AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

FluidTunes Sets Our Minds Ablaze

by Samuel Sennott

FluidTunes is a free Apple OS X software that uses gesture recognition to control your iTunes library. In other words, by harnessing the power of the iSight camera, the user swipes their hands at the buttons to play the music, stop the music, flip to the next song or flip to the previous song. I first heard about FluidTunes on the fantastic gtd blog Lifehacker. Check out the video I made demonstrating the interface and explaining a few thoughts about how people with the label of special needs could use technology like this.


Okay, so we are not yet in a full on Minority Report experience where Tom Cruise uses complex gestures to  control his computer screen that is projected into the air.  Nor are we going to see this instantly become a popular access method for individuals with the label of special  needs.  Yet, it sets our minds ablaze.  We have all watched the progression of the eye tracking work move into eye gaze control systems that are really starting to work for individuals with physical disabilities.  For nearly four years now, I have been doing a test of the eye gaze systems where I emulate the frequent movements many of my students often display.  The systems are now starting to pass that informal test, as of this summer.  It seems eye gaze computer control has moved from a potential and a cool thing in the conference exhibit hall to something that works.   TobiiAti, PRC, and Dynavox are all  committed to its implementation.  So what will happen with the concept of gesture recognition? Well, in a way, it already is happening.  Just see ASL’s excellent selection of various types of proximity switches.   Karen Kangas has championed the concepts behind the benefits of using switches of this type. For these switches, you simply need to move within the right range to activate the electronic switch, which can control your wheelchair, computer, etc…

How terrific is it that the developer, David Frampton, made this application available for free?  I am personally having a blast with FluidTunes.  Much respect and thanks goes out to him for sharing it and for setting our minds ablaze thinking of the possiblities for individuals with the label of special needs.  As we approach the release of Mgestyk, the comercial gesture based control system, we can certainly consider ourselves warned that this is coming to the mainstream.   With an estimated cost of roughly the price of a high end webcam, it looks like this technology will be applicable in the assistive technology field.  See the following Mgestyk videos.

I for one am going to have fun playing music with this tool and let my mind wander as I do.  Yet, I am not going to go gorilla arm with this concept.  Although, even at the moment I can imagine practical implementations of gesture based switches that could be created with a usb hub and a couple different webcams.  What do you imagine?


December 6, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Imagine Symbols

by Samuel Sennott

imagine symbols icon

imagine symbols icon

Do you know about the 4000 Imagine Symbol set that is free for personal use.  You can go to and download the entire brightly colored set of picture symbols.  There are also low cost options to liscense the symbols. Don’t forget that you can load them into your iPhoto library for easy use with various applications.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wireless Switch from Prentke Romich

by Samuel Sennott

Prentke Romich Company announces a wireless switch that should be nice to see in action next week at Closing the Gap.  How many times have you wished for this?  The Jelly Beamer is cool, but common, they definitely got it right going with the pervasive Bluetooth technology.  It will be interesting to get user feedback on this innovation.  Here is the press release.

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

October 6, 2008

Introducing The PRC Bluetooth® Wireless Switch,
Allows Wireless Access to PRC Products

Advanced Wireless Computer Access and More for AAC Communicators

Wooster, OH, October 6, 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 the PRC Bluetooth Wireless Switch (BTWS), an innovative wireless switch that is comparable to PRC devices with built-in Bluetooth capabilities. The BTWS is compatible with PRC’s ECO™-14, Springboard™ Lite, and another newly released innovation, Vantage™ Lite.

With comparable size to other switches, The Bluetooth Wireless Switch has a rechargeable li-ion battery with over 100 hours of run time on a single charge. Additional features include:

External switch jack allows dual switch input;
·         Non-skid bottom case means the BTWS stays where you want it;
·         LED indicator lights show “pairing” and power status;
·         Bluetooth® connectivity for computer access and wireless access;
·         Battery level can be viewed in the paired PRC device.

