Sunday, November 30, 2008

Classroom Makeables, Posters and More

Mentioned today on Classroom Displays, Mrs. Pancake is a fantastic site of "Doodads", also know as posters, borders, flashcards, work sheets and paper crafts.

Adapted Learning Uploads

I just uploaded about a dozen boards, including games, recipes and holiday activities to Adapted Learning. My username is teechkidz if you want to search by person. Membership is free, try it out now.

In case you have missed the announcements Adapted Learning is the new sharing site for Boardmaker, Boardmaker Plus and Boardmaker SDP by Mayer-Johnson.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Double Dutch News-2-You

If you use News-2-You you should know that there is a great extension activity at Dragonfly TV. If you use the Miro player (as described in this blog entry) you can download episodes of Dragonfly TV directly into Miro player to use offline with your class.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Phone My Phone

I can't remember ever sharing a non-special education related site before, but I thought I would share this one. You may already know about it. It is Phone My Phone and it does what it says, calls your telephone.

Perhaps my biggest flaw is my ability to loose things. My keys, wallet, and cell phone top the list of things I loose. It is a long standing, running joke at school about how I loose things. My father claims I have adult ADD, my sister used to say that I used up all of my brain on useless knowledge and there was no room left for things like remembering where my keys or phone were and it is possible that Saint Anthony is sick of helping me out. Whatever the reason I use Phone My Phone fairly frequently. I wish it could make my keys and wallet ring.

Two More Online Stories Sites

These will be added to Alternate Format Books and Stories.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo (who got the link from Langwitches) and a poster on QIAT for the links.

Post-It Pockets: A Sped Adaptable

The people who make post-its (also called stickies), 3M, have a new product called Post-It Pockets. The minute3 I saw them I had a dozen ideas about how to use them in the classroom. They come in letter, bill, receipt size (9 in. X 12 in.; 5 1/2 in. X 9 in.; and 4 in. X 9 in.). Post-it pockets are supposed to be available at Target, Office Max. and other places post-its are sold.

  • storing constantly in use symbols (as opposed to my hardware store drawers for all my other symbols), add velcro to the front and you can store symbols inside and display one on the front, i.e. to show today's school lunch offering
  • to create a sign-in center for students, put a card with "here" on one side and "out" on the other side in each pocket, with each students name and photo on the front and students can flip their card upon arrival and departure
  • to create sorting/classification boards, put several pockets on a poster board or wall, a symbol or word on the outside of each envelope and have students sort away using symbols or word cards
  • put pockets with index cards in the back of the books in your classroom and have everyone (students and adults) sign them out
  • make a "mail center" for students
  • hang 26 of them with each letter of the alphabet on one pocket and use to start teaching alphabetization and filing
  • add to you classroom job or chore area with a symbol for each chore on the front of the pockets and a picture schedule or task analysis inside
  • hang a few by the phone with the names of all the classroom staff and therapists and use them to put phone messages and quick notes in
  • hang one (letter sized) pocket by the door for each student and place any papers to go home in it for students to collect at the end of the day
  • attach to the back of data collection clipboards to hold extra notes and tid-bits of information for paraprofessionals
  • place them on the back of standers with a slip of paper inside for each student (who uses that stander) to record total number of minutes stood each day
  • use pockets for each student to collect things they need to take into the community like money, library card, I.D. card, shopping list, etc. so you always know where everything is to go out for CBE
What else can you think of?

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa Claus,

I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving. Do you celebrate the American Thanksgiving in the North Pole? I have been good, mostly. I am writing to ask for the gifts I would like for my classroom this Christmas. My students have been very, very good, mostly. We have been very lucky and have had quite a few grants filled, and our agency found a little bit of money to let us send out orders, so we don't need much. We do have some wishes:

  1. Ink. Santa Claus, we are always out of ink. I am not even exaggerating, we are seriously always out of ink. We would like some ink for our printers in our stockings.
  2. Individual student equipment. Santa, I know you will be visiting my students and I know that you can see what they need, but that youngster who needs the wheelchair - sooner would be better than later. The same is true for the kiddo who needs new hearing aids, and new glasses and the learner who needs wheelchair adjustments. If you wouldn't mind those things would be awesome. There is also that child who could really use an Easy Stand (a chair/desk that turns into a stander/desk) and a high tech AAC device. Oh and if you are really in the mood for some magic, what about a solution to that one student's AAC access issues? What a dream come true those would be.
  3. Interactive whiteboard. Oh, Santa, we could do so much with an IWB! We had a projector this year and it is almost the best thing ever, but an IWB would top even that.
  4. The iTalk2 is now out with levels and our old one is pretty beat up, we could use a new one. A couple of packs of talking symbols notepads to go with it would be fabulous too.
  5. A subscription to the Brain Pop Jr. website. Now that we have a working LCD projector Brain Pop Jr. would be a great way to add to its value.
  6. More hours in the day. I know, Santa, you can't do this one, but if you could it would be marvelous! We would never have to wait for things to be laminated or cut out or downloaded and moved to different computers, because with more hours in the day it would all be done!
Thanks so much,

Kate the Teacher
P.S. On a personal note, my Blackberry is broken AGAIN and my car needs a tune up. I never object to gift cards for gas or coffee either.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for:

  • my dad
  • my students who teach me as much as I teach them
  • this blog as a way to give back and share what I have learned
  • my cat, Roxie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I love my new logo!!!

When this blog made 200,000 visitors I wrote a note to my childhood buddy, Christine Desrosiers, now of San Francisco, who just happens to have an art degree. I was remembering a comic she drew of me in my wheelchair when I shattered my tib/fib in 1997 and thinking that something like that might be great for a logo for my blog. She rose to the challenge and then some. For now the new logo is over there in the top of the sidebar while we work out the kinks of getting it into the header. Isn't it awesome?

Would anyone be interested in some tee shirts or bags or anything with the logo and a snappy or sappy saying?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


is a free photo communication board creator. It allows you to use any image you have on your computer to make communication boards in grids from 2 to 24 symbols on a page (the sizes of the images automatically changes). I was able to use my own photos, images from the internet, (the free) Sclera Pictos, and (the also free) Imagine Symbols on boards. This is a quick, easy and free alternative to Boardmaker if all you need to do if make boards (no worksheets, activities, or anything else, just boards). (I could not get the Boardmaker PCS Metafiles to import into PHOTOsyms.) It runs in Windows and Mac.

There are no directions to speak of so here are some tips:
  • extract all the files before you run the application
  • put the images you want to use in the My PHOTOsyms folder (took me awhile to figure this one out)
  • use the slider bar under the larger box on the left to resize the image
  • use the slider bar under the grid on the right to change the number of boxes in your grid, this can be done after adding a few images and they will stay put
  • after uploading a picture you should adjust its size and then click add to put it in the grid, repeat until you grid is full - it isn't easy to edit so plan out what you want
  • make sure your images are saved as what you want them called in your grids because whatever they are saved as is how they will come up on the grid
Thanks to The Assistive Technology Blog for the link to this software.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

For the holidays on the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival the theme is "My Favorite Things". Before I begin, please keep in mind that for 9 of my eleven years of teaching I have taught learners ages 14-22, for two years I taught grades 3-5. Developmentally I have taught learners who are working on everything from basic alterness and cause/effect to typing and spelling with Morse Code or switch scanning (or regular old paper and pencil). I have also taught life skills and for many years ran a community based vocational training program. There is likely some bias towards older learners. Here are my favorite A.T. Tools for the classroom, community and vocational training sites:

  • The iTalk2 Communicator by Ablenet. This is a two sided voice output switch (which is now available with levels) that is durable (ours has been dropped and tossed) and has many, many uses. IN our room the most common use is yes/no, but we also use it for more/done, few/many, big/little, first/next, joke beginning/joke punchline, request/thank you, rude noise recording/excuse me, poll question/thank you, etc.
  • The Powerlink by Ablenet. This is a power interrupter for "plug in" power. Bascially it allows you to plug in the Powerlink to the wall, a lower wattage appliance (no microwaves) and a switch to the Powerlink and then students have several different ways to control the appliance (direct, timed, latch).
  • A variety of switches including Jelly Beans, Big Reds, Specs Switches, Wobble Switches, and a few I made. I am happily anticipating the arrival of a Jelly Beamer I just ordered. (See a post about sixty ways to use a single switch.)
  • Switch Scissors, we have three pairs, plus and unadapted pair of battery scissors. One pair is from Ablenet, one from Enabling Devices, and one pair is self-adapted with a battery interrupter I made (the scissors are from Wal-Mart, $7.00 in kids foam crafts and you can purchase battery interrupters from Ablenet or Enabling Devices). (See a post about switch scissors.)
  • Switch activated pouring cup from Enabling Devices which is on loan to the class across the hall for watering the plants on a daily basis (they have sun, we don't) but is also used for cooking, crafts and dirty tricks. (See a previous post about this device.)
  • Universal Mount from Ablenet, this is the best mount for switches. For the record most companies that sell mounts sell this exact same thing, but you need to make sure it is the Manfrotto Universal Arm with the knob NOT the lever. Trust me people, you do NOT want the lever. Seriously. Ask anyone who has been in the field longer than eight or ten years. As long as you are getting the Manfrotto Universal Arm with the Knob it doesn't matter where you order it from. In fact I wrote a post about how to get it cheaper via because it is really a photography mount, or go with Ebay. But, Ablenet has the best quality mounting plates, theirs are metal, not plastic and have screw holes in case you do not want to go the velcro route. They also have a better return policy than most, except if you get the knob and not that stinking lever then that doesn't matter much.
  • The Don Johnston Switch Interface Pro is, as far as I know, the only switch interface that moves from Mac to PC, doesn't require software, isn't proprietary, supports two switch scanning, supports non-special education/non-commerical software (like PowerPoint, online switch activities and downloads fron Oatsoft) and doesn't (in my experience) break. (This one time at band camp, I mean at student teaching, I had a switch interface literally go up in smoke, IN MY HAND!).
I am also tempted to add the Step-by-Step, but I actually don't use it that much because my learners mostly have their own higher tech devices or the ability to use something that allow more choices. That makes me want to add higher tech devices like the Go Talk 9+, Go Talk 20+, the Dynavox Palmtop, Four and V series, and the Chat PC series, but generally those are for individual students and not a class or group.

So there you have it, my favorites!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dynavox Downloads

Do you support a Dynavox V/Vmax user? If you do you should head right over to the Dynavox Sharing area and download any of their great games and activities. There seems to be something for every age and ability level.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Days 18-21

I am finding it more useful to "chunk" (dontcha love it when things you learned a long time ago are useful, I learned about "chunking" as a memory technique in a developmental psychology with Professor Ellen Wright who was one of the best professors I ever had with the absolute best uses of Bloom's taxonomy in my educational career) these 30 days challenges. So days 18-21 are:

  • join a carnival
  • who do you love and why?
  • go on a dead link hunt
  • give a comment a promotion
Join a carnival refers to posting in a blog carnival. I periodically post in the Assistive technology Blog Carnival, but I really could make more of an effort, so look forward to an entry soon on this month's topic of, "My Favorite Things".

Who do you love and why? Asks you to look at the blogs you love (that are in a similar field) and really figure out what makes them great. I know that I have about 100 blogs in my reader so I took at look at which ones I look forward to and this is what I realized: I look forward to the ones that post nearly every day, the ones that have photos, the ones that share something I can use right away and/or stories, and the ones that have a certain seriousness of purpose. I also appreciate good writing, although I don't mind a typo or two if it does not distract from the message (must be the sped teacher in me... or the dyslexic in me). Something that is not particularly useful to me as a blogger is that I enjoy the blogs of parents of learners with special needs, I really makes me connect to the other 18 hours a day of the five days of a school week, plus the weekends and vacations my students are not with me and it reminds me what is important.

Going on a dead link hunt is something I do twice a year, the end of June and winter break. I am running a broken link check as I type this and will work on weeding out the broken links over the Thanksgiving recess.

Promote a comment is the process of taking a comment and using it as a spring board to write a new post. Look forward to it in the next few days.

Kneebouncers Switch Games for Little Kids

Barrie over at One Switch reminded me of Kneebouncers a website I have had listed on this site since I opened it. Kneebouncers has great single switch/cause and effect games for EI, pre-K and maybe K kiddos. Set your switch to "space bar".

Try one here:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Online BigMack Switch

Powered by Vocaroo

There you go! An online BigMack Switch! So if you don't have a BigMack, your BigMack is broken, you are out of batteries or you just want to play around you can come to this blog entry, record and play back a voice! (You might want to bookmark this entry.)

Make it switch accessible by recording, putting the mouse pointer over "listen" and setting a switch to "mouse click".

Also Vocaroo is a very cool and FREE way to send voice notes via e-mail and post voice recording to the internet. Check it out.

