Fire House Stories
April 2006Story Scripts October 2006Halloween Wheels
May 2006Collections November 2006330 Top Sight Words
June 2006Mealtime Placemat December 2006Regional Geography

January 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Dragon Naturally Speaking for Mac

by Samuel Sennott

What terrific news!  The best voice recognition software comes to OS X.

Blue curtains

ITWire reports that Dragon Naturally Speaking will be released for OS X by Macspeech, replacing iListen.  ilistenSignificant discounts will be given to licensed iListen users.  So start digging into those AT Team boxes and scour the attic, basement, or wherever your old software lurks.  Early rumors are that the voice training may be easier than ever.  February is given as a release date.  Maybe it will be at ATIA.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | 5 Comments

Reporting on the Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote

by Samuel Sennott

You can use your Wii remote, a projector, freely shared software, and some led light pens to create a multi-touch interactive whiteboard. I read about Johnny Chung Lee’s project on terrific Weblogg-ed and echo Will Richardson’s sentiment about how terrific it is to see the free and open source sharing involved in this project.  Check it all out here.

What can you do with this? It looks like pretty much all the basics you can do with a Promethean Board, mainly using a board as a large touch screen display.

I am very much interested in working myself into a position where I can collaborate with individuals in this sort of way. After being able to hack the iPhone into an AAC device and seeing the Tar Heel Typer, I am intrigued with the idea of collaborations between special education and computer science divisions at the university level.

I look forward to the next couple weeks of playing with this set up and seeing if the OS X version is released soon.

January 12, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inspiration, OS X, Special Education | 3 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

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

By Samuel Charles Sennott


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. The main project site 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. 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

Evidence-Based AAC Interventions for Infants, Toddlers, & Preschoolers with Janice Light at ASHA

By Samuel Charles Sennott

The opening sentiment was: “How do we provide access to the magic and the power of language and communication for young children with complex communication needs who require AAC?”

Light Infant/ Toddler

Dr. Light demonstrated a terrific research project out of Penn State that seeks the answer to this question and lays out a framework for accomplishing it for very young children. By the end of this presentation, I was trembling. For a number of years now, since I delved into the work of Maria Montessouri I have had this wonder about early childhood and learners with significant special needs who use AAC. I think I was so moved because I saw here a team that is actively seeking and finding answers to those questions. Seeing the video of the case studies was truly amazing. Not only because the children were so young, but because the “intervention” looked so natural.

I highly recommend downloading the handout here and going to the AAC-RERC website to watch the webcast which is very similar to the live presentation we heard at ASHA.

Dr. Light, in the two hour workshop, took the group on a journey that in many ways we are familiar with. The stages she was presenting were familiar, as working from play to more in depth communication and literacy instruction is what I have immersed myself in both practice and research over the past years. Yet, this was with children as young as six months old! Additionally, there was a clear focus on ease of access and purity in the cognitive clarity of the tasks, err games rather. From using an old school Gemini to the Linda Burkhart style games and songs, they made teaching very young children the basics of access and AAC look familiar, possible, and integrated. This amazing presentation really showed both what is possible and that we can do it! Here are a few of the key principles described :

  • Start early
  • Keep the activities authentic and in the natural environment
  • Focus on sustained turn taking activities that are more than just need and want based
  • Model, model, model
  • Have a dynamic system that can grow exponentially
  • Keep it super fun

Everything that Dr. Light described seemed very possible and many of us have most of the resources that would be necessary already in our toolkits. Yet, additionally, she really drove home the meaning behind the Visual Scene Display work. She described the work better than anyone I have ever heard, teaching us how the whole purpose of it is to make the entry into the system as much like a child thinks as possible. From the visual representation comparisons to PCS pictures that made us all kind of blush to the seemingly obvious focus on the most interesting people and things in the child’s environment this section of the presentation truly was a lesson in teaching and child development.

There is plenty more to unpack here, but I really wanted to keep this post relatively simple, as there is a wealth of resource to check out in the webcast. Ultimately, this session really brought a great deal into perspective for me in both my present work and the work that is in the future. It also seemed to sum up my experience at ASHA, which taught me the importance of good research combined with teaching children very well.

Yet, most importantly this work reminds us to think like the people we are working with, in this case young children. Over the coming weeks, I am excited to share the work my classroom has started on the subject.

November 24, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, inspiration, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 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

iJailBreak for iPod Touch

by Samuel Sennott

iJailBreak is the automated tool that unlocks and enables your iPod Touch to use, 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? 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

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

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