Thursday, February 28, 2008


P-Scales is the UK's new curriculum for students who are not yet functioning at level one on the national curriculum. Please, for the love of everything scared, would the state of Massachusetts take note and drop the sham of forcing teachers of students who are functioning, say five or more years below age level, to pretend they are learning algebra and physics. Please?

Website of the Day: Larry Ferlazzo's English Themes for Beginners and Early Intermediate

As I have written before I often use ESL/ELL materials for my students, as it is an easy way to find simple materials that are age appropriate.

Larry Ferlazzo's website provides a plethora of links to great sites divided by theme. On my most recent visit I was looking for materials to teach reading through cooking activities and I found exactly what I needed. I wish I had checked Larry's site first.

There are over fifty themes to chose from on the website with great links under each and even more themes on Larry's Beginner Page.

More resources are available on his teacher page and I strongly recommend signing up for his blog on your RSS reader.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Visual Glossary Attachments to IEPS and Educational Evaluations

A few years ago I started adding visual glossary attachments to IEPS and Educational Evaluations. These glossaries are simple to create. For the IEPs I write down all of the equipment a student uses in a day or week, such as a supine stander, a wheelchair tray, a maroon spoon, a Jelly Bean switch, dycem, wrist splints, etc. Then I go to the website of the vendor of each item, cut and paste an image, the description of the item, the name of the item and the website to a word processor document. Once it is complete I attach it to the IEP. That way parents and administrators have an image of what we are talking about and if the student moves the receiving teachers and therapists will know what we are using.

For educational evaluations I do the same thing for any equipment, assistive technology or specific curriculum I am recommending.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Voice is My Power - Part Two A Personal Story

Before you read this go down two posts and watch the My Voice is My Power video from the 1 Voice Website.

In my career the most expert AAC user I have ever taught was a young man who is now a student at a residential school. This past school vacation week I had the privilege of providing a day of respite care for him while his parents worked. As I told his parents I was excited to do this because I miss him very much.

Unfortunately the school did not send his communication device home for the school vacation. That made a what I was expecting to be a fun day for the two of us very challenging. I spoke with my friend who was this student's speech therapist much of his life before he moved on to his new school and she said what I had been thinking, "When he has his device you don't even think of him as non-verbal."

His voice is his AAC device and his AAC device is his power. With his device he can express pretty much any thought or idea. He can navigate his world. Over and over again during the day we spent together I realized how much independence was taken from him and replaced by dependence by not having that box of talking pictures hanging from a strap around his neck.

For example we went to Wendy's for lunch. I have been out to eat with this young man too many times to count and I have never had to order for him. He is perfectly capable of using his device to order for himself. This time we were reduced to partner assisted auditory scanning. I had to name the menu items:

"Burger. Chicken Sandwich. Chicken nuggets. Fish Sandwich..."

He got distracted and started banging the railing dividing the lines waiting to order.

I pulled his attention back and recited again, "Burger. Chicken Sandwich."

He interrupted with a "yes" response.

I say, "O.K. Chicken Sandwich..."

He interrupts with a definite "no" response.

I reassure him and start over, "Burger. Chicken sandwich. Chicken nuggets. Fish sandwich."

He responds "yes" to the fish sandwich and I tell him that is what I am having too. We move on to side choices. I recite, "Fries. Yogurt. Chili. Baked Potato."

He walks away distracted by a huge poster of the fish sandwich. He excitedly points to it and I affirm that we are having the fish sandwich. It will look like that. I redirect back to side choices (inwardly groaning because we are next in line and we still need to decide on a drink choice and thanking God we do not need to choose a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets). I start over, "You need to choose a side. I am having a baked potato. The choices are fries. Yogurt. Chili. Baked potato."

I repeat so he can choose, "Fries. Yogurt."

He responses "yes."

"Ok, yogurt it is." Then I abandon best practice. It is our turn, "You want Diet Coke, right?" He indicates "yes". I silently thank God.

I order two Fish sandwich combos with Diet Coke, medium, one with yogurt, one with baked potato. Then he grabs my arm and starts rather frantically pointing at the sign displaying the kids meal. I shake my head no. He grabs my arm again and points more discreetly to the milk in the display.

"Oh, you want milk? Not Diet Coke?"

Yes, yes, yes, he responds. I change the order. The red headed Wendy's worker, who had to have been hired for the red hair, starts to get annoyed.

We finally get our meal and sit down and I do my best to keep up an entertaining conversation while my former student, now friend, comments with noises, adapted sign language and the occasional word or phrase.