Some of the ways you could use a Vocaroo in the classroom would be to record a note to a parent who does not read well and send it via e-mail, record a student reading or speaking and send to a parent or even yourself for data collection, and allow non-writing students to send voice e-mails to each other. Can you think of any other ideas?

Today during community based education one of my students decided not to get off the bus at McDonald's. This was likely due to a lack of explanation on my part as McDonald's is a favorite place. We typically make only two stops in the community and McDonald's was a third, surprise stop because we had a little extra time (although only enough extra time for take out). This student needs to know the schedule and routine to be able to cope well. Thus when my question, "Do you want to go into McDonald's?" was met with a firm, "No!" I let it go, "That's fine. We can wait on the bus."

So we waited. About ten minutes passed (apparently there was a line) and the student began saying, "Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!..."

I again asked, "Hi. Do you want to go into McDonald's?" This time the non-verbal "yes" was apparent from the sheer joy and excitement on the her face.

We headed inside and while in line practiced ordering on the Dynavox. The student was literally jumping up and down by the time we were asked, "May I take your order?"

Click - "I would like a chicken sandwich please?"
"Really?" I asked, raising my eyebrows, since a chicken sandwich has never come up in practicing.
Click - "I want a hamburger please."
Click - "I want chicken nuggets."
Click - "Could I please have a cheeseburger?"
"Hold on," I said, "pick one thing."
Click - "I want a hamburger please."
"You sure?" I asked.
Click - "I want a hamburger please."
The clerk looked at me and I nodded. "Do you want anything else?"
Click - "I would like onion rings instead of fries."
"Sorry, buddy, you can't get onion rings here," I said.
Click - "May I have a small order of fries?"
The clerk glanced at me again and I nodded slightly.
Click - "I want milk instead of soda."
"Sorry, buddy, we have plenty of milk at school for you."
Click - "I want a medium diet coke."
I laughed. "And you have three half full diet cokes in the fridge in the classroom!"
The clerk smiles and asks if we just want a hamburger and small fries. I nod and assist my student in handing over some cash. My student jumps up and down a few times and grins.

Then the clerk says, "I have never seen anything like that before. That is how she talks?"
"Yes." I answer.
"She can hear, but she can't talk?" the clerk asks handing her the food and change.
"Yes, she uses that to talk, but just like you and me she doesn't always know what she wants to say." I reply.
Click - "going to hello and goodbye page"
Click - "See you later."

Sometimes McDonald's food is more important than disability awareness at McDonald's.

A birthday gift (of sorts)!

Thanks to Paul Hamilton's kind comment in the last post I was reminded that today is the second birthday of this blog.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear teachinglearnerswithmultiplespecialneeds.blogspot, happy birthday to youuuuuuuuu!

Seriously if I had know this blog was going to take off I would have picked a shorter web address!

As a birthday gift (ok,ok it is totally unrelated) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated half the cost of four of my Donors Choose grants that I was certain to have expire without any funding.

The catch? Now I need to raise the money to pay for the other half of the grants! I have much less of a problem watching a totally unfunded grant expire than watching a partially funded grant expire.

Feeling generous? Feeling thankful that teachers are unlikely to loose jobs overseas or to be downsized? Then feel free to donate to a grant above. Consider it a birthday gift!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Days 13-15

Alrighty then, half way through the 30 Day Challenge and I get off easy again! Here are the current challenges:
  • find yourself
  • greatest hits
  • mobilize me
Really I am only getting off easily on 2/3. I check my Google and Technocrati listings about twice a month (find yourself) and because I have spent much of the past two years in an internet free school I frequently use my own blog via my Blackberry to get resources, so I know how my blog looks on a Smart Phone (mobilize me).

That middle one though, greatest hits, that's a tough one. What are my greatest hits? Certainly my compilation of free Boardmaker Boards (which will be much less important now that Adapted Learning is open) and, of course some of my other "list" posts (freebies, special needs software, mouting systems). Other than that could regular readers take a moment and mention what posts you would put in my top ten (or even top two)? Could new readers tell me what sent you here in the first place?

Thanks so much!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Official Adapted Learning Press Release

This just in from Mayer-Johnson. The new site opens in about an hour!