“Wireless switching eliminates traditional problems with tangling or disconnection of cords that can happen with everyday use of a communication device,” says Bob Nemens, PRC Director of Marketing. “PRC designed and developed this innovation with both freedom of access and reliability in mind.”

Adding the PRC Bluetooth Adapter also delivers wireless computer access features in three versatile product modes:

·     Mouse Mode inputs mouse moves and “click” and “double click” into USB-equipped computers;

·      Keyboard 1,2,3 Mode allows the switch to be used to scan in PRC PASS software;

·      Keyboard F-Keys Mode allows the switch to be used to scan WiVik® software.

For more information on the new PRC Bluetooth Wireless Switch and other PRC innovations, visit PRC online at, contact PRC Sales at (800) 262-1933, or contact your PRC Regional Consultant.

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, Vanguard™ Plus, Vantage™ Plus, 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.


NOTE: For electronic images of PRC’s Bluetooth Wireless Switch, please contact Cherie Weaver at (800) 262-1984, ext. 240, or e-mail

If you require further information on this or other PRC products or services, please contact Bob Nemens, Director of Marketing, at (800) 262-1984, ext. 243, or email

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Center for Technology and Disability News and Notes: AT & High Incidence Disabilities

by Samuel Sennott

Check out the new Family Center for Technology and Disability article featuring the work of Karen Janowski.
Karen Janowski champions universal design and assistive technology.  It is terrific to see her work being recognized.  Check out her blog too.

Here is an excerpt:

AT & High Incidence Disabilities: Independence is Her Goal

An Interview with Karen Janowski, Assistive and Educational Technology Consultant
and Special Education Instructor, Simmons College, Boston, MA

Karen Janowski“In education, there often appeared to be an insufficient level of appreciation for promoting independence among all kids, especially those with high incidence disabilities, and in promoting methods that are successful in that regard,” declares Karen Janowski. “That’s what originally sparked my interest in assistive technology, because AT removes barriers to learning and gives kids additional ways to demonstrate what they know.”

While appreciation for the goal of AT-aided independence has increased in the years since she earned her Masters in AT from Boston’s Simmons College and adopted AT consulting in public schools as a career, there is plenty of room for improvement, she admits.

The independence movement’s ignition button, she recalls, was pinpointed by AT authority Dave Edyburn. “Dave points out that the new language included in the reauthorization of IDEA in 1997, which stipulated that all students on IEPs had to be considered for AT, created four million students who were potential AT users.”     Read more from the article

September 4, 2008 Posted by | AT, Special Education, UDL | , , | 1 Comment

SpeakUP SUMMER 2008 ISSUE, FEATURE: Accessible Electronic Books

by Samuel Sennott

It is very pleasing to present the summer issue of SpeakUP, USSAAC’s quarterly newsletter magazine.

USSAAC is the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, the national chapter of ISAAC, the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.


July 2008 SpeakUp NEW SUMMER 2008 ISSUE FEATURE: Accessible Electronic Books

AAC and All That Jazz
Do You Got Game
Seating and Positioning in AT
AAC Evidenced Based Practice Conference Review


As many of you know, I am the new editor for SpeakUP.  It is terrific serving in this position and is a great opportunity to connect with so many excellent people.  If you have any article submissions you would like considered or ideas for SpeakUP and USSAAC in general, please contact me at

There are so many fantastic new ideas surrounding ISAAC and USSAAC right now.  Many came out of the USSAAC chapter meeting at ISAAC this past month.  It will be great to share them over the coming months.  Also, if you end up sharing this on your blog, please do not grab the download links to the issue into your post, as it is important to drive traffic to the USSAAC website.  Thank you.

