Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Boardmaker Plus! Makes Great Interactive Note Taker.

I have been working on using Boardmaker to build talking notes on buttons that can be scanned by students who use the program for speech access already. I am trying to think outside the box to get curriculum access to these kids that can't read the textbook or write notes. The assistants help do this in addition to being a scribe. As long as they are "scribing" they might as well be doing something that puts it on "steroids"! The resolution is actually better than the window shows, once you play it. Watch the video below to see how I do it:

All the Best to You!


Monday, February 25, 2008

My Reading Chair Blog Has Talking Books for Kids

My Reading Chair

I have been thinking about a way to utilize the odiogo text to speech tool for reading. Yesterday I thought, "Why not put public domain and personal writing for kids with illustrations on a blog and use odiogo to read the text?" So I built a new blog and put a nursery rhyme on it. I will set up categories for different reading levels here. I would like to build an archive so there will be lots of reading material for kids down the road.
How I would recommend using this blog:

  • Pick a readability level for your child.
  • Have the child work on sounding out words and trying the passage.
  • Click on the Odiogo button to have it read to the child.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed at the bottom (the Atom link) and receive daily texts to read in your google webpage or Outlook feeds folder.

I hope this will be another resource to not only provide some reading support for kids with disabilities and remedial issues, but also fun for parents to use as a resource for safe content for kids.

All the Best to You!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Podcast #2: Teens Talk About Disabilities and Assistive Technology

Podcast#2: Teens Talk About Disabilities and AT
I have been promising a podcast on what teens say about disabilities and assistive technology. It is about 10 minutes long. I have an introduction for about a minute and a short close. Other than that, the entire thing is just sound bites from the day.
To listen, use the player in the sidebar. It plays the latest podcast automatically. If you are accessing this as a past archived post, click on the "posts" button and find this post in the playlist. I hope you enjoy listening!

Below are some pictures:

Above: Kathy Howard, from the OT/PT department, shares how to balance on a wobble board and pass a bounce ball from left to right. It's harder than it sounds!

Here, I am handing 2 students a ribbon switch to try. They are filling out their interview sheets.

All the best to You!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Assistive Technology & Parent Advocacy: Issues of Time and Services to the the Hispanic Community

I read an interesting blog article today that fits with the topic of parent advocacy I have been sharing lately. The blog can be found at wickedlocal.com under the education news section. The link is HERE. To summarize the issue, a Hispanic mother is concerned about the slow process in aqquiring one on one assistance for her daughter who has West Syndrome. West syndrome, also known as infantile spasms, is a rare and serious form of epilepsy in infants. The mother has limited English proficiency and is trying to advocate for her daughter in spite of difficulties getting translations and proper support for communication.

I see two issues here: The first is on the time factor in getting evaluations, recommendations and approvals for services and equipment for children in special education. The process of networking, collecting data and meeting with teams is huge. Sometimes it takes 3 - 6 months just to get through meetings, evaluations and team planning sessions. This can include trials of AT equpment to see what is working. If something doesn't work, it is back to the process of a new trial with a new device. Money is a huge factor, and even though federal law mandates it, federal law doesn't fund all of it. Finding money to do everything a school district needs to do is stretching.
I had a conversation with a school district special education director yesterday, and another one today where we are looking at AT equipment to support kids. Both administrators were very supportive of purchasing what was needed and they both are using local foundation and trust money to help in the purchase price for high price-tag items.
The second issue deals with providing spanish versions of IEP's and documents as well as providing a translator for meetings. We have a large Hispanic population in several of our districts. We strive to provide translators for meetings and our ESD has several on-staff translators who convert documents and reports into spanish.

I would encourage you to go read the article on the link above. Take some time to read the comments at the bottom. There is a mix of everything from racist pre-conceived notions of the Hispanic community, administrator perspectives, hispanic perspectives and special educator perspectives. It is pretty eye-opening.

I don't have the answers to these issues, but I believe that when parents are in situations where they see their child on a mat on the floor in class all day, it is time to get active in the area of advocacy. Use the principles we have been sharing in previous posts to find out what is happening, where things are in the process and be positive as a part of the solution - not adding to the problem.
I thought it was interesting that the mother had only good things to say about the staff and teachers who were with her daughter. She had a very positive attitude toward the school, it was the system that she was having issues with. The system is still made up of a lot of people who care about kids, and I am so blessed to be able to say that in my area of Oregon, we have people who think ourside the box to get what kids need. I hope you are somewhere where there is support like that for you too.