As we are about to clean up I tell him that when he comes home in April (the next school vacation, when we are hanging out again) he better bring his ChatPC (AAC device) with him because it took us almost ten minutes to figure out his order when he could have placed it all by himself in under two minutes. He nods empathetically, agreeing to bring it home with him.

His voice is his power, if only he had had it with him.

New AAC Device from the SmartBox Company in the UK

The SmartBox company in the UK has released a new AAC device, the Powerbox 4. here are the specs from their website:

The new PowerBox 4 is the latest generation of our successful PowerBox.


In sleek black, the all-new device seamlessly integrates a powerful touchscreen tablet computer with a bespoke back box unit, housing accessories for communication and environment control.

The PowerBox 4 combines the power of a Windows XP tablet computer, in a sleek lightweight form, with a 12.1" LCD touchscreen that can respond to finger touch.

Other access options include switch input, with the option for radio switches, as well as head-pointer, keyboard and mouse.


  • Battery: around six hours
  • Weight: 5lb
  • Dimensions: 11.53" x 8.66" x 2.5"
  • Screen: 12.1" touch screen
  • Built-in Environment Control
  • Switch input
  • Sound amplification from twin speakers


  • Wheelchair power adaptor
  • RAdio link for switches


A range of mounting options, from built-in desk stand to optional Daessy wheelchair or VESA arm mounts makes it an ideal solution for many users.

Back of Powerbox

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Voice is My Power

The Plasma Screen and White Board Room

Here is a link to a fantastic page of activities and resources for what is called in the UK P-scales special needs students (P-scales is what in Massachusetts is awareness level of the curriculum, elsewhere it is called emerging level or cause and effect level). I have not yet explored all of the activities, but the ones I have are excellent. The site is called the Plasma Screen and White Board Room. If you don't have a Plasma Screen or White Board, a touch screen will do. The link only seems to be working if you get to it by going through the ttrb SEN site and then clicking on the link to the Plasma Screen and White Board Room at the bottom of the page.

The activities are designed to work on Power Point, Opus or SMART Notebook (viewers are available if you do not have the applications). The areas of the curriculum offered match the UK national curriculum (kind of like logging into the UK part of Learning Grids for Clicker 5). Some notes: RE is Religious Education, PMLD is Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (look here for cause and effect, scanning, social/sensory stories), Design and Technology often includes cookery, PSHE is personal, social and health education.

Take some time and explore some time and download some activities. Then upload some in return!

Web Site of the Day: Gab Sight

Gab Sight is a new, free and simple video e-mail program. It is the easiest program of its kind I have seen. Gab Mail allows you to send one e-video and Gab Jam allows you to send the same e-videos to multiple recipients.

Like the video cards I posted about below this website allows you to use a web camera to send videos of AAC users as e-mails to their friends and families. What a wonderful way to motivate emerging communicators and improve the skills of developing communicators.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Attention Bay Area Teachers

Have you been walking around with a great classroom idea in your head for weeks? Maybe you even got as far as drafting a proposal at Well, now’s the time to take the next step! For a limited time we invite Bay Area teachers to submit any proposal at and our sponsors will fund the first $50. That's right - $50 for every proposal submitted by February 26th!

What do I have to do?
Submit your project idea(s) by Tuesday, February 26th!

What if I already have a project posted?
Submit another (and another and another)! Remember, a first-time user can submit up to 3 requests; a veteran can have even more projects posted at any given time. Any Bay Area proposal submitted by February 26th will receive $50.

What’s the fine print?

  • You must be an educator in the Bay Area and submit your proposal(s) by Tuesday, February 26th.
  • Only NEW proposals are eligible – we will not fund a proposal that is already posted.
  • Application of funding may take up to five days, so we thank you in advance for your patience.
Share the wealth - spread the word!

Jonathon Stewart
Teacher Engagement Manager Northwest

Barker Creek

One of the great things that has happened as a result of writing this blog is contact with other educators, bloggers, parents of children with disabilities and people who own or work for companies that make for products for people with disabilities.

Last night I was contacted via the Meebo instant messaging button over on the left of the blog by the Barker Creek company. Barker Creek makes a number of great products but the one I had written about on my blog is Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbol Magnets. I have a full set of these in my classroom and we love them, and we have had visitors leave with photocopies of the catalog and order form because they wanted their own set.

During my chat with the Barker Creek representative last night I suggested the Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbol set I wish they sold, a schedule set. I already use the magnets on a bright red cookie sheet as a schedule board, but some common schedule items are missing and a package of schedule related PCS magnets would be great. Look for it in the next year or so the representative said!

