Saturday, January 30, 2010

AT Blog Carnival up For Janary 2010

The AT Blog Carnival for January is up and going right now at Teaching All Students.

There are some great posts on using AT with the iTouch, a new release from Dr. Brian Friedlander and a review of SOLO 6. Ricky Buchanan shares her MAC secrets. There is sharing on the new iPad, cooking in the classroom, Digital reading tips and more.

Check out a great issue!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Use Fun Activites to Integrate AAC and School Curriculum

How do you teach a crystal-making project using a Dynavox V?

I sat down with an SLP last week and we began to piece together the elements of a science activity using a Dynavox V that a girl has recently acquired to accommodate her speech. (Note: these ideas could be applied to any AAC - not just a V or VMax). The team of 2 SLP's I am working with on this project are pretty innovative and have used lots of motivating activities and integrated curriculum topics to use as the medium to teach their speech concepts and skills.
Design your folders and pages
We thought about what we needed and mapped out the pathway to get to the activity. We built several pages, but we started with a root folder with a directory page inside. We called it "Speech activities". We put this in this child's school category folder under a "classes" folder she has along with her science, math, reading, etc.
Once we had the root folder page made, we labeled buttons and turned them into folders so we could put the crystals activity on one and have more for future activities. We went onto Google and searched "making crystals " and found a picture like the one above. We put it on the top level button for making crystals.
We did a materials page to show all the supplies needed. We labeled them and made them so the student could tell us using the V, what each item was and test her ability to identify them We also made a step by step direction page with images of getting materials, measuring contents, stirring the mix, putting in the string, checking the minerals growth and recording data and taking digital images. (These could be shared through the V on pages for an oral presentation at the end.)
Finding and adding graphics is easy with Google Images!
The SLP needed Borax so we went on Google images and added that to a flash drive to import images to the V. Once we got going, we thought it would be easier to make a shopping list of all the images and then see what ones might be on the V already and what ones we needed to find. For example, the Borax would really be something to find through an image search online, where a bowl or spoon or string would be in the image library ready to put on a button.
There are several ways to add images to a button on a V or VMax. One is to reduce the window of the Series 5 software with the page open and the button you want to add an image onto visible. You can insert a jump drive or go to My Document/My Pictures and click/hold/drag them onto the button - an easy task.
Another way is to go to the modify button and select your button, then choose "symbol" and then import an image. You can select "Show all files" and see the jump drive, open it and import the pictures, then they are accessible again and again through your symbol searches. The only thing to remember is that you need to re-name each image to be what you want on the button. The image file name will transfer and be on the button and in the file directory unless you change it. Might as well do it when you first save it.
Building and using activities like this makes learning to get around a V lots of fun if you are new, uisng it to do something of value at school where the lesson elements are at a students fingertips. The time spent will pay big dividends in buy in with kids. I have used worked with students on building model rockets, pizza, sandwiches, etc.
An SLP at another school has a boy with a new V that loves motorcycles. She is going to get a motorcycle model and have him label parts, get materials and work with him to use the V for building the model.
The more we can use AAC in school environments to access the curriculum and learn through motivating activities, the more effective we can be at connecting the use of a device to everything kids do all day. Oftentimes we work on wants and needs and socialization, but forget that there are plenty of topics rich with vocabulary and activities found right in front of us in school units and the curriculum. Why not try integrating some curriculum activities into your programming the AAC device for students you work with and see what happens.
All the best,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

C Print: Technology Research for Deaf and Hard of Hearing on FCTD

The Family Center on Technology and Disability has put up their latest issue for students that are deaf and hard of hearing.
Their latest newsletter addresses "the innovative research and development of Dr. Michael Stinson and his colleagues at RIT's NationalTechnical Institute for the Deaf. Dr.Stinson, Dr. Lisa Elliot and Pam Francis form the core of the team that hasdeveloped state-of-the-art speech-to-text displays for deaf and hard of hearingstudents. With support from the Officeof Special Education Programs at the U.S Department of Education, the C-Print team is conducting randomized, classroom-based trials of the technology."

Survey Participants Requested
The FCTD (The Family Center on Technology and Disability) has collaborated with the Special Education AssistiveTechnology (SEAT) Center at Illinois State University to create an online survey to identify family preferences and needs for computer-based technologies. They are asking all interested family members with children aged 8 and under to participate in the survey .
Professionals who work with family members are encouraged to share the survey link with interested family members with whom they work.

All the best to you!


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hand-shake a Mouse! Vertical Mouse an Ergonomic Support

The Evoluent Vertical Mouse
I stumbled across this great idea and thought I would share. I haver tendonitis in my forearm and I am thinking this might help.

I found it listed on sale for $69.95 from The Human Solution.

Al the best to you,


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Monday, January 11, 2010

i Speak It for Mac and iPhone Text to Speech

i Speak It by Zapptek
I wish I were a Mac User - but I am locked into our Windows PC world in our school districts. As I have been exploring the text to speech options within the iPhone world, I have been getting great tips from readers. The i Speak It app from Zapptek looks promising - if you own a MAC.