All the best to you!

If you know of someone who could benefit from this post or this blog in general please refer it on to them.

Image credit: http://www.wickedlocal.com/roslindale/news/education/x288018531

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Being A Successful Parent Advocate Series; Principle 3: Be a Contributer not an Interrogator

This is the third principle in a series I have been sharing on parent advocacy. Some of this comes from my past 25 years in education and some from interviews with parents that I meet through work, conferences, parent meetings, day care, my son's school, etc. I have been honored with the pleasure of meeting some wonderful parent advocates and our principle this time is one that I have observed being practiced by these folks more than ever being spoken.

What it means to be a contributor:
A contributor is someone who adds to the efforts of others towards a common goal. I see parents more often than you might think, who expect all the effort to come from a school team to meet educational goals and criticize them if they are not met. If a parent is a contributor to the process, they are doing many things. Here are some examples I have seen through the actions of successful parent advocates:

  • Volunteering to spend time in the classroom as a helper once a week.

  • Attending team meetings and being available to be in the loop on decisions that happen at school.
  • Looking for grant and foundation money to obtain equipment and software needed in the classroom that supports modifications of the curriculum for their child.

  • Looking for ways to contribute in the exploration of answers for treatment and special needs issues rather than criticize decisions that have been made without their input.

  • Demanding excellence but being willing to share ideas, time and some personal expense if possible to see it attained.

  • A realization that they, as parents, are experts on their children's needs and behaviors at home, but also respecting the fact that needs and behaviors can be different at school and the staff and specialists may have conflicting reports that are still accurate.

The wonderful thing about these kind of advocates is that through their efforts, they have earned the right to share in the processes at their schools. They have the right to be in the process anyway, whether they know it or not, but might be permitted by the school begrudgingly because of poor interpersonal relationships. If done right, the relationships at school can blossom so that the parent is seen as a positive influence in the process and their opinions are respected.

How do you think you are perceived by the staff at your child's school? Are you an antagonist and an interrogator when it comes to what is happening at school for your child's services? What could you do to improve the situation? What areas above do you do well? What areas could you possibly improve in?

Now I know there are those of you out there that are saying, "Yes, this might be true, but you don't know what I go through. I have to deal with a principal that doesn't get it when it comes to IDEA and the rights of disabled and special needs children." You might say, "The staff at my child's school always get their defenses up when I come around and I can't get through to them." You could also be one saying, "I have been dealing with incompetency throughout the whole school career of my child's life. I have been patient but I am about to the point where all I know to do is use the "S" word...sue."

I am not an attorney and I am not about to start giving legal advice. I realize there are situations where being nice isn't enough. Still...I would encourage you to take a deep breath and look at the principles above. Compare them to your realtionship with your school. Look at where you do well and where you could do better. Putting some effort into these principles can go a long way to bring positive results that will be a win/win situation for everyone.

I hope you are enjoying this series. If you know of anyone that might benefit from this post or my blog in general, please pass it on.

All the best to you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Star Trek is Here: Just When You Thought You Were Getting a Handle on Assistive Technology Something New Surprises You.

Has more Star Trek technology become a reality?

I have been working on a "No Limits to Learning" AT Resource Bundle. It will have a section on the key elements and basics of assistive technology in layman terms for parents. It will also have video tutorials to walk you through the steps to make 21 "do it yourself" projects you can create for free if you have a Windows computer and MS Office or Open Office (which is free). All the other software is free off the Internet too. I was working on the introduction and thought I had to share some of it today. I hope you enjoy this little preview:

"There is no way any one person can "know it all" about AT. The world is becoming more and more specialized. We have specialized services within specialized niches that are in specialized markets of specialized companies. It can get pretty crazy. I have heard predictions that there will come a time when a person cannot be an AT specialist anymore. They will have to be an AAC specialist or a curriculum support specialist - all within the parameters of AT.
I say this to let you know that if you are a parent, you should be comfortable in relaxing and just getting an overview of the services and equipment your child may need. Be prepared to say "I don't know but I can find out." That is my biggest phrase. I have learned how to find a needle in a haystack on the Internet when it comes to AT. I spend about 30% of my work time online researching equipment, treatment, therapy or definitions and descriptions of medical disorders. Be ready to see the Internet as your best friend. There is so much information out there it is staggering.
This whole project started when I began to hear AT specialists all over clamoring for a website that was a "one stop" place to find resources, vendors, experts, tutorials, federal information, forms, etc.
Most people hate to waste time searching for information. They want it done for them. Since I am on the computer a lot anyway, I thought, "Why not?" So this is my attempt at giving people the basics. I don't even pretend to think or bluff you into thinking this is all there is. It is far from it. If I were to get into occupational and physical therapy supports, new treatment for seizures and ADHD with neurofeedback for children using computer games and slot car race tracks, simulating virtual reality on the TV with a Wii, and so on, we would be here for the next 2 years - and by then 70% of what I shared would be obsolete and new technologies would take over.

Technology also has a way of skidding from science fiction's past into the present like Michael J Fox's Delorean in "Back to the Future". Remember those sliding doors on Star Trek on the U.S.S. Enterprise? Well we take them for granted now. And everytime I see someone flip open a cell phone and talk to someone, I expect to hear them say "Beam me up Scotty." I had a real wide-eyed moment today and I have to share it with you.

Today I watched a doctor wave a Dr. McCoy/Star Trek-type "tricorder" over my son's chest and re-align the electrical impulses that were out of sync so his respiratory infection could heal. Seriously - this is for real. He did the treatment until the levels on the front showed it had re-calibrated. "What is that?!" I asked. Just when you think you are getting a handle on things something new shoots up.
I imagine by the time this is out in circulation, I'll be writing a second edition. That's OK. As long as you don't expect to ever catch up, you can relax and find the things that work. That is what this whole thing is about anyway. Finding out what works to support kids."

So that is my two-cents worth tonight and it will probably find its way into some article I will be publishing here soon. Thanks for making me accountable to keep writing and sharing. It is more and more one of the things in my day I look forward to.

Just to let you know, I have another installment on my parent advocacy series coming and the podcast of teens sharing about disabilities coming along too. I hope you take care and keep checking back. Also, refer this on to others that might find it useful or entertaining.

All the best to you!


Image Credit: http://www.neweyestudio.com/stnr3.htm

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Being a Successful Parent Advocate - Principle 2: Foster Positive Relationships

I am so glad to have you back for Principle 2 in this series on Parent Advocacy. The first principle was research, studying, and reading up to keep informed on new developments and support. Today's principle, number two, concerns fostering positive relationships.

Fostering Positive Relationships
I have worked with a lot of parents and administrators. I see some interesting dynamics at times with the relationships between these two sets of people. Sometimes the two see each other as support - the parents looking for the principal to demonstrate the intensity of an advocate for their child in getting all the services needed, and the principal, looking at the parent as the key to support and reinforcement at home to implement the strategies that will help the student improve at school. Both sides can be self-serving, but at least both have a common concern at heart, and that is the child.
Then there is the adversarial relationship. I have heard stories from parents at conferences and group sessions, where the parents refer to the principal and therapists as cold hearted and threatened and unwilling to listen. I don't work with any principals or staff like that in my service area fortunately, but these stories do happen.
When I hear stories like that I think about what my reaction would be if I were a school administrator and I had a parent who was knowledgeable and in my face about what I was going to do about her son. I would say,"You are my new best friend! I need you to assist in the process of developing what is best for your son. You need to be an integral part of our team for your son." The point of view taken by the leaders in assistive technology about the team process is that parents need to participate and be a part. Their participation is essential.