Follow Up on Dream Changes for Boardmaker 7

I know most folks don't follow the comments on this blog (because of how I have it set up, mostly). So I thought I would repost the Dream Changes for Boardmaker 7 Post with the Comments from readers and Mayer-Johnson and myself.

My Dream Changes for Boardmaker 7

  • automatically fit, align and justify text in buttons according to user settings
  • a setting to make all text the same pre-set font on a board
  • a setting to lock multiple images in a button so that swap and shuffle still works went you combine images into the same button
  • a menu bar item to automatically take you to Mayer-Johnson sharing and another to publish your board to Mayer-Johnson sharing (like in Clicker 5)
  • a point system that gives you rewards for publishing boards to Mayer-Johnson sharing (like Intellitools)
  • a symbol in the symbol finder that can be pasted on your board that adds the Mayer-Johnson Copyright to the board in the button shape/size/font that you select
  • a menu bar item that "pops out" one board for you to view in "fit to screen" size when you are making boards in a multiple board layout
  • integrated "Make a Face" and for added flare it could work from digital images of people turing into PCS images -- oh-la-la
  • a feature that alerts you when the new addendum comes out, lets you link to the MJ website, purchase the addendum, download and install and and have the CD follow in the mail
  • a way to designate ASL or SEE when using the sign addendums
  • menu bar item that allows you to set Symbolate to be primarily in PCS, Widgit, ASL or SEE (if you have those addendums)
  • worksheet templates in the templates folder including matching, spelling, cut and paste, tracing, scissors, and other basics
  • stay tuned for more...


Linda said...

The ability to rotate a symbol and the word with it so that you can mae folding items (like cards, etc.) would be great too.

geenen said...

Thanks for putting out these great suggestions. We’re always interested to hear what people want next that will make their lives easier and more productive.

I wanted to point out at least one thing that Boardmaker v6 can already do that was on your list. The swap buttons and shuffle buttons commands do work on buttons with multiple images as long as those buttons are the same size. Hopefully that’s helpful to you.

Also, you mentioned making the font all the same on a board. Right now, you are able to select all buttons on a board and change the font on all the buttons at one time. However, if you have text that is not on a button, you are not able to select that at the same time, so you have to do that separately.

When you are installing the sign language symbols, you can choose whether to install ASL or SEE. However, if you have them both installed, you are correct, there isn’t an easy way to choose between them. That’s a great suggestion.

Could you explain what you meant by a tool that would “pop out” one board. It kind of sounds like previewing what the board will look like in Use mode, but maybe I’m not understanding the idea.

Thanks again for the suggestions!

Bob Geenen
Director of Product Development

Kate said...

Thanks for listening to us, geenen, I am pretty sure you don't understand what I mean about multiple images and swap/shuffle. So try this. Make five or six button. Put two images in each button, for example book and clock, water and cup, walk and shoes, milk and straw, lotion and music. Now select all the button and shuffle. You will see that the pairs do not stay together. Very annoying.

What I mean by a "pop out" is when I am making multiple boards by changing the "print setup" to say, 32 by 32 inches, and I want to see just one board full size on my screen (so I don't spell something wrong or mess up the details) I have to go to view and then scroll to that board, which is hard on a laptop. It would be nice to hit something, a keyboard short cut, a menu button, and have the board I am looking at in miniature pop up larger automatically.

Also what I meant by text automatically adjusting is that in symbol finder I wish there was an "automatic" choice among the font choices that allowed made the title of the symbol fit in the button at the largest size without overspilling the sides of the button.

Thanks for taking our suggestions!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sensory Rooms On the Cheap - revisited

Some time ago, (last March) I wrote a blog post about doing Sensory Rooms on a budget. Now that Donors Choose is in the picture I would strongly recommend you use Donors Choose grants to get the materials you need for a sensory room is you work in a school. However, here are the links from last years post, they have been checked for 404 and other errors and there are some new additions.

Here are links to some products that are under $100:Best Bet Companies
Here are some ideas of how to set up and things to do in a sensory room:
Commercial Sensory Room Products (NOT CHEAP):
Images in slideshow from:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Time to Rethink the Eye Contact Objectives

The British Journal of Developmental Psychology recently published a study which was written about in Seed Magazine about the role of eye contact aversion and cognitive load reduction.

It seems that when a person is challenged with a task that person naturally looks away in order to decrease cognitive load and increase problem solving ability. It would seem to me then that our students, who frequent have substantial issues with eye contact, look away for the same reasons, but more frequently because simpler tasks are more challenging to them.