August 31, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Favorite Posts on Alltogether

by Samuel Sennott

  1. Including Samuel


  3. PRC Pictures (3,385 of them) Wow!

  4. Hannah Montana Book,

    Skateboarders Ride Transitional Book,

    Dogs by Samuel Sennott

  5. You Can Golf

  6. AAC-RERC Webcasts

  7. Video Writing Setups

  8. The Tango Tutorial: An Exercise in Not Reduplicating Training

  9. Connecting Video to Reading and Writing

  10. Tar Heel Reader: An Open Source Library of Talking Books

  11. Padded Head Switches and Loc-Line Mounting Arms

  12. AAC Considerations and the Stages Framework

  13. AAC Consideration Materials and Checklists

  14. Goossens, Crain, Elder Communication Overlay Color Reminder

  15. Art Website Launcher

  16. Math Websites Core Tools

July 26, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Love the Wii and Adapting it Too

by Samuel Sennott

We have been playing the Nintendo Wii with children with special needs and have been having an amazing time.  Both for recreation and as a connection to the curriculum, it really is an amazing tool.  Seeing the virtual game worlds up on the big projector is pretty cool.  Our best integration is seen in a previous post about golf. There is much to share about the process we use, but for right now, one tip is to use tape or velcro to adapt the buttons.  Yes, if you have the $300 for the adapted controller, definitely check it out, but look for more posts on our adaptations.  We do some pretty wild stuff like swat at the controller, drop it, and use eye gaze to coridinate assistance.  Also, good luck getting one.  I was up very early at Best Buy on the Sunday morning we snagged ours!

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hannah Montana Book

by Samuel Sennott

One of my team members authored this book about Hannah Montana.  It is in between a transitional and conventional text.  Go to the online version or download the PowerPoint here: hannah-montana book.

Also, here is the word analysis:

Core: Can, is, be, my, the, a, like, I, with
Fringe: Fun, cool, dog, named, great, friends, sing, dance, keyboard, guitars, posters, 3-D movie,
Names: Hannah Montana, Roadie

Hannah Montana

by ShellyBelly

from Flickr

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , | 5 Comments

WebAnywhere Folowup

by Samuel Sennott

Last week, I reported on WebAnywhere, the screen reader on the go. Check out this article found in the CEC smartbrief:

Emerging tech makes learning more accessible
Electronic web narrators and tongue-driven controls continue trend toward ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to assistive learning tools

Ghovanloo and Huo with the Tongue Drive System.
Continue Reading

July 14, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WebAnywhere: A Screen Reader on the Go

by Samuel Sennott

Things are surely getting interesting with the release of WebAnywhere, the screen reader on the go. This just may be a sign of things shifting to the power of open source/ freeware and the University connection aspect of the AT work.  I look forward to speaking with some friends who are blind about this.  I was on and using this screen reader in less than one minute.  Check it out.

Pulled from various parts of their website, found at:

WebAnywhere:  A Screen reader on the go

Launch it: Try the WebAnywhere Alpha Release

A 2008 presentation by a team member on the project:

WebAnywhere: A Screen Reader On-the-Go, 2008

Presented by Jeffrey P. Bigham on 10/15/2007. Link: WebAnywhere PPT.

The cheat sheet:

You interact with WebAnywhere using the keyboard. A selection of keyboard commands that are currently supported is listed below. Pressing SHIFT in combination with them reverses the direction of the search, searching backward from the current cursor position instead of forward from it.

  • CTRL-L – move the cursor to the location box where you can type a URL to visit.
  • Arrow Down – read the next element on the page.
  • Arrow Up – read the previous element on the page.
  • CTRL-H – skip to the next heading.
  • CTRL-I – skip to the next input element.
  • CTRL-R – skip to the next row by cell when in a table.
  • CTRL-D – skip to the next column by cell when in a table.
  • Page Down – read continuously from the current position.
  • Home – read continuously, starting over from the beginning of the page.
  • CTRL – silence WebAnywhere and pause the system.