Positive should ALWAYS be the first line of defense
When you are looking at going to school to advocate on an issue, look at how you can share your point, and in that point make sure there is an invitation for collaboration. That means that it is not "my way or the highway." I know that I am much more apt to collaborate and work with people who listen to my ideas, maintain a calm affect in conversation and are supportive and have good things to say. On the otherhand, I have a hard time listening and contributing to discussions with people who are always on the defensive and looking for a comment or decision that "confirms" their pre-determined belief that, "No one really wanted to listen to me or do what needs to be done anyway." When people enter into dialogue with a pre-determined notion that they are going to have to fight, it adds an energy to the conversation that has the potential to create exactly what you expect.
Take a minute and think about the nature of your conversations with teachers, staff and administrators around you. If you are a therapist or teacher, do the same thing but think of it in terms of your communication with parents. It can work both ways. Are your conversations collaborative? Do they allow room for others to share their input? Do you strive to build bridges to understand others and work on solutions without stress and negative energy?
One thing we as therapists and specialists have to remember is that even when we don't get along with someone, we still need to give them a level of respect. There is also a little thing called IDEA and a federal mandate! No matter what I think, I have to bite the bullet, smile and do what has to be done to be in compliance. I would hope to see the same amount of determination on the parents side to work together so we could both come up with a "win-win" situation. When we add the child into the picture it becomes a "win-win-win" situation!
Being positive and working on solutions together allows for much more success. Being able to think this way in your relationships, problem solving and conversations, is an aspect of what I call the "No Limits Lifestyle." I wish you the best as you strive for healthy collaborative relationships. When you take the time to create these positive relationships, you are making advocacy a much easier task.

I hope this gives you a little support as you work in potentially high-emotion dialogue. Keep checking in for more tips on the next blog post. Please refer this blog to friends that could use the information.

All the best to you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Being a Successful Parent Advocate Series; Principle One: Knowledge & Research

For those of you that have been following this blog and listened to the first podcast, you know that I spent yesterday at a career showcase for middle school students. I said I would be recording the kids as they told me about their experience with other kids who have disabilities, what they know about assistive technology and their reactions. It was a fun day and I have some great sound clips and pictures to share. I am working on the editing for that podcast and hope to have it up next week. I have applied to itunes to have my podcast there where folks can subscribe as well as get it direct here. I will let you know when it is up on itunes for subscription. You will be able to get the podcasts there and put them on your ipod. If you don't know how to do it, I will give you directions when the time comes.

A Series on Being A Successful Parent Advocate:
I have had some interesting discussions lately with some "super parents". They are parents that don't take no for answer. Some do it in a peaceful way, some with a little more of a militant flavor and some exceeding the average by becoming medical research leaders in the area of their child's disorder.
Principle One: Knowledge and Research.
The way successful parents advocate is as different as their personalities, but what they do and how they do it is similar and worthy of some attention and documentation. When I hear parents begin to tell me of their battles to get what is best for their child, I am beginning to ask, "If you had to summarize what you have learned about being a parent advocate and had to boil it down to a few principles or points, what would they be?" I am getting some interesting comments and information.
One of the big ones is "study and read". Successful advocates scan the Internet for any new research on the illness or disability their child has. They get involved in groups and forums online. They also subscribe to journals and magazines if they are available.

One parent told me that she is fortunate that she can stay at home. Because of that, she has the time to read-up, research online, attend conferences and be knowledgeable. "A lot of parents don't have the time to invest in learning about this the way I can'" she said, "and so they don't know their rights or the laws that effect their children at school. They aren't knowledgeable about the new developments in support for their childs illness or disability. "
I was directed by a parent of a CP child to an amazing article written by Andrew Brereton who had a son with profound quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His son passed away 4 years ago from a series of brainstem strokes.
I think out of a sense of recovery from grief and a desire to help find treatment for children that have his son's disorder, Andrew began to go back to school and work on his degree in psychology. He went on to gain his Masters in cognitive neuropsychology. he has been involved in research projects that assist in understanding more of the inner workings of the neuro networks in the brain, and research in the development of communication skills.

There was a passage of his writing that I cannot summarize or put into my own words. You need to read them for yourself:

"Sadly, Daniel passed away four years ago last month. We miss him terribly and there will always be a massive hole in our lives. How do you get over the death of a child? However, the snowball of enthusiasm and interest, which he created in me, - interest in helping to solve the problems many children face, rolls on. Using all of the knowledge, which my son passed to me,(despite all my qualifications and research experience, he remains my most astute tutor), I am in the process of setting up a child development consultancy called 'Snowdrop.' It is in its infancy, but it aims to take all the knowledge and experience amassed over the years and to utilise it for the benefit of
children and families like ourselves."