In the long run the jury is still out on where people look when they look away and on exactly why, but I know that this study gave me pause when I think about my students who have or have had eye contact objectives in their IEPs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Free Boardmaker Boards, Activities and Tutorials

This will be the permanent link for the Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs listing of free Boardmaker boards. Please bookmark that link if you need to. It was last updated March 22, 2013.

Please feel free to send me links of pages that host boards and activities in any language. You can find out more about Boardmaker at Mayer-Johnson.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Dream Changes for Boardmaker 7

  • automatically fit, align and justify text in buttons according to user settings
  • a setting to make all text the same pre-set font on a board
  • a setting to lock multiple images in a button so that swap and shuffle still works went you combine images into the same button
  • a menu bar item to automatically take you to Mayer-Johnson sharing and another to publish your board to Mayer-Johnson sharing (like in Clicker 5)
  • a point system that gives you rewards for publishing boards to Mayer-Johnson sharing (like Intellitools)
  • a symbol in the symbol finder that can be pasted on your board that adds the Mayer-Johnson Copyright to the board in the button shape/size/font that you select
  • a menu bar item that "pops out" one board for you to view in "fit to screen" size when you are making boards in a multiple board layout
  • integrated "Make a Face" and for added flare it could work from digital images of people turing into PCS images -- oh-la-la
  • a feature that alerts you when the new addendum comes out, lets you link to the MJ website, purchase the addendum, download and install and and have the CD follow in the mail
  • a way to designate ASL or SEE when using the sign addendums
  • menu bar item that allows you to set Symbolate to be primarily in PCS, Widgit, ASL or SEE (if you have those addendums)
  • worksheet templates in the templates folder including matching, spelling, cut and paste, tracing, scissors, and other basics
  • stay tuned for more...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tale of Triumph

There is a student in my class who has been with me since September of 2001. When he arrived he had very little understandable spoken language (in fact he was trialled on an AAC device then he was determined to have hearing loss, which was treated with hearing aides and intensive speech therapy). He also had no reading, writing or numeracy skills, and he had significant maladaptive behavior.

Today he is 20 years old and we went to the local bank for him to open an account. (We had parental permission for this and all of the needed items like money, ID, etc. We prepped for this for years.) He introduced himself saying, "I would like to open an account, please." He was able to answer all of the questions regarding address, telephone number, social security number, etc. He filled out the paperwork himself. He explained to the clerk the difference between checking and savings ("checking for everyday, like grocery; saving for big things, save up, like karaoke machine."). At one point he stopped the process and said, "Excuse me, may I use your bathroom?". (Such manners my student has!)

During the process the other student who was with us became very jealous, she wanted a bank account too, (she is a device user, only her device had lost its charge and she used adapted sign to tell us "mad" and "jealous"). The student opening the account excused himself again, turned around, and told his friend that it was okay, that he is much older than she is and that some day she would open an account too. The clerks had tears in their eyes.

I didn't well up myself until the entire 45 minute process was over. At the very end, when all of the forms were filled out and my student had an envelope of blank checks and a temporary ATM card, the clerk shook his hand and thanked him, asking him if he had any questions. He said, "Yes, I have a question."

My heart sank. My student has three perseverative questions he asks (all day long) including, "Am I getting tall?", "Am I buff?", and "Am I doing a good job?" I assumed one of these was about to come out of his mouth. I was wrong. Instead he asked, "I am responsible now?"

Tears filled my eyes. The clerk explained that, yes, he was responsible for keeping track of his money, not losing his card and making sure that no one tricks him out of his money.

Happy Valentine's Day to me. What a feeling!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

By request: things to do with an interactive white board in our classrooms

Learners at the sensory awareness level (and learners at all levels):
  • play music (or audiobooks) using Songbird, iTunes or Windows Media with the visualization going on screen
  • show movies or movie clips on your interactive whiteboard using the computers DVD player
  • use a text to speech program to have the computer read books aloud to the class during down time, be sure to use one that highlights each word as it is read and encourages reading along
Learners at the cause and effect level:
  • use the free music videos at Priory Woods and the interactive white board as an enormous switch (unless your user needs a particular switch, then the screen is still great as a giant screen)
  • use the games at Hiyah and the screen as the switch
  • use a switch based music player such as one created with Classroom Suite or My Media Player and the entire screen as the switch
  • use any commercial switch or touch screen software and the screen as the switch
Learners at the basic skills/emerging communication level:
  • use Boardmaker Plus or Boardmaker SDP, Clicker or Classroom Suite to create a Calendar Program (or download on from the sharing websites) and replace your chart with your interactive white board.
  • use any drag and drop program and allow your students to move there whole bodies to participate
  • make an enormous interactive word wall (with Boardmaker Plus/SPD, Clicker or Classroom Suite) with picture symbols and words that says the word and definition when the word and picture is touched
  • use the interactive white board through out the day for choice making (again with Boardmaker SDP/Plus, Clicker or Classroom Suite) by having boards ready for all of the possible choices i.e. instruments for music, kinds of drinks for snack, break time activities, colors. Then you can have direct selectors touch the white board and set the computer to scan and have scanners just touch the white board any where when the white board scans to what he or she wants
  • use any basic skills, art, or other software on the interactive white board - be creative
Fun Websites to Use:
Articles about using an interactive whiteboard:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chat PC 4

