Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adapted Wii Games for Students with Orthopedic Impairments

Wii games can be adapted for exercise and play for those with severe orthopedic impairments. As we have been developing Wii therapy for students, our work has been more limited in the area of severe orthopedic impairment but we have developed the use of a game mat with a game called Outdoor Challenge and we have set the accompanying game pad on a rocker board and have folded it around triple thick cardboard custom cut to fit the width of the mat and support a student. We fold it so the middle row with the right and left arrows (like on a dance pad) are across the cardboard and rocker board. We then carefully set the student on the pad and have one person support from behind while others do the hand over hand assist to steer and press. It involves three people so to release 3 para-pros to work with one student is a luxury many teachers don't have. Because of this it is harder to get class time at school when it can be done as a daily therapy tool. We have also set the cardboard and pad on a laptray on a wheelchair and supported the student to use arms and hands to press the arrows down while arms rest on the tray.
The Outdoor Challenge game has a pipe slider activity that allows the player to sit on a sled and slide down a large tube. By patting with the left or right hand on the pad, the player can steer down the pipe slide to run over target arrows lit up in blue that shoot them down the tube faster.

Pipe Slide:

We have used hand over hand assist to work with students that have poor muscle tone and are stiff. We have found that the activity is exciting for the students and allows their mind to be entertained. The distraction helps relax the hand/wrist/arm during the manipulation/assist. We have seen the rocker board help in creating the leaning motion and assist in balance goals.
The game is getting harder to find but can still be found online if you do a search. It is Active Life Outdoor Challenge for Wii.
I have seen recently a switch controller for Guitar Hero. It would be a fun adaption for those with limited hand movement or with a head array. You can see one at Enabling Devices.
Another game a nurse colleague uses with her son who is in a wheelchair is Let's Tap. See the You tube video below:

There are some great games that help strengthen and work on muscle tone as well as have fun, all at the same time. Check them out, but remember to use care and caution when moving and working with children who have orthopedic impairments. If you have any doubts about what you can do or limitations, consult a doctor, specialist, OT or PT before starting any of these on your own.

All the best to you!

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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wii, Kinect and Gaming Technique for Therapy and Disabilities

The Wii has been a great tool for us to use in therapy with students in our school districts. Now we see the new sensor controller-less systems hitting the market and they are all over the TV and their sales are hot this Christmastime. What are the differences in these two kind of systems when looking at therpeutic uses?
An occupational therapist team member and I have been busy at work on building and expanding trials for our therapeutic model for using the Wii with students with disabilities. We have broken it down into 3 domains, physical, cognitive and social/communication. As we have done trials with students, we have found that the game play/strategy that is involved in correcting upper body movements and body/eye coordination, build balance and strengthen cognitive abilities for problem solving and strategizing on even basic levels. We are excited as we further develop our data collection and break down the skills and objectives that the active Wii games can strengthen.

Kinect in the mix - some initial thoughts:
The other day as we were going over some of our notes and findings, we got on the topic of the new Kinect add-on to the X Box for controller-less game play while moving the body like with the Wii. I can see the new sensor systems that bypass hardware you hold as being the new frontier, but the handheld Wii controllers give you the opportunity to still develop the hand and wrist movements in a way that these new systems cannot. It is also more fun than stringing beads and other conventional activities that can get mundane for kids. I am sure that the new Kinect games work areas of upper and lower body awareness, space, coordination, balance and build on cognitive process for problem solving and stragy building. They also require hand movements, but don't have something you hold for grip and movement stregthening. There is also something important about the tangible stepping up on a fit board and balancing that is lost just standing in place on the floor.

Ablegamers has put out a 2 part series on the Kinect and have reviewed the system's strengths and weaknesses for those in the disabled community. It doesn't address the ramifications of the new controller-less sensor systems on therapeutic applications, but is a great review of the system and how Microsoft to them into consideration in the research and development.