Mayer-Johnson Announces
A New Resource for Educators and Parents of Students with Special Needs

Pittsburgh, PA – November 18, 2008 – Mayer-Johnson, developer of innovative software products and symbols designed to help special needs students learn, announces the launch of ( This free resource provides a place to find and share adapted curriculum created with the company’s popular Boardmaker Software Family products. It also provides online community functions as well as feature articles and expert tips that meet the needs of the spectrum of Boardmaker users. Developed to provide better symbol-enhanced learning tools and make it easier for special educators and parents to adapt curriculum to ensure accessibility for all students, the website provides resources and tools that allow students with special needs to learn more effectively and succeed academically.
Over 100,000 special education professionals and parents have come to rely upon the Boardmaker Software Family of products to help children challenged by significant speech, language and learning disabilities achieve academically and socially. stretches the reach of the products by creating an international community of Boardmaker enthusiasts.

The keystone of the free website is the searchable database of communication boards and other educational assets created using Boardmaker products and shared by therapists, teachers, and parents of students with special needs. Additional resources include:
  • An online community that allows educators and clinicians to connect and share ideas and information with other Boardmaker users, as well as create public and private areas for groups of colleagues and parents,
  • Feature articles highlighting implementation ideas and other resources, and
  • Training videos featuring application strategies to enhance student learning and communication, and show how to create tools that make it easier for children with special needs to succeed.

Information organized by subject area in the News & Views section of the site ensures that members quickly locate the resources they are seeking. New Boardmaker users will find the Getting Started articles helpful as they experience all that the software has to offer. The Classroom Implementation area provides application ideas so that members can apply newly acquired skills and discover new ways to use previously learned skills. A resource for parents, the Home Connection provides information to help families support the child’s education and communication journeys in the home and in community settings. Find success stories and case studies that provide information and inspiration in the Results area.

“ comes in response to the requests of the many loyal Boardmaker users who were looking for a place to share their work and access new content,” said Jim Mills, DynaVox/Mayer-Johnson’s vice president of education products. “We’re please to be able to offer them a place to share that work and their great passion for the Boardmaker Software Family of products.”

To register for this new web resource, visit

About Mayer-Johnson
Mayer-Johnson is the developer of the innovative software products and symbols designed to enhance the learning process for special needs students allowing them to achieve their full academic potential. In addition to the company’s flagship products, Picture Communication Symbols (PCS), a comprehensive symbol set used for communication displays and instructional purposes, the Boardmaker Software Family, which provides a flexible platform on which to create interactive lessons and learning tools, and Speaking Dynamically Pro, a dynamic communication and instructional software program, the Mayer-Johnson product portfolio includes a wide range of materials for professionals working with people with disabilities. For more information about Mayer-Johnson, visit

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Adapted Learning Opens Tuesday

Adapted Learning, the new Boardmaker sharing website from Mayer-Johnson comes out of beta testing and into general use Tuesday (but you can sign up now).

As a community of people who support learners with special needs we should be very excited. A lot of time and effort went into this site and the designers really listened to the beta testers to make it everything it could possibly be. Beta testers were encouraged to upload as many boards and activities as possible (I have put up 66 and plan to add more tonight) so there are already lots of boards and activities to download and use. I am pretty excited that one of my board sets, a Now/Next schedule flip book, was chosen as an Editor's Highlight (that link probably won't work unless you are logged into Adapted Learning).

Feel free to use the "friends" feature to add me as a friend once you get online, my user name is teechkidz. I already sent out friend requests to some other bloggers and work colleagues.

P.S. Sorry about any confusion I caused when I originally posted this saying beta ended tomorrow. Opps. I am just very excited.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

AT Boogie

Check out this very cool animated music video explaining what people with disabilities want from Assistive Technology called the AT Boogie. It made me tear up (especially, "give me teachers who can teach it.")

P.S. I tried my hardest to embed this into my blog, but the Jing screen recording would not load.

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Days 10 and 11

Decluttering the sidebar is complete. All of the individual resource lists have moved from the sidebar to individual blog posts and there are links to those from the sidebar. This makes the sidebar much shorter. A new list of the blogs I read has been added to the sidebar as well as the day 11 challenge, my e-mail address.

Have a great Saturday night!

Paraprofessional/Teacher Assistant Resources

Signs and Symbols

Software for Learners with Disabilities

AAC Static Display Boards, Pre-Made ($)

ASL Blocks

I can't decide if these are creepy or cool. Find them at Fingerspelling Blocks.