The Chat PC 4 (and the Chat PC 4+ for literate communicators) has finally been released, and since the Chat PC 3 was a miserable device (at least in my personal experience) I am hoping that this beautiful new device brings the Chat PC back to its glory days of the Chat PC and the Chat PC 2, both of which I have had extensive experience programming and teaching students to use. My complaints with the Chat PC and Chat PC 2 were they were a bit fragile and that they were difficult to mount on wheelchairs, issues that seem to be resolved in the four. The colors are pretty too, as long as you like blue or black. I really, really, really hope they have resolved the horrible issues with transferring files from the Chat PC 2 to the 3, which is why we consistently told parents not to do that. Perhaps a Saltillo rep will comment and tell us how easy or hard it is to go from a Chat PC2 or 3 to a Chat PC4. That would be nice and would show the same level of responsiveness as Mayer-Johnson, Dynavox and PRC.

Here is the Saltillo website write up:

ChatPC-4 combines the newest developments in electronics with powerful language capabilities. The original ChatPC was introduced in 2000 and soon became the most widely used PDA-based communication device available. Saltillo is happy to introduce the ChatPC-4, the latest model in this versatile line of products. The ChatPC-4 builds upon the features that have made previous versions of this product so valuable, but includes many new enhancements that make it even more useful and powerful. Among the enhancements are powerful new vocabulary options, increased ruggedness and many new features that increase the flexibility and ease of use of this product.

The ChatPC, always known as a durable device, has become even more rugged in this latest model. The PDA integrated into the ChatPC-4 is a ruggedized, industrial computer, covered by a rubberized housing that offers additional protection to bumps, drops and accidents. The clear screen cover can serve as a stand when the ChatPC-4 is being used, and as a screen protector when being transported. The new case also has a convenient means of connecting to a wheelchair mounting system.

ChatPC-4 contains numerous features for adapting the vocabulary for the specific communication needs of the individual using the device. The Mayer Johnson PCS symbols and the Imagine symbols are included for customizing and creating your own pages. You can also use the included DestktopChat software to create pages and to import photos and other images from a computer. ChatPC-4 also contains pre-programmed starter vocabulary sets, which can save hours of setup time.

Another significant enhancement in ChatPC-4 is the integration of Loquendo speech synthesis. Loquendo has set the standard in the European Telecom community and is now available for the ChatPC. The Loquendo speech has a more natural sound in English and other languages. Simply by choosing different voices from a menu, the ChatPC-4 can speak English, French, or Spanish. DecTalk is also still available as an option for those who prefer the classic voice of ChatPC.

ChatPC-4 Features
-Software and hardware volume control
-On/off switch and auto power-down
-1 hour to several hours of recorded speech
-DecTalk or Loquendo synthesized speech
-The device is accessed by finger touch - no stylus required. (Note: a stylus is helpful for programming because of the small size of the controls).
-Rechargeable (Lithium-Ion) battery.
-Screen size: 3.5" (diagonal)
-12 month warranty
-Size: 2.1" x 3.5" x 6.4"
-Weight: 19 oz.

Brand New Features
In addition to the many features found on previous versions, ChatPC-4 offers many new features including:

-PalmChat, a word-based default vocabulary option that provides high-frequency core words in a 30 button page layout
-New button actions that provide word morphology
-An improved color display which is easy to read inside or outside – even in direct sunlight
-A powerful Casio palm-top computer
-An additional battery that doubles the battery life of the Casio
-All of the Casio features (stylus, connectors, control buttons) are accessible
-Now contains the Imagine symbol set in addition to the Mayer-Johnson PCS symbols

Customizing the ChatPC-4
ChatPC-4 includes many customizing capabilities that help you fine-tune the unit for the individual tastes and needs of the operator. The size, color, background and font of the keys can be customized for visual and cognitive perception. The touch-screen can be adjusted to meet the fine motor skills of the user. The messages and symbols on the keys can easily be changed.