July 9, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Connecting Video to Reading and Writing

by Samuel Sennott

Connecting video to reading and writing is powerful. Last summer, I saw that power so clearly in the camp program I led. The camp was your basic extended year program revamped into a fun literacy based camp. One of the classrooms had mainly children with autism spectrum disorders. When we completed the pre-assessments, the students nearly threw the books back into our faces. There was at least a few tears during the developmental spelling test administered. Based on this initial assessment, I knew it was key to focus on the appreciation/enjoyment of literacy, so I turned to the self selected reading block. I brought in Apple laptops to each student and fired up the now classic Otis Goes to the Beach story. We showed it as a whole group to kick off the lesson. As you read, Otis comes to life with real videos of him getting ready for his walk, crying because he is so excited, swimming, and chewing. The children were transfixed. Every day, one particular student asked me why Otis is crying. Then he would say, “because he’s happy?” Within a few weeks, the students were reading PowerPoint based books on a daily basis and greatly enjoying it. One student who did not want to have anything to do with writing, started using PowerPoint to author because we could import pictures relevant to him. The rationale behind transitional texts is to draw the reader to attend to the text. I believe that connecting video can do this as well.

Yet, videos are not just for getting attention. They can be powerful for building background knowledge in both the reading and writing process. See a previous post that was regarding a guided reading lesson for Leo the Late Bloomer. Using YouTube can bring concepts to life. What a great way to do the activation of knowledge section of your guided reading lesson. Also the extensive Discovery Education/United Streaming site is rich with content.

Videos can motivate writing. The students in the AAC writers camp I am leading this summer are going wild for journaling about the videos they connect to. I believe that for my students, this is a perfect lead in to the SRSD strategy POW and TREE. Writing a persuasive essay about the video including a topic sentence, reasons, and an ending is potentially a way to tip the motivational scale during this process.

Check out the set of videos we are using this summer to motivate and fuel our journaling process:


In summary, video can be powerful to draw attention, build background knowledge, and build motivation in reading and writing. There is so much more to be studied, researched, implemented, and written about regarding this topic. I look forward to engaging in the process.

June 22, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Super Switch Hitter by Switch-in-Time

by Samuel Sennott

Do your students want to play a fun, interactive, and engaging switch accessible baseball game? Mine do too! Check out, Super Switch Hitter, the latest terrific release from Switch in Time. The amazing Jon Adams has done it again, adding to the famed accessible music softwares Switch Ensemble and Switch Jam. I believe that your students will greatly enjoy this summer pastime. Also, consider having the students go to their journals just after they play.

Super Switch Hitter

Switch Hitter


  • Absolutely fun: Suitable for all ages!
  • Students can play on opposing teams or on the same team.
  • 5 play modes: From very simple single switch access to multiple switches, auto-scanning and two switch step-scanning.
  • Fully customizable: Ball size, ball speed, optional auto-fielding and a special “hover ball” feature (for errorless batting) guarantee a successful experience for all players!

June 21, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seating and Positioning for Individuals Who Use AT by Aileen Costigan

by Samuel Sennott

Back in the series of posts about ASHA 2008 in Boston last November, The Practical Principles of Seating and Positioning in AAC for SLPs conference session by Aileen Costigan and Janice Light was reviewed here on this blog. Recently the project has been added to the rich and expanding list of AAC-RERC Breeze powered webcast presentations. In this webcast, you get a terrific concise review of the topic, followed by a focus on the team process, ending in a series of case study questions. There are great visual supports in this presentation that get the message across in an engaging and memorable way.

The four goals of the presentation are:

  • Why is seating and positioning
  • What does appropriate
    seating and positioning look like?
  • What are the roles of Assistive
    Technology (AT) Team Members?
  • What resources are available, when
    should a referral be made, and to

Definitely check this out and share it with the OTs, teachers, SLPs, other therapists, and families you know who would benefit.

Here is the link to the site, with how it looks below:

Seating and Positioning for Individuals who Use AT Click here to convert this page into a PDF file... Click here to print this page... Click here to send this page as an E-Mail...

Presenter: Aileen Costigan, MSc-OT, Penn State University

Webcast Description:

Appropriate seating and positioning is critical for use of assistive technology (AT) and participation in a variety of environments. Aileen Costigan, a certified Occupational Therapist, provides an introduction to important issues in seating and positioning for individuals who use AT.

