Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Assistive Technology DVD and Reference Guide Great Resources for Educators

I have enjoyed reading Dr. Brian Friedlander's Blog on assistive technology for quite a while now. He was my one of my professors in my master's program on assistive technology and is a mentor and friend.
Dr. Friedlander has released a new labor of love, a DVD called "Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions for Success". He has paired the DVD with a laminated resource, a fold-out reference guide with fast information and lists of mid and high tech solutions. These are available through National Professional Resources.
The video has several sections - running about 5 to 7 minutes each. Topics include and introduction to AT, auditory processing supports, fine-motor writing supports and reading supports. They are concise and show student, teacher, parent and administrator interviews. The videos show students use and explain the AT they are using. This video is a great training tool to help get your staff and teachers turned on to what AT can do as well as an informative introduction to staff, administrators and parents. These 2 resources should be in every AT library for an up to date look at how we can support our students.

Thanks for developing these Brian!

All the best,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Great Adaptive Art Using Online Art Pads

"Well Done" by Yurdoz (done with Odopod)

There are some great online art design sites now that create incredible paintings, sketches, etc. In an age where we are trying to adapt the curriculum to make it accessible for all students, what better way to add art for orthopedically impaired students than with a joystick and an online art pad!

I recently gave some of these sites to one of our middle school art teachers who had a CP student in a chair in his room. They played with the mouse and these sites and found them to be great supplements. Now, when everyone else is sketching and drawing on their papers, this student can do it on the computer.

I shared a post last week on how to adapt a PC game controller to act as a mouse and use the thumb joystick to navigate. My son and I tried it using JoyTokey and spent the evening using the controller to draw and paint - tons more fun than the mouse. We had to hold down the left-click assigned button though while we used the thumb stick to glide around the canvas.

Mouse training - the old "click and drag":
I have been using art pad programs with teachers to work with students on mouse control, fine motor control and basic mouse skills. The click and drag piece is one of the hardest, but working on drawing is a fun and motivating way to devlop that skill. I will spray paint a dot or use a shape or stamp at one end and then the same at the other end. I then have the student work on connecting the two with a line. They choose the width, the color, pattern, etc. It gives them some opportunities to choose and also get some variety. You can build on-screen obstacle courses to get around, do copy the pattern, etc.

Creating more independence and self-directed learning and enrichment is sometimes hard for those orthopedically impaired students with tons of energy, cognitive skills and the desire to learn. If you want to do some self-directed art lessons, you can use the modules in and have them use an online art site to practice the skill.

Great Sites!
Some sites have so many varieties and things to explore that you don't want to stop, like BRUSHster by National Gallery of Art kids. This is one of my favorites. Paintbox is another by NGAkids. You can warp out images and get real crazy and creative.
A great mainstay is Art Pad - which has a great combination of media. If you like the antique, worn and warm look, try Odopod. I love the textures and washes ou can get with brushes and inks. It can look like an old document that was found in an antique trunk.

QueekyPaint has layers similar to using Adobe Photoshop. It is a little more grown up and technical, but it has a cool play function that speed draws everything you did. There is a Queeky gallery site that allows you to view speed paintings of other members - very cool! (WARNING:there are some adult themed paintings, nudes etc. on this site so be careful who goes there).
Flashpaint has some fun features but it is not for the visually impaired. The tool bars are pretty small for my eyes. Tuxpaint is an open-source free download software for all systems that is a great children's paint program. Pencil is another free open source downlaodable software for the MAC, Windows and Linux OS.
Finally, Kerpoof, is a very kid-oriented activity based site. It has quite a few drawing and creating "pads" on one site. Activities include Doodlepad, Spell a picture, Make a picture, Make a movie, Make a card, Make a story and Make a drawing.
Collaborating, Interactive and more - more to come!
There are more - sites that are interactive, allow you to post on blogs as videos, do collaborative drawings - wouldn't that be cool - to share a drawing online amongst different students at different schools to do together. We will have to take another post to explore those - enough for one day!
All the best to you!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mouse Emulator Joystick for Orthopedically Impaired: Free software and controller Under $8!

Joy Tokey!