You can find his website, Snowdrop, Here. I am also placing the link on my "Important Sites" list.
I cannot relate to this level of grief myself and hope I never have to, but I have the desire to help parents see the best for their children. That is why I do what I do at my job everyday and why I write this blog. My area is education and asistive technology - not as much the therapy aspect of it, but I am so glad to find resources like the one above that I can pass one to you. I am asking some of the parents I am working with to share with me as I develop some of our own resources to give you assistance in parent advocacy. I will be sharing more advocacy principles in this series, that are common traits of a successful advocate. I hope you will check back to read as I continue, and refer parents that you know to this too.
I am working on a free access assistive technology group forum/wiki I hope to have up in the next month or so. My hope is to have a central place that can be a "consumer report for AT" forum where you can add a review of a piece of technology and be part of a collaborative effort to be a resource on equipment for parents that have no idea what's out there and what it is all about. It will be organized by areas/categories of assistive technology so people can find a vendor and a piece of equipment easily. It will be hyperlinked to the vendor site for research and indexed also.
I am excited about the things that are happening here and if you see value, please show your support by passing the word on to others.
If you have any input on what you feel is an important principle of advocacy, you can email me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2life.com

All the best to you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The No Limits to Learning Podcast for Assistive Technology

Ok...it took me awhile but I am finally rolling! I had another great potential interview contact today at the OTAP conference and I decided, "Enough is enough!" I spent this evening getting the first one recorded edited and posted.
This first podcast is an introduction to the line up of guests I have coming in the next few months. I will record tomorrow (today by the time you read it) at the Career Showcase where I will be sharing AT. The topic will be "What Teens know about Assistive Technology". I will try to capture the "essence" of the day for you and get kids talking about disability. It should be interesting.
I also have several vendors of AT software and equipment slated to share - Intellitools Classroom Suite Version 4 and Blink Twice for the Tango - and augmentative communication device. I have several parents that I have invited because they have important things to share on parent advocacy.
You can use the player on the side bar to listen and you can click "subscribe free" at the bottom of the player to get future podcasts automatically. If you click on the podcasts button on the player it will give you a playlist to choose from. Select podcast #1 Introduction.

All the best to you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Screen Magnifiers and Student Testing

Has anybody used something like this? It is a snap-on telescopic screen magnifier for a computer monitor. Since students do standardized tests on an online testing program that doesn't allow external programs to run over it (risks of cheating), visually disabled students can't get the help they need with integrated adaptive software. I have heard that the test can be printed off and the font enlarged, but it becomes an adaptation as well as an accomodation. This causes schools to be penalized on their school improvement report card for average yearly progress (correct me if I am mistaken).
I have had an assessment specialist ask me about these external magnifiers. Our vision specialists have said that they aren't very helpful. If you have used one, please post a comment or email me about it. I would really appreciate it. I will work on a definitive answer on this.


All the best to you!


The link for this magnifier is HERE.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oregon State-Wide Assistive Technology Gathering, Start of a Busy Week.

I am in Portland at the Oregon state-wide assistive technology meeting, February 11th and 12th. Monday, we will be presenting updates on our different regions and services. There will be a presentation on NIMAS the new standard in digital text and we will also look at the OTAP (Oregon Technology Access Program) website. It is on my sidebar under important links.

There will be a day workshop on Tuesday with Kelly Fonner, link here, presenting on assistive technology in the curriculum. I will give you highlights of her workshop Wednesday, so check back for that.

I will be posting some of the highlights as far as ideas and news from the meeting that I think might be helpful to you. I have a stock-pile of great other topics and information to post over the next couple of weeks that has been coming in and I will get to it all eventually. I am having to start keeping a log of notes and lists so I don't forget things!

Career Showcase to Present Assistive Technology as Career Option:
On Wednesday I have a table at a career showcase for teens from schools to explore different career options. I am thinking that it might be a great place to do a podcast - interview some teens on what their definition of assistive technology is - what do you think? I have some fun things to set up and let them explore for that day. I will fill you in on that day the end of the week. I have to get the podcast thing going. I have a long list of podcast projects to get recorded and archive so I can start posting.

Assistive Technology Wiki is coming.
I have started working on the categories for an assistive technology wiki for parents and specialists to post product reviews and tips. It is going to take me awhile to get it set up and ready, but it should be available by the end of the month if I can get it set up so it is easy for folks to use. I want it to be collaborative, allowing entries on products, like on Amazon, where people can tell about the product and rate it. I think it would be very valuable to the consumer and give people more information on what products are out there.
There are lots of great things happening behind the scenes right now that are going to be exciting to see take shape over the next few months so keep checking in!

