Friday, January 30, 2009

What I Now See at Work When I Try to Go to Adapted Learning

We are just renters at our school, we can't complain or ask for a change (we literally aren't allowed). The district's special needs teacher has called, but... well... we'll see.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

AAC Increases Verbal Language

Although we all have heard the rumor that some people believe implementation of AAC will impede speech development in people with developmental disabilities, most of us know this is not true. In fact most studies, as show by this frequently cited meta-analysis, indicate that speech production will either not change or will increase. Increased verbal production is by far the more likely of the two!

We are living that with two students in my classroom right now. One has had a high tech dynamic display device for a short while (a bit over a year and had a Tech/Speak before that), but did not use it well until recently when the SLP removed the non-sensical visual scene displays. That student has had an onslaught of verbal behavior at home and at school. Some of the speech is intelligible and some less so, but one thing is definate, verbal speech production has gone through the roof!

Another student has been verbal for sometime, but did not speak much. In September a low-tech, static display device was introduced in certain situations, for example to indicate feelings. This student is now able to indicate the range of emotions taught by use of the device from happy and silly to mad and tired. If this student learned nothing other than how to communicate these basic emotions this year it would have been one heck of a productive school year. (Trust me much more has been learned and it is only the end of January.) We have faded the device for emotions but have added it in for teaching new verbal language.

Now imagine if we knew then (when my high school students were infants and toddlers) what we know now. What if they had had AAC at 10 months or even 24 or 36 months as recommended now? Imagine if students weren't waiting, even now that we know this, until they were in their 'tweens or teens or adulthood or until they reach some imaginary "prerequisite" to have access to augmentative speech intervention? What a world it would be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fine Arts

Here is an interactive Van Gogh activity for touchscreen and interactive whiteboards. The Van Gogh Library online is another fun place to visit.

You can use it along with the touchscreen/IWB Jackson Pollock online painting program as part of an art unit or lesson.

There are also a number of art activities on the intellitools activity exchange.

PRC introduces new ECOPoint EyeGaze System

PRC's new ECO-14 has an option for their new eye-gaze system called ECOpoint. The ECO-14 is a large screened, touch enabled AAC device running on a Windows XP machine (available closed for those using Medicaid for funding). It comes in a few (4) colors and now has the new ECOpoint eye tracking avaliable in addition to the built in head tracking it has had for some time. All PRC systems use the Unity (Minspeak) language system.

ECOPoint adds $7250.00 to the price of the device, which is pretty standard in the scheme of eye gaze systems these days. The ECO-14 itself costs $7795.00. Once you add in warrenties, mounting systems and other items, like switches and carrying cases, you are looking at $16 to 18,000.00 for a full system. Also fairly typical for cost wise for an individual who needs a device capable of eye gaze.

PRC is also currently hosting a giveaway contest for the new device.

Monday, January 26, 2009

1,000th Upload at Adapted Learning

Last week Mayer-Johnson's new sharing site hit Adapted Learning hit it's 1,000th upload of a file (or set of files) and low and behold I uploaded it (it was my Letter to President Obama Cut and Paste Activity)! Bob G. at Mayer-Johnson contacted me today and offered me a tee shirt for being their 1,000th upload! I plan to use the tee-shirt as reward for the student in my class with the most stars on our star board which was filled up today! (Big news in our world! In the event of a tie we will have a raffle.)

It does strike me as odd that it A) took my class this long to fill the star board (every inch of the black background was covered, but still it took a long time, we need to reward more I say!) and B) took so long to get 1000 uploads on the Adapted Learning site. Come on folks! I know you have dozens and dozens of boards on your hard drives, upload them already! Even if you think they aren't good enough, even if you think you are just a beginner, you never know what your board will inspire in someone else. Let's see if we can hit 2,000 boards sooner rather than later! Perhaps you may win a tee shirt! (I uploaded about 90 some odd boards I think, maybe more, that's just under 10% of the total boards. I had a decent chance at that tee shirt - you could have a decent chance at the next one. If tee shirts don't motivate you let the good will of sharing motivate you.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Proloquo2Go gets a Website

Proloquo2Go, AssistiveWare and Sennott Consulting's new iPod Touch/iPhone based AAC program finally has a website you can check out at Proloquo2Go: AAC in Your Pocket. Sam also has a new post up about it on his blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's ASL Name Sign can turn photos of your students into Obama poster like images. What a fun way to end this week, whether or not you have been doing the News-2-You New President unit.