Video Link: Click here to view the webcast as Breeze Presentation (Recommended for PCs and Macs)
Technical requirement for Webcasts: Click here for technical information and trouble shooting

Slides and Handouts

Link: Click here to view the slides for this webcast as a PDF file.


Link: Click here to view a transcript of this webcast as a PDF file.
Link: Click here to download a transcript of this webcast as a TXT file.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tar Heel Reader: An Open Source Library of Talking Books

by Samuel Sennott

Children, teenagers, and adults need books to be able to learn to read and getting accessible books to them is the goal of the Tar Heel Reader. This open source library of books that are switch accessible, talking, internet accessible, and downloadable will grow exponentially due to the terrific job Gary Bishop, a computer scientist from UNC Chapel Hill, has done designing the Worpress powered interface. This combination of efforts between computer science and education is phenomenal. He presently teaches a course in Computer Science focused on accessible software and hardware. Karen Erickson, Gretchen Hanser and Gary Bishop have been meeting and collaborating for quite some time. It is inspiring to me to see as an example as I emerge into the research phase of my teaching practice. From earlier efforts from this team of computer scientists, The Tar Heel Typer and Dance Dance Revolution mods, to the present and into the future, they surely serve as a powerful example of what we can do as educators to team up with computer science programs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver have worked tirelessly on the concept of creating accessible texts that are age appropriate, rich in quality, and powerful in the literacy instructional process. See the Beginning Literacy Framework by Karen Erickson, Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite, and Ruth Ziolkowski to understand types of texts helpful to early readers. This project has the potential to make texts available to people in a way only possible with the advent of the internet and the concepts behind the Read/Write web and Web 2.0.

I believe in this project and concept with all my heart and am more than happy to be now seeing it come into the world. As I step forward from teacher to both teacher and researcher, I have seen a very powerful lesson: combine your dreams, visions, gifts and technical skills with others who have other dreams, visions, gifts, and technical skills and you can create and help more than ever imagined.

So start getting these books to your students and start authoring. Remember if one thousand people each work for one hour on a project with agreed upon standards you can create…

Go to the Tar Heel Reader

Let’s See the Books and How it Works!

Here is how you choose a book.

Here is a page from a book:

You have multiple options for accessing the books:

  • on the web
  • download the PowerPoint File
  • Open Office Impress File
  • Flash File

Speech can be enabled or disabled.

Switch Scanning

Switch Scanners can access the books with various keystrokes, including most of they keys on the keyboard. (soon to be optimized to go forward and back)

The power of this project is in the exponential amount of material to be available for all types of individuals learning to read. I have been working on this concept quite a bit and I believe that this is a One to One Thousand scenario. One key concept is the availability of age appropriate texts on an unprecedented level.

Here is how the book building process works:

  • You use images from the Creative Commons section of Yahoo’s Flickr.

  • The images are automatically cited. See how it works here.
  • You add your text to each page you create.

  • Add some keyword tags, such as words about the content, if it is an enrichment, transitional, or conventional text, or anything else you would like.
  • Click to post your book. A talking book that is switch accessible and and able to be downloaded offline is created.
  • It is that simple. No more PP notes citations, large file problems, conversion nightmares! Hallelujah.

Let us rally behind this amazing project in a way never before seen! Let’s go! We can do it all together!

Go to the Tar Heel Reader

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Father’s Day Letter

by Samuel Sennott

Check out the Father’s Day Letter Intellitools Classroom Suite writing activity by Cindy Kerr, as found on the Intellitools Classroom Suite Activity Exchange.

Father\'s Day letter

Here is the description:

Father’s Day Letter

Created By: Cindy Kerr [Send Message]
Skill Level: Grades K-2
Curriculum: Language Arts   Life Skills
Accessibility Features: Switch
Activity Details: Very easy. Requested by teachers who liked the Mother’s Day Letter and didn’t want dads to be left out. Can be written to Dad or Grandpa, with choices to make each letter personal. Happy Father’s Day!

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Special Education | , , | Leave a comment