A Better Teacher

Last week I was prepping a lesson for a group that another teacher and I run together on Fridays. As I put it together I noticed some small changes in what I was doing, little things but important things, and I realized that the reason I was making these changes was because of how much I was learning from that other teacher. That other teacher is a first year teacher and a graduate student and I am lucky enough to be her "cooperating practitioner". She is supposed to be learning from me (and I hope she is), but I know that I have have learned from her.

Special eduction can be so isolating for teachers. You are often the only special education teacher serving your population in your building, sometimes in your school district. This year I am in the same corridor as the graduate student teacher I am supervising and another graduate student teacher across the hall. Even when I taught in a special school I never had a community of special educators teaching similar populations who were able to work together so well. We share ideas and lessons, we get a chance to decompress together after a hard day or laugh together after a great day, but most of all we have a chance to become better teachers by learning from each other.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs 2008

The American Federation for the Blind's Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs 2008 is out.

I use it to find ideas for the gift suggestion flyer I send home to the caregivers of my students around Thanksgiving time.

Here are some of the other things I put in the flyer:

  • medic alert jewelry and tags
  • software programs (educational and fun)
  • adapted clothing
  • book suggestions
  • adapted items like suction plates, cups, writing utensils, switch adapted things
  • switches
  • DVDs (Hairspray, High School Musical 1 and 2, Signing Times)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Today this blog had its 200,000th visitor.

I don't know what to say besides thank you all.

In less than one week (November 19th) this blog will be two years old. Who knew? I certainly didn't, I never imagined 200,000 visitors.

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Days 11 and 12

The challenges are to declutter the blog roll and declutter the sidebars. Seen my blog lately? These are not exactly one day challenges. But here is a commitment that it will happen this weekend. Scouts honor. (And I am a serious scout, even went to college on a scouting scholarship and met first lady Barbara Bush because I was the youngest girl ever to earn a the girl scouting equivalent of the Eagle Scout. But I digress.)

I have, for now, eliminated the lists of resources that also have a link to their own page. There are a few lists I have not moved to their own posts yet and they are way down at the bottom of the sidebar. I will make them a home this weekend. I also used a tutorial to move the actual list of blogs I read daily (or as often as they come out) from Google Reader to my sidebar. It actually appears more cluttered to me because it is not alphabetized but in the order I subscribed to the blogs. That's all I can handle tonight though.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Special Needs Cell Phone

A new cell phone for people with disabilities has joined the line up of special needs phones. Like the Jitterbug, the Clarity Life is simplified, with large and clear buttons and text and is amplified for those with hearing loss (I might be getting my dad one of these for Christmas, I am sick of being told I am mumbling when the only time it happens is talking to him.) with a strong vibration and strobe effects as alternative alerting methods.

Unlike the Jitterbug the Clarity Life is unlocked, meaning you can use it with a SIM card from any company (i.e. AT&T or T-Mobile, not Verizon though). There aren't any numbers on the keypad though, the phone book must be pre-programmed and then you go through the address book with the arrow keys.

The Clarity runs for just under $300.00.

AMDI and Laureate Join Forces

This has is one of the better ideas to come the way of learners with special needs in awhile, additionally it is a create was to TEACH visual scene displays instead of assuming they are a great way for learners to communicate. What is the idea?

The teaming up of AMDI and Laureate. This new collaboration allows learners to use the AMDI SMART/128 static display device as a remote control to run an expressive language version of Laureate software. For example in the Exploring Nouns software a student may be asked, "What is this?" and then the student presses the item in the visual scene display on his or her SMART/128, which acts as an input device to the computer, and the computer responds by re-prompting or giving a reward. What a great idea to teach device use to learners motivated by the computer. The overlay also has about twelve buttons for the student to communicate with peers and staff about the activity.

Overlay sets are available for all of the Exploring Series by Laureate and each set has six overlays. Now if only Laureate didn't have such crazy expensive software that met such a limited range of needs (i.e. you need new, extremely expensive, software for nouns, verbs, etc. Other companies provide software that does the same things, takes data, covers a broad range and everything else for much more reasonable prices).