Sam Sennot has also posted some ideas over at AllTogether and my colleague across the hall told me about this interactive presidential seal via Pete's Powerpoint for higher functioning learners and her class also made an Obama symbol mosaic with that was really something by having the student cut red, white and blue out of magazines and glue them onto an Obama logo blown up and traced onto white poster board.

Voicethread and Parents

As some of you have noticed I recently I have put up two Voicethread posts about classroom activities. I am not sure why it surprised me, but tonight I spoke with a parent of one of my students and she loves the Voicethreads! A few commenters and other bloggers have noted that the Voicethreads are a nice way to show what goes on in intensive special needs classrooms and it registered with me, but more as a way to showcase to other teachers some things we are doing, not as a way to show parents what their sons and daughters have been up to in school.

The parent shared that her sister actually viewed the Voicethread about snow before she did and could name the slides that involved her nephew, if only by his hands. How cool! My student was able to be a star. Brothers and sisters of my students get to be online and in local papers all the time, for scouts, dancing, honor roll or sports awards. My students don't make it online or in the papers nearly as often (if ever). While I will never put my student's faces or names online as it is an invasion of privacy and dignity, even if I do have parental permission, just the "hands only" multimedia presentations are enough to give a taste of our daily experiences and make my students stars to their families.

I would expect to see more of these on this site in the coming months!

Monday, January 19, 2009

How to Watch the Inauguration Live (via the web)

Tomorrow I plan to have my class watch the inauguration of our 44th president on the "big screen" which means we must tune in online. Here are some links on how to watch online:

Our class will understand this event at different levels. Some will just tune into the excitement, others will understand we have a new president, still others may understand exactly why this new president is so historic. Here are some ways I plan to increase the interactivity of watching the inauguration and parades.
  • handing out musical instruments, especially "clappers" and "shakers" to use to make noise to go along with applause and recording loud cheers and applause onto step-by-step switches for those who cannot access musical instruments
  • presenting communication boards and overlays for devices to be used while watching - I have uploaded these to Adapted Learning
  • inviting other classes to join us and having the teacher's aides and teachers be as excited as possible
  • turning down the volume on the webcast to explain and ask/answer questions as needed
  • doing follow up activities, including this weeks News-2-You

A-Z Meme

I have been tagged for this A-Z meme. I am not going to tag anyone back by name, but open it up to all the sped/AT/disability bloggers who may be interested (or may need a day off from coming up with a regular post).

Accent: Boston, but mostly when I am tired (pronounced "ti-ed")

Breakfast or no breakfast: Breakfast. Even if it is "the breakfast of champions" - Sun Chips and Diet Coke.

Chore I don’t care for: All of them, well all of them involving physical labor, I don't mind intellectual chores, writing a paper, educational evaluation, IEP or presentation is fun; just don't ask me to shovel snow or do dishes.

Dog or cat: I love animals, I currently have a cat, my Roxie. She is lying on my lap as I type.

Essential electronics: my laptop, I couldn't be without it and my Blackberry; oh and my insulin pump, that is an essential for sure

Favorite cologne: ick, cologne

Gold or silver: silver

Handbag I carry most often: backpack, it was my sister's before she died

Insomnia: every night, it is awful, I would give nearly any thing to be the kind of person who fell asleep when her head hit the pillow and stayed that way until morning

Job Title: teacher of learners with multiple special needs

Kids: sometimes I think about adopting, probably a child with disabilities, but I am getting older and my financial status isn't improving like it would need to

Living arrangements: Roxie and I in a cozy one bed room in a four apartment converted Victorian

Most admirable trait: I don't know, probably generosity of spirit?

Naughtiest childhood behavior: I almost never did my homework

Overnight hospital stay: I was in the hospital last June for what I call p-newmonia

Phobias: crowds, especially noisy, rowdy crowds when it is dark

Quote: "Shoot me now. I'm a fiddler crab" -Bugs Bunny

Reason to smile: student successes, silliness, music, good books, great friends and family, my kitty

Siblings: one brother (367 days younger) and one sister (3 years younger, recently deceased)

Time I wake up: 6:30 Monday-Friday, whenever my body feels like it on the weekends

Unusual skill or talent: I can eat fire

Vegetable I refuse to eat: peppers

Worst habit: sun chips and diet coke for breakfast sometimes

X-rays: I have broken nearly every bone at least once, thus nearly everything has been x-rayed

Yummy stuff: lasagna, stuffed shells, ice cream, expensive chocolate, fish, peas, stuffing, mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding, peanut butter and jelly on sot wheat bread, creamy soups, tikka masala, naan, enchiladas.... oh so many yummy foods

Zoo animal I like most: the primates

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Another tool has come to join Adopt-a-Classroom and Donors Choose to help teachers in this wretched economy. That tool is ClassWish.