We are in our second year of trials at 2 new schools and hopefully we will have a manual, data collection forms and an objective/skill-based grid that spans the three domains sometime next year. This is taking time but we want to do it right. Check back now and then and we will keep you posted and let you know when something is ready. Hopefully our model it will be general enough so that it can apply across multiple game systems - we will keep the Kinect in mind as we press on.

All the best to you!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Windows 7 and Office 2010: Accessibilty Options and Screen Magnification

Windows 7 and Office 2010 have some great accessibility options you should check out. In an article on accessibility options from Microsoft, they explain that with our economy in decline, older employees are choosing to work instead of retire which means that vision and accessibility are a more important issue for accessibility on computers in the workplace. Read about their accessibility checker and screen magnifier as well as a college student taking advantage of them.
All the best!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Teens Shy to use AAC in Public? Check out Selena Gomez!

To all of you out there struggling to learn and teach the use of dynamic devices for AAC:

Here is a must-see for any hesitant users that are teens and think it is “uncool” to use a Dynavox – Selena Gomez of Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” just blew that theory all to pieces – check out this video – gave me goose bumps to see a device used conversationally – from the Dynavox Website.
Dynavox used by Selena Gomez video
Here are more videos of successful users by health diagnosis category.
Thanks to all of you that are helping kids communicate everyday!

All the best,

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Reading Bookshare Files on the iPad

I recently needed to find out if Bookshare files could be read on an iPad. Since Bookshare itself does not list the iPad as a tool to read their books I asked help from my friends at OTAP (Oregon Technology Access Program). The link below from "I Can Work This Thing" tells you how.
Will this transfer the images from NIMAS file textbooks too? Anyone know? Let us know if you find out.

Bookshare Books on the iPad

There is a link on the tutorial to epub2go - the link is dead so go there through this one instead: epub2go sorry for any confusion.

All the best...

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Never Under-estimate where Financial Support will Show up for AT!

I am excited today that I am getting ready to deliver a brand new Dell laptop loaded with Clicker 5 and a new scanner donated for a middle school student I serve. I can't give out any name or location but I can share his story.
He trialed a laptop and we used a scanner to scan text and worksheets as text files. We pasted the text into Clicker 5 (free trial download) for him to hear and to fill in questions and worksheets. He uses a mouse and the on-screen keyboard in Clicker 5 to input his work. The assistants were excited because he was finally able to access the text and write answers independently without them having to do it for him. The catch was funding a laptop, software and scanner.
I told the school that we would look outside their funding first and do all we could to find a way to purchase one. I wanted it to be HIS laptop to take with him wherever he might go.
I submitted a request with a children's hospital fund but it didn't go through. About mid-summer I had to let the family know that I would still be looking but our resources weren't panning out.
Of all places, I was at a BBQ with friends and an old friend, retired military was in town and we got to talking about my work, AT kids needs etc. Out of the blue he asked, "Do you have any particular projects you are looking at for kids right now that I could help with?"
"You bet!" I said. I told him about the need to purchase a laptop, Clicker 5 and a scanner.
"I'll get a check off in the mail to you in a week or so." he replied.

Sure enough a check arrived, I ordered the equipment, got everything loaded and we are taking it out next week! Never underestimate where you can find channels for money for kid's equipment. I share needs all the time. I am so grateful for those wonderful people who are generous givers to kid's causes. This post goes out as a thanks to my friend - you know who you are... Thanks SO much!

All the best to you!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Dr. Brian Friedlander: Don Johnston Sponsors Free Webinar

A year into ARRA funding, and
only a year left. Now what?
Don Johnston has invited Dr. Brian Friedlander to share stories of districts in New Jersey who have used ARRA funding in creative ways to build their AT programs.
The webinar will also help you answer these questions:
√ What are some of the misconceptions about ARRA funding?
√ How can I advocate for ARRA funding?
√ What has worked for other districts?
√ What kind of implementation plan should I present to my special ed director?
√ Once I have the funding, how can I use it most effectively?