The number of buttons on a page.
ChatPC has always allowed you to select the number of buttons on a page when you create the page. But what happens when the page is full and you still need to add a few buttons? ChatPC-4 allows you to easily change the layout of the page to add the extra buttons.

Reconfigurable keyboards
Spelling keyboard pages can now be created and modified to meet the access needs of each individual using the system.

DesktopChat Software
All customizing and programming can be done right on the ChatPC-4 itself. However, software is included which allows all of the editing and customizing to be performed on a Windows computer. The DesktopChat program also provides an easy means of importing photos and other graphics to be used as symbols on the ChatPC-4. Cables and instructions are included for downloading the vocabulary to the ChatPC-4.

Carrying Cases...
The carrying case for the ChatPC-4 is a canvas case with a clear window that allows the device to be accessed while in the case. The carrying case comes with both a shoulder strap and a waist belt. The ChatPC-4 is inserted upside down so that the individual can use one hand to bring the ChatPC-4 into position and make selections with the other hand.

Note: Medicare only funds communciation devices that cannot function as portable computers. If your funding source is Medicare or follows Medicare guidelines see ChatPC-D4+ in the Communication Devices section. The ChatPC-D4+ has all other computer functions disabled.

We want an interactive white board!

My class has a dream! (We actually have lots of dreams.) We want an interactive white board. We would love an interactive white board! It has been a rough year for us. We transferred to a barely handicapped accessible build and had many, many staff changes. We are hoping you want to help us out. Here is a link to our Donors Choose Grant to get an interactive white board!

Would you consider even giving us $20 of your tax refund?


Free AT and Tech Ideas for Higher Incidence LD

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Free Online Photo Editting

Sometimes you need to clean up an image to import it into Boardmaker or you need to resize it to use it in a teacher made book or worksheet. I tend to use the two photo editors which have add ons in Firefox, Snip Shot and Picnik, but I also us Pixenate which has more complex tools and flauntR which embellishes as well as cleans up photos. Save these links to your book marks in case you need them.

*Firefox add on available

Also VectorMagic is not a photo editor by turns images into high quality vector images like those in Boardmaker, perfect for picture you plan to import into Boardmaker. And Sporkforge which turns a photo into a sketch which is fun as well.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Website of the Day: Bubble Joy

Wouldn't it be great to have an AAC user send a video birthday card to her mom that showed her using her device to say, "Happy birthday, mom! I love you!" Bubble Joy is a great free service that allows us to help our students display their hard earned communication skills in video greeting cards. Check it out! Here is a preview of some of their site:
Welcome to Bubble Joy!
Bubble Joy is a great new video greeting card service that allows you to send richly interactive and fun video greeting cards to all your friends and family.

Whether it's a special occasion or you just want to say hello, with Bubble Joy cards, your recipients will finally be able to both see and hear what you have to say, rather then just read about it.

So get started now and starting spreading some Bubble Joy around to all your friends and family.
Send Free Valentines Greeting Cards.
Looking for a new web cam?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Springboard Lite from PRC

PRC has released a very cute device called the SpringBoard Lite. Like the Dynavox M3 it is for AAC beginners or emergent communicators. The device is pretty tiny and looks a lot like the OLPC at first glance. It is a dynamic display device using Minspeak Icons or Mayer-Johnson PCS symbols and digitized (groan - that means you record it yourself... i.e. your voice on some kids device) speech. It has all the fancy things like IR environmental controls, visual scenes, and limited bluetooth. It also has a great offer of integrated Intellitools Classroom Suite, which may end up being a real selling point. Of course it may be a Lite device, but it doesn't come at a Lite price at over $2,00o. It means committing to Minspeak for the user, which means committing to training everyone else in Minspeak and hoping the user "gets" it. Lastly I will make the same point I made about the M3, why bother getting an "emergent" user device? The price is not that different so go for the gold, just get a Springboard or a Dynavox V or whatever the non-emergent device is so the child isn't stuck with it until insurance or the district will pay for the "real thing". Plus, digitized speech, ick.

Here is the run down from the PRC website:

Ideal for AAC beginners!
SpringBoardTM Lite
Smaller. Lighter. Portable.
And ready to communicate!

PRC is proud to introduce the new SpringBoardTM Lite, a smaller, lighter, and simplified version of our popular SpringBoardTM speech output device.