CommuniPix - Magnetic Photo Symbols

CommuniPix is a company that allows users to upload photographs which are then turned into photo symbol magnets. Much like the picture communication symbol magnets from Barker Creek these magnets are perfect for PECS, magnetic communication boards and creating a language rich environment. A basic deck is also available for those who want to order something off-the-shelf. The website includes suggestions for symbols, placing and carrying photo magnets (such as magnetic paint primer and magnetic strips) and tips for photographing symbols.

Unrelated, but interesting, did you know you can also get dry erase paint, glow-in-the-dark paint and chalkboard paint?

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Days 8, 9 and 10

I'm a bit behind with the 30 Days Challenges (IEPS and quarterlies will do that to you). Day eight was to comment on other peoples blogs, which I do frequently.

Day nine was to switch your RSS (Really Simple Syndication) - the feed that allows people to look at favorite blogs in a reader like Google Reader) to Feedburner. I am not a fan of Feedburner because it is a blogger first application, i.e. it puts the needs of the blogger (statistics) before the needs of the reader (in my case assessbility). Feedburner reformats blogs to met their standards, resizing images, moving images around, changing where the breaks are in writing, etc. I work hard to make my site more accessible and sometimes Feedburner undoes that. However in an effort to show an open mind and a commitment to the 30 Day challenge I have changed over to Feedburner for at least one month. Please comment whether you like it or not it if you regularly read this in a reader.

Day ten is to look at your blog in another browser. Ricky over at ATMac tells my everything look pretty good on the Mac browser (Safari). Things also seem to look good in IE8 beta and 7, though I was loathe to open them. I also checked things out on two accessible browsers, EdWeb and WWAAC, things were choppy in places, especially on Vista, but when I fired up my old XP machine (and firing that thing up is a loooong process) everything was overall ok. Finally I installed and checked things out on the Opera, Safari, Chrome and Flock browsers, not bad there either. In order to check out some other browsers I used BrowserShots, everything looks fine. Here are some screen shots of various browsers:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Do It Yourself Blind Opener

This video is from the Instructables Assistive Tecnology Group. In the blog entry there is a description of making this device to work with an IR remote control as well as light controlled. If you were to build it as IR remote controlled then you have a $15 enviromental control which can be used via an AAC device like a Dynavox or PRC device.

Pete's Stuff

This resource was shared on the TEAL listserv today. Called Pete's Stuff, it is some exciting Power Point based Sensory Stories for people with disabilities. The pages of the stories can be turned with a single switch and the stories are age appropriate for older learners and, in some cases, disgusting enough to catch the interest of hard-to-motivate teens.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cool Picture Symbol Name Stamps

I've written about Say-It-With-Symbols and Giving Greetings before, but I was in contact with them recently and they have expanded their product line with some exciting products. These include:
  • a very cool line of name stamps and reward stamps using Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols
  • Barker-Creek Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbol Magnets
  • Bee Visual Choice Work Products
  • low tech communication devices (for example Ablenet's Step-by-Step) and communication boards and books
  • and an special offer that provides the 2008 addendum free to those who purchase Boardmker
  • and of course they still carry their signature line of symbol based greeting and note cards as well as mouse pads and clothing
Say-It-With-Symbols is owned and run by the parent of a child with significant disabilities.

Friday, November 7, 2008

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Day 7

Today's challenge is to invite a guest blogger. I have had three guest blog posts here on TLWMSN, but I'd say I am up for the challenge of inviting another one. Stay tuned while I locate someone willing. Anyone interested? How about you AAC/AT/Special Needs Software company folks, care to write about something new coming to the market? How about a student teacher, want to write about how it is to start out in this field? How about a parent? Comment or e-mail if you are interested.


Today one of my students, who has been in my class for about ten weeks, starting using an AMDI Tech/Speak, not only that but the student started using it well, very well. This kiddo is a shining example that the right classroom, with the right supports and the right behavioral intervention can lead to unbelievable possibility.

The student has never had a consistent communicative intervention, various low and moderate technology interventions have been tried and abandoned. Prestigious communication clinics contradict themselves twice a year on what to do next. The last recommendation was for a key chain based picture card system, yet this student needs the least possible movement in technology she uses. She needs for it to stay still no matter how often attempts are made to move it or throw it. The ability to move something is so distracting for the student that a pull off Velcro symbol system, a communication book system or a key chain system would be a set up for failure. This student loves movement from cars to bikes to a gait trainer. This student loves to be in movement by walking, throwing, grabbing, and just wiggling. Appropriate positive behavior supports, use of teaching technique like seductive removal and movement could be a reward and not a distraction. In short, we make it so things don't move, so that when she moves if is a positive thing, not a negative thing.