Wed September 22nd
Wed September 29th

12:00 PM CDT
1:00 PM Eastern
10:00 AM Pacific

Sign up now

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

iPad Apps for AAC

It is time to face the beginning of another school year. I am driving to a rural area 2 hours away to help set up an iPad for a yougster entering 1st grade. I was searching for some reviews and ideas for this boy when I came across a very helpful review on the iPad and AAC. Although it is not adressing young children, from an adult user viewpoint it was great.

The blog is "Do it Myself - Glenda Watson Hyatt". She covers Using the iPad as an Affordable Communication Device.

If you are looking at an iPad to accommodate a disability, I would recommend reading it.

All the best!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Readability: Great Way to Read the Web

Want to read your web pages in a format you want at the click of a button?
Try Readability, an arc90 experiment. Just choose your format style, the font size and margin spacing, combine them in a customized "bookmarklet" and add to your browser toolbar and you can see the content clean and enlarged the way you like it. You can even email the article to someone in your format style. There is a video on the home page which shows you how to install the bookmarklet.
Check it out!
All the best,

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seeing Success? Think Your Job is Done? Think Again!

With summer around the corner, I am beginning to get the sense that folks are starting to wrap up and wind down already. Not me! I am seeing great things happen and I want to squeeze every last drop out of it all as long as I can. My thoughts go to some of the successes I am seeing after a long year of observing, setting up trials and implementation.

I have a second grader who has his new laptop, Clicker 5 and a trackball. His staff has bought in and he is gaining computer skills. It has taken all year to get the staff and student trained and he is starting to turn in his written work along with the class - a success in the making!
There is the high school girl I see that has myriads of words and ideas cascading through her brain and converging all at once until her syntax and conversation is a broken jumble. You can imagine what that does to her writing! With Xmind Mind Mapping and DSpeech, she has been able to map out her thoughts, write out her sentences in DSpeech and hear them in a cohesive orderly form - you should have seen her face the first time she heard what she wrote come out with text to speech and say and mean what she really wanted. I have shown her teachers the strategy and they are using it with her to self-accommodate her writing - AND - the programs will be on EVERY computer in the building this next year for all the students to use.
One of my more severely health impaired students in an outlying rural community has had a laptop speech device and Kurzwewil 3000 on it, but has not really tapped my services to help implement accessible instructional materials plans. Out of desperation, the school finally pulled me in to consult with the team and get them thinking and building a protocol for getting lesson plans, handouts, worksheets, etc. collected early and identify terxtbooks and literature to access from Bookshare. They have collected all he needs for the first 3 months of next year so we can get things scanned and downloaded and ready to go next week. Wow! Another success in its' formative stages.
I could go on with other stories of great kids who are seeing assistive technology integration that is working and supporting them - and I could be tempted to sit back and go "Whew! That was a long haul and now it is in place. I can rest on the accomplishments and move on to somene else." But that would be the biggest mistake I could make!
There is the aftermath of a big push, after all the equipment has been acquired, folks have bought in, and you think the staff has got it. That is when we think as assistive technology specialists that it is OK for us to fade into the background and busy ourselves with the next big push and move on.
That is when you need to roll up your sleeves and make sure the implementation is ongoing and plan out your roles with staff and know who is doing what, how, when and where. Make sure there is accountability and be the team's best cheering section.
Implementation will make or break the assistive technology plan put in place. With summer around the corner take every effort to get pieces in place so you have something to build on next fall.

All the best to you!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Calling for iTouch App Ideas for Special Needs: What Do You Use?

I had a parent send me this video clip today and asked if I had a resource list of apps she might use with her son. He is in 3rd grade and we are introducing Clicker 5 on a laptop to him and he is developing computer skills and writing with the grids.

We have an iTouch in our loan center but have had some glitches in setting up an account and getting funding released at work to put into gift cards to buy apps - one of which is the proloquo2go app. I use Speak it! and have looked more at augmentative communication apps. Here is a list from egolfer on scribd for iPhone, iPad and iTouch Apps for Special education. He has a great list all categorized. I would like to hear from you on things you use and have found success with.

What are you using? We would love any ideas and suggestions you have as to what you are finding for the iTouch/iPhone. If you add a comment with your suggestions, I will start a sidebar list for everyone of what we turn up. Also, if you want to email me at lonthornburg@nolimitstolearning.com I can read and share what you send if you don't want to leave a comment.