Designed for children and other entry-level AAC communicators, SpringBoard Lite measures just 7.3" square... weighs just 2.5 lbs.... is available in five bold colors... and features a built-in handle for maximum portability.

Its simplified operating system makes the dedicated SpringBoard Lite easy-to-use right out of the box. And, with 4-, 8-, 15-, and 32-location display options, its communication capacity can grow along with the user's capabilities.

Vocabulary-Building Features

  • Five integrated versions of pre-stored vocabulary using 4-, 8-, 15-, and 32-location options with a special emphasis on those core words that power most speech.
  • Pre-stored Activity Row categories and vocabulary plus Pages with expanded word sets.
  • Six User Areas for creating transitional vocabularies, storing vocabularies for multiple individuals on one device, or creating and storing multiple assessment and training protocols.
  • Specially created Visual Scenes for concept and language learning.
  • Optional IntelliTools® Classroom Suite bundle.
Easy Access Methods

  • Direct selection
  • Single- and dual-switch scanning
  • Joystick
  • 8-, 15-, and 32-location clear keyguards to aid direct selection (plus custom keyguard options).
  • USB connectivity for use with headpointing systems, mouse, and mouse emulation access products.
The ease of changing access options makes SpringBoard Lite a valuable training and assessment device at schools and AAC centers.
User-Friendly Design

  • Widescreen TFT display for brighter, improved picture quality.
  • Built-in media player for playing MP3, WMA, and WAV files in stereo.
  • Infrared environmental control functions to control common IR devices, such as lights and TV/DVD players.
  • USB flash memory port and Secure Digital card slot enable faster, easier memory backup and transfer options.
  • Basic serial output to allow some computer access options.
  • Pre-loaded male and female recorded voices.
  • Optional Integrated Bluetooth® connectivity (for computer access and wireless switch use only).
Customization Aids

  • Access to over 3,000 Minspeak® icons in the device for customizing vocabulary.
  • Over 8,500 optional PCS symbols for core vocabulary, Activity Rows, and Pages.
  • Simple formats for importing icons or digital photographs to personalize the device and create Visual Scenes.
  • Simple steps to creating Activity Rows and Pages for specialized vocabulary.
  • New PRC Application and Support Software (PASSTM) has numerous special features, including an option to use simple drop-down menus plus tips and information to make it easier to customize and support the device.
Visual Scenes
Pre-loaded or custom-built Visual Scenes pages make learning vocabulary more entertaining.
Special Clinician Tools

  • Visual Scenes capability allows the creation of special teaching pages with "hot spots." Import a wide range of graphic formats, such as BMP, JPG, GIF, and many others.
  • Introductory set of therapy exercises.
  • "Exploration Wizard" for exploring targeting, picture recognition, associations, and vocabulary options.
  • "Quick Start" print guide that highlights the device's key operations.
  • PRC's Language Activity Monitoring (LAM) software for monitoring communication progress through the recording of each language "event."
  • Vocabulary can be saved and transferred into more advanced PRC devices as skills expand.
Available in Five Bold Colors!
Device Specifications

  • Weight: 2 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions: 7.3"w x 7.3"h x 1.8"d
  • Display size: 7" WVGA (diagonal measurement)
  • Speech memory: Over 60 minutes of digitized speech capacity
  • Battery life: 6-8 hours (normal operation)
SpringBoard Lite Standard Configuration

(SBL-AEN) $2,195

  • Battery charger
  • Complete operator manual on CD-ROM
  • "Quick-Start" operator's guide
  • Unity® vocabulary guide
  • Starter curriculum
  • One-year PRC warranty

Slide Show of TEAACH Type Tasks


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Quick Tip

For about a dollar and a half you can buy lycra fabric book covers that are meant to stretch over text books. They also make great covers for most standard wheelchair head rests! A fun way to color coordinate, cover up that hole that's been worn in the headrest cover or just to brighten things up. You can find them just about anywhere school supplies are sold. I bought the pink one currently in use to cover up a head rest hole at CVS for a dollar thirty nine.

Visual Search Engines from Web 2.0

Red Zee is a new web 2.0 search engine that displays images of websites that flip across the screen in a fun, interactive manner. I can see it being very useful in classrooms for students who need cognitive supports and may benefit from visual search engine, classrooms for learners with Autism and other visual learners and for use with a touch screen.

SpaceTime sells itself as a 3-D search engine and browser. I'll be honest, I kind of don't "get" SpaceTime, especially the browser, but the idea of "3-D" stacks of websites or images to flip through as your search results carry the same advantages as RedZee.

P.S. I want a stuffed animal of the RedZee zebra!