ClassWish allows teachers to make wish lists of items for their classrooms and then fund raise to earn money for those items. They can then order directly through the ClassWish site once the money is raised. ClassWish will even provide a receipt to those who donate.

ClassWish also works to provide ways for parents, supporters and PTO/PTAs to meet the needs of teachers and schools.

Unlike Donors Choose there is not a specific special needs catalog on the list of catalogs, but it isn't like we don't all need paper, books and furniture just like any other classroom.


Sites for Videos AKA Alternatives to YouTube

I debated how discriminating to be on this list. Should I only list sites that have educational content? But then again who I am to decide what kind of content is educational? Thus I am listing any non-YouTube site I know of, it is up to you to decide if the site is educational or otherwise valuable for use in your classroom. Some of these may be just as blocked as YouTube in your school. Meaning you may have to go with a Video Downloader kind of solution.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When Old and New Don't Mix

This afternoon, upon return from our community based instruction trip, one of my students took a seat on the floor in front of a plastic three drawer cart where we keep our music collection. He went through a few of the drawers and choose an old cassette tape, having read the title, "Bruce Springsteen". He then stood up, walked over to the CD player placed the cassette inside the CD player and attempted to crush the tape death by repeatedly slamming the lid.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Music Video of the Day

Since the dawn of an LCD projector connected to an internet enabled computer in my classroom (for which I am eternally grateful) we have evolved into watching one or two music videos on Google video per day. It started with Christmas songs, one of my students loves Christmas music year round and I was happy to oblige in December. Now we showcase a different music video or two everyday. The teaching assistants and the I make an effort to showcase all different kinds of music. We have been surprised to find out which students are responsive to classic Johnny Cash (with animated stick figures) versus Elton John singing Crocodile Rock on the Muppet Show versus Twisted Sister performing We're Not Gonna Take It.

During this evolution to daily morning meeting music videos I have developed the following list of educational purposes in showing the videos:

  • introduction of age appropriate music
  • introduction of an age appropriate leisure activity (you don't get more "teen" than watching music videos)
  • the linking certain music to certain lessons we will study later in the day (We Shall Overcome for Martin Luther King Day)
  • creation of cultural currency
  • use of the videos to teach identification of emotions (and communication of those feelings)
  • use of the videos to teach identification of like/dislike (and communication of like/dislike)
  • use of music as a transition support for moving from a group activity (morning meeting) to our most intensive individual work of the day
and of course, most of all, music for the sake of music!

Free TextAloud - You Have Until Midnight

Today's giveaway of the day is TextAloud, which is a pretty decent text-to-speech program. You must download, install and activate by midnight today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Proluquo2Go - AAC on an iPod Touch or iPhone

Sam Sennott and Assisitiveware have announced a new product in various Assisitive Technology Listservs and at the BETT conference. Proloquo2Go is like the
Proloquo software for Macs but is designed to run on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Proloquo2Go is in its second beta testing and will be showcased at CSUN. The device will use Acapela's new iPhone text-to-speech voices.

This is an exciting break through for those who are resistant to looking different by using AAC and for those who just want a tiny, handheld AAC device.

This is from Sam's announcement:

Proloquo2Go is the name of the application and it is pronounced:
  • Pro as in program.
  • lo as in low.
  • quo as in quote.
  • 2 as in two
  • Go as in go to the store.
  • It is Latin for speak out.
Proloquo2Go: Communication on the Go

Assistiveware also announced improvements to many of their other applications and a new text-to-speech reading solution for those with reading disabilities called GhostWriter. Many of these are designed to work well with Axiotron's Modbook (Mac tablet).

A Calendar for Teachers

Teachervision has a great (and free) calendar for teachers which highlights a historical event or special occasion each day of the year. Download it here.

They also have a website widget that you can add to your iGoogle, Pageflakes or blog which offers a free grade 4 or 5 worksheet a day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let Wired know that "tard" REALLY isn't acceptable!

Gadget Lab, part of Wired Blogs, has a post up today that actually uses the word "tard", in fact it uses it many times.

Please feel free to comment on the post and voice your objections. Feel free to let the folks at Wired know too. In addition maybe you want to e-mail the author of the post.

You might want to demand an apology. You might want to demand that Gadget Lab do some stories on assistive tech and cognitive disabilities. You might just want express your dismay and horror at how pathetic and painful their word choice is. Whatever you choose I hope you use your voice.

Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs
in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Our Morning Group: A Photo Essay

if reading in an RSS Reader you may need to click here to view show

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Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009


If you haven't voted in the past 24 hours would you mind heading over to vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards?

TLWMSN is slowly losing ground and I am hoping to keep a special education blog in the top five.

You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

When Web Pages are Blocked

Before Christmas my students and staff spent a few fun filled afternoon periods playing the web version of Deal No Deal, which was an exciting and educational activity. While playing students worked on partner assisted scanning (I would move the mouse over the suitcases in a 3 second scan for them to pick suitcases with a wireless switch), greater than/less than, and communication skills including answering yes/no questions. They also loved showing their allegiances to various staff by choosing whose advice to take. We tallied up who made the best deals and talked about the value of money. Eventually a friend even made some great Deal No Deal boards for us to use on Boardmaker SDP while playing the game.

Today we returned from a great community based instruction trip about 35 minutes late (due to snow and a pizza that took 35 minutes to be served) and the paraprofessionals in the room decided that they wouldn't mind giving up their breaks if they could play Deal No Deal with the students (which meant I could fill in the data sheets and write daily notes home).

The only catch was that our host school now blocks the Deal No Deal site, which we didn't know until we tried to play. This isn't a huge loss, there are plenty of other fun educational activities we can do, but it does lead one to question why certain web filter decisions are made. Other than my class playing three times was there a problem in the building with kids playing Deal No Deal?

What do you do when sites are blocked in your school?

Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All Students Meme

I have been tagged for another meme, this time by Patrick Black over at Teaching all Students.

The idea is that I share three things I believe about all students and tag other bloggers to do the same.

1) All students can learn
2) All behavior is communication
3) Students learn best when their essential needs are met and they are happy and comfortable

I have a funny feeling that many education bloggers have already been tagged, however if Alicia Odom, Karen Janowski, Richard Byrne, or Lon Thornburg feel like participating they can consider themselves tagged. Here are the rules:

Want to participate in this meme?
  1. Share three things that you believe about all students.
  2. Be sure to link to this post and/or to where you were first tagged.
  3. Tag your response with AllStudentsMeme
  4. Invite others to join the conversation by tagging them to be a part of the meme.
Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Blogs on the Block

Here are two fairly new Assistive Tech blogs for you to check out:

Both are great sites with lots of promise. Welcome to the AT/Disability/Special Education Blog world guys!

That being said I can't help but notice that in the AT/Disability/Special Education Blog world men seriously out number women, in spite of these corners of the helping professions being dominated by women. I am happy to give a hand out to anyone who wants to start a blog in the field, but I especially would like to see more women bloggers.

Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mrs. Riley

There is a new Web 2.0 application on the block and this one is just for us! Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards is a communication card/board building application that is totally online. It combines photo symbols, picture symbols and text symbols in grid layouts of various sizes and configurations.

Currently Mrs. Riley's It's In the Cards is in free public beta. You can try it without registering, but will need to register to save or print. I have never seen a more intuitive, easier interface for a communication board software. It beats Boardmaker, Overboard and PhotoSYMS hands down as far as simplicity. Of course what you gain in simplicity you loose in flexibility - at least compared to Boardmaker. If nothing else let this be the next step in the revolution for SPED applications coming to Web 2.0 (I am giving Write Online credit for being first.) I would say that if, once out of free public beta, this site keeps the price down there may be an awful lot of us who subscribe.

This site is definately worth trying out.

Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.) I say vote one for every post you read!

News-2-You on Adapted Learning

Today another teacher and I discussed how there must be a large number of people on Adapted
Learning (the Mayer-Johnson Sharing Community) who use News-2-You.

To this end I have started a new Adapted Learning Group called News-2-You, my hope is folks will use it to share News-2-You adaptations and extension activities. Please join us.

Vote for Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs in the 2008
Weblog Awards. You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)


First off yesterday's post was number 700!

Secondly voting has begun for the 2008 Weblog Awards. Last year TLWMSN tied for seventh. This year let's put a special education blog in the top five.

You can vote once a day, every day! (Until January 13th.)

Please pass this on to everyone who might want to vote!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Seizures in the Special Needs Classroom

News of Jett Travolta, John Travolta's son, dying following a seizure leads to thoughts about seizures in our classrooms. Seizures are part of day to day life for many students with multiple or significant disabililites. Students with hydrocepheleus, cerebral palsy, brian injury, Lennox-Gestaut, microcephely and other conditions may have seizures.