All the best to you!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

OT and PT Supports for Disabled Children

I am beginning to find that one of the pleasures of writing on my blogs is the great email I get. I am beginning to hear from people through my email. It is so exciting to think that we can reach out to each other and support what others are doing. If you have a blog on children, disabilities and related services please let me know. You can email me if you would like. I will be sharing the information I am getting from those emails from time to time and making a "My Blog Family" listing so that you can visit their blogs and sites too.

I had an amazing lady email the other day. She is an occupational therapist, a physical therapist AND has her Phd. She has been busy! She said that she has been reading my blog and enjoying it. She has recently written a chapter in a book titled: "Ergonomics for Children". She writes posts on areas of working with children, especially advice to parents that would be a great support for parents as well as other therapists and specialists.
Her name is Barbara Boucher and her site is: http://www.therextras.com/
Barbara lives in San Antonio, Texas - my native state, by the way, and is a child development specialist with a desire to work with the parents of children with disabilities. If you are a parent and you are looking for OT/PT advice and support check this site out. There is some nice information there.

All the best to you!

Please check out my other blog at http://nolimits2life.com/blog
Also, if you enjoy this blog, refer it to your friends and colleagues and post it on your links.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Today was a landmark day for me. I was in 3 cities, 5 schools, provided AT services for 6 children, 1 parent, 4 assistants, 3 high school resource teachers, 2 Early Learning Specialists, and 2 elementary teachers. I even bought 3 chocolate chip cookies for a high school life skills class fund raiser. Life is so great when you can help out by eating cookies!

I had a potentially confrontational discussion this morning that turned out beautifully. I left the visit with 2 new colleagues and friends that I am setting up Assistive technology support for.

I had the most incredible training session with a stay-at-home-mom of a CP student. The mom wanted to be trained on how to use Intellitools Classroom Suite at home with her daughter to do writing and math. This family includes 4 other children: 2 in college, 1 in the military, and a 2 year-old. Dad works for Walmart and has found that the best way to help at school is to volunteer hours because Walmart donates $250 to the organization where he volunteers when he serves a certain number of hours (I don’t remember how many - sorry). So that is his “spare time” service - and as the only bread-winner for the family. I tell you folks - these are the unsung heroes!

So what does this have to do with No Limits to Life? Everything. I see positive and dynamic people around me everyday and I have to say that one of the biggest pleasures in my life is to BELIEVE that abundance and fullness surrounds me all day. When I am able to get in a mindset that God, the universe, the creative source - whatever you believe you should call it - wants only the best for me today, and I go out expecting and being thankful for good things, those things become a reality for me. To me, this is the “No Limits Lifestyle.”

What is your lifestyle? Whether you are disabled or not, you have a choice to make. How are you going to live today? You get to choose. Abundance or lack. Failure or success. Grief or joy. Allow yourself to dwell on the blessings that are yours, the things you have to be thankful for. See the positive potential in your situation rather than the worst-case scenario. I am telling you, after practicing that a while and experiencing the changes and blessings in your life you will never go back.

To top off my day, I went to my email to find notification from “Ezine Articles” (see the link in my sidebar). I had submitted my first article a couple of days ago and was hoping it was accepted. I would be on the beginner/basic level. The email said that I had been accepted into the expert category on my first submission and that it would be on the high traffic home page. It was also being syndicated out on their exclusive email to subscribers. I was given the icon on my sidebar to post advertising I was featured in Ezine Articles. So you can see my new “trophy” over there!
Life is good. I am tired from a busy and prosperous day. I wish the best for you and ask that you do yourself a favor - be generous and gentle with yourself. Give yourself some slack and find something great to celebrate in your day. Tap into that “No limits Lifestyle”.
All the best!

You can read the article that was published in Ezine Articles HERE.

This blog post is also on my other blog, No Limits 2 Life, because I felt it was important and I didn't want anyone to miss it!

If you like this blog, please refer it to your friends and post my links on your blog. Email and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Electroplankton New Visual Music Game

Electroplankton is a new game on Nintendo DS. It was designed by Toshio Iwai, an interactive media artist from Japan. This is not a game, it is more an interactive and manipulative music and art activity. There isn't any objective to accomplish really, just exploratory play with color and sound. Children with high interest in in music and art could find this to be therapeutic and a behavior reward too. The drawback is that it is a Nintendo DS game rather than a computer game. Go to the link to see the beautiful blend of color in the Flash enabled site. Watch the video below to see it in action and a review.