1-2-3 Speak AAC Device

There is an interesting story behind the 1-2-3 Speak software. Check it out.

Basically the 1-2-3 Speak is AAC software installed on off the shelf computer systems. The set up seems limited as far as presentation and uses a proprietary icon set. The software was developed as part of a grant for a disability service agency and is now being sold. The website has very little information about the devices (no specs) and no information about funding (prices are there though the software alone starts at $695.00). There is no online help, knowledge base or tutorials. You can download a little demo of the software if you would like. Long story short this is a nice, simple interface that may be useful in a setting where you desire little customization, have no access issues and user will be able to acclimate to a clip art like symbol set.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alternate Access Methods

These links connect you with porducts that allow individuals with disabilities to access technology through alternate means such as eye gaze, muscle movements or head tracking. (Updated July 3, 2008.)

Product of the Day

Switch Adapted Camera Digital

Price: $275.75

Camera Digital Switch Adapted


  • Built in switch jack
  • 3.1 megapixel image quality
  • 1.5” colour LCD display
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • 4 picture sizes, at mulitiple resolutions
  • Expanded memory available with purchase of SD/MMC card (not included)
  • Camera takes JPEG photos and can record short videos with sound (AVI video format)
  • Requires 2 AA Alkaline batteries
  • USB and A/V connectivity for quickly transferring files to your computer or television
  • Compatible with Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, MacOS9 and above
  • Weighs only 3.8 ounces (without batteries)
from Zabonne

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Say-It-Sam Version 2

Recently at ATIA Words+ released a new version of their handheld AAC device, the Say-it-Sam! I don't personally have any experience with any Words+ products in the past decade so I can't review them for you, but here is the vital information from the website:

Size: 6.5" x 3.5" x 1.9"
- Weight: 14 oz.
- CPU: 624MHz Intel®PXA270
- Memory: 384 MB total with up to 256 MB (192 MB ROM and 64 MB SDRAM) available for programs and files.
- Additional memory: 1GB Compact Flash card built into the unit.
- Display: 3.5" viewable image transflective TFT(indoor/outdoor) QVGA(320 x 240), 64K (65,536) colors (16-bit)
- Touch screen
- Battery: 2880 mAh. About 10 hours of on-time with the screen at full brightness and speaking every 10 seconds. (This is more strenuous exercise than most users will put it through. This performance is for a new battery, and all batteries gradually lose some capacity after months of charge and discharge cycles.)
- Wireless: Bluetooth, Integrated WLAN 802.11b.
- Operating System: Microsoft®Windows MobileTM5.0 for Pocket PC, Premium Edition.
- Mobile versions of Microsoft software are included (Outlook®, Word®, Excel®, PowerPoint®, Windows Media®Player, and Internet Explorer®).
-your choice of Words+ software, EZ Keys, Talking Screens or Speaking Dynamically Pro
-Price 2995.00 non-dedicated, 3495.00 dedicated

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mayer-Johnson New Products

The new Mayer-Johnson Catalog was in my mailbox today. The 2008 Boardmaker Addendum is out with 1300 new PCS for $29.00. Also finally a new version, or more acurately a totally new piece of software, to replace Writing with Symbols. It is called SymWriter.

Here is the write up from the web site:

Beginning readers and writers gain extensive literacy support through symbol usage, and more advanced students also benefit from the language support symbols provide. Teachers, parents and therapists can quickly and easily adapt written materials with symbols to create stories, sentence strips, directions, recipes, schedules, songs, poems, worksheets and more. Also create computer-based activities with voice output and symbol support, such as topical writing and sentence building, spelling and counting activities, assessments and cross-curricular exercises. Beginning writers or individuals who don’t recognize text can write with symbol support and benefit from speech feedback. Or, text users benefit from a talking word processing program. Communicate: SymWriter is the next generation of symbol-word processing, with Smart Symbolizing—parts of speech automatically symbolize correctly. Windows Vista compatible.

Widgit Literacy Symbols
Widgit Literacy Symbols (WLS) were designed and developed to support, improve and assist learners’ emerging literacy skills A strong schematic structure supports understanding. Many of the 8,000 symbols support curriculum topics such as math, science and history, helping with comprehension of new and difficult concepts.

Smart Symbolizing
SymWriter uses natural language processing to present the best symbol match based on parts of speech and the sentence structure.
Easy Creation of Grids for Writing
Encourage word building, composition and sentence construction with easily modified writing environments.

Easily place images in the composition with Graphics on the Page. Viewing thumbnails of available symbols aids comprehension and allows for quick replacement of symbols.

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