All the best to to you!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Making IT Plan Implementation Work for Integrating AT/AIM in Schools

I work in a large region with about 12 school districts, 4 ESD's and the eastern half of the state of Oregon. It is hard to organize tools that can be on all computers for all students to create self-accommodation. I am always looking for ideas to help me integrate AT into IT plans in districts. Besides the task of sometimes convincing them of the need, there is the training and implementation once tools get loaded and out in the schools. The Family Center on Technology and Disability has released their March 2010 newsletter/magazine. These issues from FCTD are great resources and this one is dedicated to IT Plan Implementation: Making Change a Friend.
Check out this issue if you are looking at how to partner with IT in your district to implement AT or AIM tools and strategies.
All the best to you!


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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breaking news on Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials: DIAGRAM

Breaking News for AIM!
This press release just in from Benetech...

"U.S. DOE, OSEP awarded Benetech, along with partners WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and the U.S. Fund for DAISY, a $5 million, five-year award to establish an R&D center to transform the production of accessible digital images. DIAGRAM stands for (Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials).

Who benefits: U.S. students with print disabilities

About the DIAGRAM partners:

. Benetech, NCAM and USFDAISY have led technology initiatives that
fundamentally changed how people with visual and print disabilities
experience and interact with all forms of media, from the DAISY standard to
the Bookshare library to NCAM's work on image descriptions.
. All 3 have strong track record of working productively with
technology developers and hardware and software manufacturers to design and
extend accessibility features for people with print disabilities.

DIAGRAM's mission:

. develop simple and cost-effective tools and best practices for
producers of accessible instructional materials, such as publishers and
state and local education agencies
. expand the field of image description and interactive exploration
of graphical content
. increase the understanding of accessible image production and
access strategies
. create open-source tools to make graphic content more accessible
and widely available
. make a broad range of general education curriculum accessible and
graphically understandable
. accelerate the development and inclusion of accessibility
specifications for high-quality images in electronic publishing standards to
support implementation by technology developers
. advance national efforts toward providing more equality of access
to benefit people with print disabilities.


. Fewer than 5% of books are available in accessible format.
. Burden of accessible image preparation typically falls on
educators who have limited time and tools to create useful descriptions or
accessible graphics.
. Barriers to accessing information pose fundamental challenges for
students with print disabilities.
. Students using text-based accessible instructional materials are
presented with only the words "image" or "graphic" when using software
devices that encounter illustrations, equations, graphics, photos or
diagrams in digital textbooks.
. Numerous studies cite how students with disabilities benefit from
digital resources that offer flexible, multi-modal methods of interacting
with content. "

All the best to you!


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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No Limits to Learning on Best 100 Blogs for Classroom Teachers

Online Degrees comes out with a Best 100 Blogs list every year and this is the second year in a row that No Limits to Learning has been included in the list. I am in very good company with some of my colleagues who do a fantastic job.
The Assistive Technology category includes 8 other blogs that you will find great resources.
Check them out on the link above.

All the best to you!


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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 Drawspace.com 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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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Notebook on Print Disability Resources from Oregon Interagency AT Meeting

At our Portland, Oregon AT Interagency meeting on February 8, we discussed Accessible Instructional Materials. Below are some of the ideas and concerns that were shared on methods, tools and struggles implementing text in alternate formats and readers, etc.

Student Eligibility - Bookshare accounts need to be managed and teachers need a system to track and manage files to make sure everyone is in compliance.
Wynn, Premiere, SOLO and Natural Reader have been used. RFBD has a free individual account - (parents can sign kids up - schools can't do this) digital download now.
When it comes to an organic dysfunction, parents are going to the doctor and getting a certifiable designation letter to submit. Schools aren't getting the letters from the doctor, but they are using a form letter that gives the doctor guidelines and parents can take it when they visit.