All the best!


Image from: http://www.imagequest3d.com/photos/plankton/untitled.htm

Virtual Magnifier and Lightspeed Assisted Listening: The Eyes and Ears of Assistive Technology

Yesterday Was "Eyes and Ears" Day:
I had a chance to visit an elementary classroom today and ask a fourth grade boy what he would like to try in a piece of amplification equipment in the classroom. He was excited to try a personal FM system by Lightspeed (an Oregon Company by the way) that has a little cube speaker that can sit on his desk. The teacher had been trying out a classroom system with a big speaker for the whole room. If it were me as a student, I would feel funny about the entire class listening to the teacher through a wireless microphone just for me. The student is excited to try this small custom piece of equipment just for him.

I was able to hook up a high school computer teacher with a cool FREE tool that is open source for the visually impaired. It is the "Virtual Magnifying Glass" which is an on-screen magnifier. It can be downloaded HERE. You can drag it around, stretch and change it's size and increase/decrease the power of magnification.
It is very handy for ANYONE to use when teaching a class or presenting in a large room. When your laptop is hooked to a data projector and it is shining on the screen, you can click on the magnifier icon and slide it up and magnify details of an image, data base, etc. so everyone can see in the back of the room. I love it.

All the best to you!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Free Guide for Assistive Technology is a Great Support from WATI

Considering AT is a Federal Mandate:
Did you know that assistive technology must be considered for every student on an IEP? This means that when teachers, specialists and family gather to discuss a student's IEP goals and how to meet them, assistive technology must be given time for discusion and collaboration. Oftentimes this gets overlooked because the members of the team are unfamiliar with assistive technology and don't know where to start.

Free Tools to Help:
The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) has a great guide to help in the discussion and consideration of AT for a student. The consideration guide gives you a checklist of low, mid and high tech options in AT under various curriculum areas and skills. It gives teachers and parents a place to start in research as well as information to make a beginning decision on what should happen next. Hopefully, by seeing ideas and tools off the checklist that could help support the IEP, the team would request further assistance from an assistive technology specialist.
You can download the WATI Assessment forms by going to their website linked above and on my Important Links page. Select the products link. On that page is a link to free materials. The document is "WATI Assessment forms -forms only". You can view them on a pdf file and print off what you want.

The WATI Consideration Guide:
Look for the Wati Consideration Guide and the accompanying 2 page checklist. There are also screening tools, data collection forms, AT ssessment trial sheets, etc. I will do another post on the law and requirements where I can give a little more detail. If you would like more information or have specific questions, feel free to contact me by comment or email.
WATI is a great resource!
All the best to you!

Friday, February 1, 2008

OTAP is Oregon's Best Resource for Disabled Children

Oregon Technology Access Project
I want to tell you about some friends and colleagues of mine at OTAP. OTAP stands for the Oregon Technology Access Program. The program is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education and is housed at the Douglas ESD in Roseburg, Oregon. It is run by some very committed and dedicated folks who work daily to support the needs of children. OTAP was started as a grant-funded enterprise to provide training and equipment to families, teachers, specialists and the disabled children they serve from birth to 21 years of age throughout the state. Eighteen years later, it has proven it's worth by providing quality services for the disabled child and those who support them.

A Resource for Equipment Loans:
I work with school districts, helping them find what equipment will work best to support IEP goals for their disabled students. My loan library at the Umatilla Morrow ESD can only loan equipment to schools with the cooperation of the Case managers and clinicians.
OTAP's services are for anyone. If you are a parent, you can go online directly and review equipment under categories and check out a device to try before a purchase. It is shipped to you and you must pay for the return shipping. A checkout lasts for 4 to 6 weeks.
My advice to parents is that you do some research online under the disorder you are dealing with and find out what types of AT are being used to support it. After you have done some research, you will be able to browse the catalog with a little more knowledge. If not, the equipment data base can seem rather overwhelming. The OTAP staff can help with general advice and steer you towards agencies that can help you.

If you want more information on the equipment catalog and check out, contact Kim Philpott at 541-440-4759; email:kim.philpott@douglasesd.k12.or.us

The OTAP link is HERE and will also remain on my Links that I Support list permanently as a very important resource. Please use it and check them out. Look for some future posts that spotlight the staff and information they have that might be helpful.
All the best to you!