It converts files to audio and then is a companion to your iPhone or iTouch. It converts Word docs, PDF, Pages, RTF, Appleworks, Text files and HTML files. It converts those to Mp3/AAC track files through iTunes so you get the text as a lyric as you listen, to follow along on screen (that's what it says...dunno exactly how that works).

Sounds pretty cool - but I can't test it on my PC. If anyone has it, let us know what you think.
All the best to you!

Friday, January 8, 2010

wUnderGlow LED light: Safety and Fun for Wheelchairs

I had a late Christmas gift idea shared by a reader that I thought I would add to the gift idea list on my sidebar. If you ever are looking for a gift that has an assistive technology slant to it, check out my sidebar gift list with links.

The wUnderGlow was too fun to pass up. It reminds me of the hotrod cars with the lighting under the running boards - except a wheelchair version and it helps let someone see you coming. It could be very helpful - and I have a first-hand story to prove it!

I had a scare over the holiday when there was snow plowed up on the sides of the road forcing a motorized wheelchair to drive around it out into my lane on the street. I pulled out of a parking lot and almost ran into the wheelchair. That would have made a great headline: "Assistive Technology Specialist Rear-ends Powered Wheelchair in Christmas Rush Traffic."

I have attached the video for the wUnderGlow below:

All the best to you!


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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Raise in Autism Rates and Non-verbal Rates will Impact AT and SLP Services

In my work, I have been seeing an increase in Autism occurances - as has been reported in many studies, like this one from CDC, but I have also seen more incidences of non-verbal children in our schools. I am collabiorating more and more with our SLP's and EI/ECSE Specialists to develop AT supports and strategies. This past fall has been the busiest so far.
I was interested to see a link to an article about a poll by YouGov in the UK, that showed children are reaching the age of 3 without being able to say a word. It also showed that "boys are almost twice as likely to struggle to learn to speak than girls".
The survey results were released by I CAN, a children's communication charity.
On their news release, they provide links to download the survey results. The collection was done between December 15 and 18 of 2009 and 1015 parents of children 1 to 7 responded.
You can also get more info at
Also, the CDC report at the beginning of this post was featured in The Age of Autism, a daily newpaper on the Autism epidemic. Therre are some great articles and features to keep up on posted there.
What do you see as the impact this data has on assistive technology services and speech services to early intervention and early childhood populations?

All the best to you,


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

iPhones, Kindles, E-Books and Text to Speech Readers

The VOD app for the iPhone by CYPAC can read DAISY 2.02 files.

I have been playing with my iPhone lately and I have been teased and tempted, but just can't come up with a combination of apps that works to hear books directly from text. I have purchased several apps and tried to find a work-around to get text files to read. I downloaded the Beverly Cleary Book "Ribsy" powered by Iceberg. I bought if off iTunes for $3.99. In a description on iTunes it seemed that you might be able to copy and paste sections of the text into a notes section and then copy those to another app to hear them read, but that feature had been turned off by publishers for copyright reasons in the book I bought. I had hoped to paste sections into my Speak it! app and then hear it read back. The only thing I could do was type a note attached to a paragraph and then copy the note I wrote to hear it back. All the text was locked. I discovered that the Iceberg Reader has a kids division with young children's literature.

The Iceberg Reader for kids was reviewed by The iPhone Mom. She reviewed a Curious George title that has the illustrations and actually reads the page as an audio book. You can pause and play, flip pages and bookmark favorites. This is the closest I have found to doing what I would like to do with a book on the iPhone. Good job Iceberg Reader.

I added an app, TouchReader, thinking that might let me add a public domain text to my iPhone and have it read, but even though it is a great app for getting text files onto your iPhone, changing the text size and black on white vs white on black, the text is locked and you can't copy and paste it anywhere else.

I was reading a review of the Kindle 2 and it dealt with how the text to speech setting was hampered and left up to the publishers whether to make it accessible or not. Amazon didn't feel it was competitive with the publisher's audio versions, but the publishers felt otherwise.

The issue is the same on the iPhone - there are copyright issues stopping the accessibility. As one commenter put it, "If I could read a real book or afford audio books of all my books, I would rather, but I am stuck with listening to a mechanical voice read books to me. How can that be a threat to the publishers that want to sell audio books?"

I am still exploring options. I had a reader email me recently about VOD, Voice of DAISY, which is a $12.99 app that only plays older DAISY 2.02 files. If you already have DAISY 2.02 files, you can read them on the iPhone or iTouch. It looked pretty slick, but I couldn't find any links to it on DAISY Consortium. I had to go directly to the Japanese company CYPAC that made it to find it.

If you come up with any solutions or new discoveries please keep me posted and I will share them here. Thanks to all the great readers who have been sending me questions and tips lately. It makes this blog more dynamic as we share together.

All the best to you!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival for 2010

A New Assisive Technology Blog Carnival is Underway for 2010
Welcome to 2010!
Patrick Black of "Teaching All Students" is excited to host the carnival from his blog. He is putting out the call for all bloggers to write a post on their blogs and share the link so we can travel around and do some visiting and reading. The topic is open and you can share a story, a tip, trick, new tool, etc.
Visit the AT Blog Carnival Site and Teaching All Students for more information.
Thanks Patrick!