I recently had to send in a mouse emulator that worked with a joy stick on a power wheelchair for repairs. The student had been using it to access his laptop. He had Kurzweil 3000 (Flash demo) and Click nType keyboard to write in his scanned worksheets, do reports, etc. and now he was stuck without his gear.
I knew it would probably be a month until this student got his equipment back so I needed to come up with a fast fix to patch together in the meantime. I was online searching for mouse emulator software and I came across Joy Tokey, an open source free application that takes a Playstation game controller that is USB and converts the joystick and a couple of buttons to a mouse controller.
I downloaded the app and unzipped it in a folder on my desktop.
I didn't have a PS2 USB controller, but I did have an older PC game controller with 2 thumb joysticks, side buttons, a plus and 4 top buttons - regular game controller. It was USB. I plugged it in with Joy Tokey open and selected the preference for a mouse. It worked great! I had up, down, left, right, with a joystick and 2 buttons were my left and right-click. I could hold down the left-click button and move the mouse to highlight text. I used Click n Type for my on-screen keyboard to type.

I plan to to take this down to the school and hook it up with the student. If we can mount the controller where the student can access the thumb stick and buttons, he will be able to get back to school work!
I looked online and found a USB game controller for PC for $7.99 at Computer Geeks . They also had a wireless joy stick which would be even better for $24.99. For under $8 you can get a controller, download the free mouse emulator app and be ready to rumble.

Next week I will share on some online art programs that work with this set up to do some great drawing and build mouse skills and control.

All the best,



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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mi Stories: Social Story Videos for iTouch and Video iPod

Kencrest's autism support includes a new listing of videos called "Mi Stories". They are under the autism video link and can be downloaded off the site. The set of 8 videos feature topics including:
Getting dressed, Going to the grocery store, Going to the restaurant, Riding in the car, etc.

To my understanding, you cannot download these off iTunes - you must purchase them with Paypal off the Kencrest site. You can see a preview video and read more here.
Here is an excerpt from their press release:
"Plymouth Meeting, PA - Mi-Stories were created by Debbie Lord of Harleysville, Pa, a Speech Language Pathologist who directs Health, Clinical and program supports; and KenCrest Center and are designed as brief social scenarios that focus on everyday activities. The videos, ranging from 2 – 4 minutes in length, will target communication and social behavior in community settings. They can be viewed on an iPod to allow an adolescent or adult with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disabilities to easily watch them and learn the appropriate social behavior in a variety of different situations. The stories can also show the viewer what to expect in certain situations.

Mi-Stories utilize modeling, social scripting, and visual strategies to help target appropriate communication, behavior and social skills. There are numerous stories available including going to the grocery store, going to a restaurant, calming, getting dresses, crossing the street, riding in the car, as well as a video on how to use the iPod and a parent training protocol. More stories will be available soon.

Mi-Stories came about as Debbie Lord was asked to develop social stories for individuals served by KenCrest’s transition age after-school program, EDUCARE. “We were developing stories to help these kids, many of who are kids with autism, understand the appropriate things to do and how to act in certain situations.” Lord said. KenCrest received several grants to help with this project.

The Mi-Stories work in numerous ways. People with disabilities are able to watch the stories and hear and see appropriate behavior and social interaction. They also hear a scripted social scenario that describes how to act and interact all while watching the story. Also, with the iPod, the story can be utilized right before or during the activity, if necessary.

Debbie Lord has made presentations on Mi-Stories at the American Speech Language and Hearing Association in 2008 and 2009 and the Council for Exceptional Children National and Sate conference in 2009 and will make numerous other presentations over the next year."

All the best,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Birth to 3, Early Intervention and Technology Featured on FCTD

My EI/ECSE work with AT is always a joy as I get to sit and play with these little ones using AAC and switches, etc. I am always looking for more information to make my job more effective as I match AT with small children's needs. This issue of the Family Center on Technology and Disability is featuring resources and interviews around Early Intervention. I would highly recommend checking it out - especially if you work in that arena.

Here is what they share:

"Delivering early intervention services to families in remote rural areas has long been a challenge to service providers. Technology has, for the past twenty years, held the promise of helping to reach those families. Yet limited access to computers and the Internet has hampered efforts to use technology to overcome geographic barriers. Now, however, more than ever before, growing familiarity with, and access to technology has raised the hope that distance technologies will make possible "virtual home visits" and with them, increased service to families of young children.
This month we're pleased to bring you the insights of Sue Thain Olsen and Amy Henningson of the Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD). Their center received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Steppingstones of Technology Innovation for Children with Disabilities program. Under the grant, they and their colleagues have been researching the benefits and challenges of providing virtual home visits as part of the early intervention services for which they are responsible. Their research will help inform the efforts of many others throughout the country."
Download a printer-friendly pdf of the newsletter.
All the best to you!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Great Ebook Sites for AIM

I am facilitating a day workshop on Accessible Instructional Materials. The presenters were from OTAP. There were some sites they shared that are resources for ebooks. I thought I would share them with you.

accessible book collection
project gutenberg
kidthing - NEA Read Across America


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