The Don Johnston Reader - Read OutLoud is free on Bookshare to download and use to read books. It was shared that if you download files from the reader vs. doing a Bookshare title search and download, it seems to be easier.
National Geographice Young Explorer - you can go online and access the issue and you can click on the page and it will read in a nice voice. Great reasourecs for free open titles are Library 2 Go and Gutenberg.org.
Teacher Curriculum Institute has titles on website. Email them and they send you a form, you return and they send file if they have the title
Pearson Publications have the online purchase file of text as option. A lot of the textbook companies will charge $7 in addition to the purchase of the book in hardcover to add the E-version. Some will throw a couple of the E version files in when a lot of books are being bought in a district.

Comments on NIMAS:
NIMAS book files with images are huge and the Read OutLoud software does the best job of all the readers at opening thye files but the books will freeze up when trying to get to page 200 - have to scroll through the pages.
There are issues with districts having locked computers so that students can't independently download anything - so there are steps to get the files downloaded and then unzipped and put on a students file area on the networked server space. The IT have to give the AT person a code and then they do the download - but not sustainable in the longrun.

Applications being used or tried:
Kurzweil 3000
Victor Reader WAVE
Natural Reader with the pay voices
Eclipse Reader
Jaws for Windows
Ruby software
Freedom Scientific, Sara - a stand alone scanner with voice output - $2000.

There are district trends to put software through an adoption process so that there is a uniform software the district uses and trains to use.

All the best,


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Monday, February 8, 2010

A Grab Bag of AT Ideas from Oregon Interagency Meeting

I am in Portland, Oregon today with all our districts and ESD's as we share on what is happening in our area with assistive technology. I have heard some great ideas and thought I would share what they are doing in summary.

Many are using the SETT model for assessing and implementing AT. They are also using the WATI consideration guide. Data collection/trials can last up to 3 months depending on the district.

ARA funds are being spent on NEO keyboards, K3000, Intel Readers. Autism kits were built using Boardmaker, Time Timers, GoTalk Ones, Clicker 5, Cheap Talk 8.

There were some great ideas. I don't have a lot of details on them, but you can see what
Proloquo2go, iTouch and administrating iTunes account - went to Costco and bought gift cards with the district credit card and then bought Proloquo2go. They have limited the code to open the iTunes account to their AT administrator.
Natural Reader is being used.
Paper Port/scanner to scan tests take and print out.
Loved this one...iTouch with the Nike sensors tied onto shoes and recording walking times and distances. They upload the data and students look at graphs and work on better distances and times. This has been developing more independence and motivation to exercise.
One ESD has developed an online data base that holds a lot of the free online Boardmaker, Intellitools activity exchange and Clicker 5 teacher-made activities in one place.
Using Office 07 Access template for asset inventory (they downloaded a free template Lending Library from the business category of online templates) to build an equipment data base.
Porta Portal - a free web based link organizer open to everyone - used by Saint Helens School District.

Redmond School District did a one day training open to certified staff and trained them on print disability and text to speech tools. The teachers left with Mp3 players, flash drives, and notebooks with directions and ideas. They did a survey later and found that not very many had used them. The team re-grouped and got a tech/IT guy to be a tech support for them. They collaborate with IT on training and getting out in classrooms to model how to use the tools. They are using Premiere Literacy software to get students with print disabilities access to text. They have been doing training of counselors for students that are on 504's and need support for vocational and college prep counseling/expulsion counseling - what AT will do to support these students and help them graduate.
Redmond has also been integrating Flip video and sharing videos for assessment and showing them to students for self-assessment. It has strengthened their program. There is a digital wish site that will give 2 for 1 when you buy if you prove you are an educator.

National Initiatives:
Gayl Bowser shared on RESNA and that they were at the ATIA conference they asked how they could be helpful to AT specialists and make IDEA mandates enforceable. she also shared on the QIAT (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology) Summit June 22 and 23 in Fort Lauderdale FL area. If you would like to be involved in collaborating with a work group to strengthen the processes for AIM, you might want to attend. The cost is only $40 for both days and your travel and housing is on your own.

All the best,


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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 http://www.talkingpoint.org.uk/
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!