  • All staff working with students who have a history of seizures should have a basic understanding of what a seizure is, the types of seizures and how to respond to a seizure
  • Our students may have some sensations (an aura) before a seizure that tells them a seizure is coming; if the student is non-speaking he or she may have certain behaviors that occur or increase before a seizure. It is important to learn about these behaviors in order to enable you to help keep the student safe and provide emotional support.
  • Seizures will look different from student to student. Some may have staring spells or drop seizures, others with having twitching or other movements with a seizure. All staff need to be familiar with the type(s) of seizures a student may have and what to do about them.
  • Staff need to be trained in first aid for seizures. The primary reaction to any seizure will be to keep the student safe. Most people know, in this day and age, not to put anything in the mouth of the person who is having a seizure but we need to be aware that people in the community may try to be "helpful" in this way and stop them. If the student is likely to fall to the ground or has fallen to the ground the area will need to be cleared to prevent injury. Clothing should be loosened and movements should not be restrained.
  • All staff need to know the protocal for reacting to different types of seizures in different students. Every school or program has a different policy for who is to give primary first aid. If educational staff are responsible for administration of medication, like Ativan or Valium/Diastat, they need to be be trained and comfortable before a seizure occurs. Likewise if a student has a VNS (vagus nerve stimulator) the staff needs to know how to use the magnet.
  • All staff must know how to call for emergency response (usually 911) if a student who has no history of seizures has a seizure or if a student who is known to have seizures does not respond the the seizure protocal for that seizure.
  • Staff should stay calm during the seizure, remembering that the student may be able to hear you, speak calmly and say reassuring things, for example, "Hold on, buddy, just keep breathing, you are going to be ok."
  • Following a seizure staff must be respectful that seizures are a part of this student's life, there is no need to describe them using subjective adjectives like, "That was a nasty seizure." Our job is to normalize the lives of our students, not to further stigma.
  • Finally, although schools and programs vary, some record of seizure activitity is usually kept (our program uses a seizure log) and the parent or guardian must be notified.
For more information about seizures:
Children's Book about Seizures:
Books for Teachers and Other Adults:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Screen Shots

I have noticed in my photo folder that I have lots of screen shots of websites and software I have taken for this blog. I realized these may be useful for others to use to import into Boardmaker or PhotoSYMS and make choice boards for the computer or use Boardmaker Plus or other software to make a software launcher.

Therefore I have uploaded all of the images into Picasa, where other people can download them to use.

feel free to e-mail any screen shots you have at:

Online Switch Activities (for Special Needs)

For most current list please click here.

This is an update of the post listing online switch activities for learners with multiple or significant special needs. The activities listed are chosen because they can be used with switches, they are simple and they are enjoyable. The activities listed are free. Some activities may require set up by an assistant before switch use. Although care has been taken not to include switch activities with any violence or graphic images teachers and others still need to check activities for age and general appropriateness before use.

Cause and Effect (and Press to Play):
Single Switch Scanning or Timing Required (sites may include some cause and effect games as well):
Two Switches (unless otherwise noted you music click in the area of the game and then use tab and enter to play):

Friday, January 2, 2009

Free Kido'z Web Broswer

Kido'z is a new web broswer for children, along the lines of the Zac Browser or Kid Zui. It is free to download and ad free. (It is in beta so the coast may change.)

Kido'z runs on Adobe Air and has a smooth clean interface that would make it great for touch screens or interactive whiteboards. There are three main areas: games, videos and websites.

Unfortunately it is not switch accesible, tab/enter does not work nor do the arrow keys. Supposedly it is for children ages 3-11, but I would stick with the 3-7 year old set in order to account for age appropriateness.

January is National Hobby Month

January is Hobby Month and to that end I am creating a unit for my students on hobbies and leisure skills. If you belong to Adapted Learning you can download my boards (and other peoples) by searching "hobby" or "leisure" in the search engine.

Several Websites have ideas for hobby month:
There are also a couple of free leisure assessments online:

Teaching Money Identification by Touch

It has been a few years since I have needed to teach money identification by touch to a student. This method of identifying bills and coins is usually taught to student who are blind or have low vision, but I have also successfully taught this method to learners with brain injury that affects visual and short term memory.

The method is like this:

Coins are identified by three characteristics:
  • Size. The dime is the smallest coin, and the half-dollar is the largest.

  • Edge. The penny and the nickel have a smooth edge. The dime, quarter, and half-dollar have a milled, ridged edge.

  • Thickness. The nickel is thicker than the other coins.
Bills are identified by how they are folded:
  • Leave $1 bills unfolded
  • Fold $5 bills lengthwise ("the long way")
  • Fold $10 bills by width ("the short way")
  • Fold $20 bills lengthwise and then by width ("total fold")

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