Thus we started with a static display communication board mounted permanently on the tray of the wheelchair and the table. Minimal teaching, with use of the prompt hierarchy and plenty of positive reinforcement lead to success. Then I decided to spend several hours restoring an old, abandoned Tech/Speak that has a tendency to play messages even if no one was touching it. The Tech/Speak was long out of warranty and required hours of re-soldering wires and careful cleaning of the inside and outside of the device. Thankfully it worked and the device was restored to full usefulness. Overlays were created based on the student's static display boards (the Tech/Speak in the picture is from a link to Monroe Public Schools, not my classroom) and previous successful icon training. The Tech/Speak was mounted to the wheelchair tray to make it unmoveable (using straps and my all-time favorite assistive technology hardward store clamps).

Finally, today, the student was able to access the Tech/Speak effectively, essentially the first time it was presented. Greetings, comments, responses, refusals, inquires - all no problem for this student with the "new" Tech/Speak.

That's what happens when a TEAM of people, from teacher to paraprofessional to SLP see the possibility in students instead of the problems.

Words Plus New AAC Device The Conversa

Words+ has released a new high tech, dynamic display communication device, The Conversa. Here are the specs:
  • 12 inch diagonal screen with daylight viewable display
  • multiple access methods (touch screen, scanning, keyboard, joystick, etc.)
  • AT&T Natural Voices or NeoVoice
  • Improved speakers
  • Full Windows XP, 1G memory
  • Weight under five pounds
  • Choice of AAC software is EZ-Keys, Say-It-Sam or Boardmaker SDP
  • Price about $8,000
  • Medicaid eligible

Thursday, November 6, 2008

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Day 5 and 6

Two in one day (day five's challenge was posted after I went to bed last night, sidenote: I feel asleep with NBC streaming on my laptop and did not know who the new president was, I awoke in the middle of the night to screams and applause coming from the laptop and saw Michelle Obama leading her two girls across the stage before President Elect Obama began his acceptance speech).

Day 5 - Globalize your blog. I already use one of the suggestions, ClustrMap (see bottom right of the blog). Today we are also to add a translation service to our blog. With visitors from 103 countries and territories last month this seems useful, however Google's blog gadgets have a tendency to slow page load, so I will be watching carefully to see how useful the gadget is and is it slows thinks down.

Day 6 - Today's assignment is to get fresh perspective on your blog. I shared my blog with a class of nine paraprofessionals learning about behavior methodology in a class I taught today. I invite them all to comment and tell me what they think of this website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Day 4

Today's challenge is to create a Creative Commons License for your blog. I am choosing to license my blog as share-share alike (you can share my work as long as you credit me and my blog) and no commercial redistribution (you can't make money off my work). I have had numerous people ask to use my work in presentations and they have always been granted permission (as long as they credit me). Here is what the license looks like:

Creative Commons License
Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Blog by Kate Ahern, M.S.Ed. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at

Computer Brain Interface

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Everyone is doing it -- writing about and downloading Access Aps

Access Aps is a free set of open source software, like Open Office, and assistive technology softwares.

Here are some of the applications on Access Aps:
You can choose from a full download, a lite download or "pick and choose" to get only what you/your learners need. The Access Aps need to be downloaded, unzipped and then installed on a flash drive to make it portable and usable on any computer. You will need a 2G or bigger flash drive.

30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Day 3

Today's challenge to be a better blogger is to write a thank you note. Established bloggers are to write a thank you note to someone who has linked to their blog. New bloggers are to write a thank you note to some one who inspired them to blog. I am thinking I qualify as an established blogger, thus I am posting here an open e-mail to the writers of the following blogs:

Dear Patrick and Alicia,

First of all a belated welcome to the small, but growing, world of special education blogging. I am writing my thank you note to you because you are joining me in using the power of the internet to provide resources to teachers, therapists and families of learners with special education needs. The speducation blogesphere is small, but it is mighty, and it is great to have you are new voices out there. Also thanks for linking to me.



30 Days to Being a Better Blogger - Day 2

Day 2's theme is "play in traffic". This is pretty easy for me because although I have only been writing this site for two years I have been blogging for six or seven years and have always used a site statistic analyzer on my blogs. In order to make this a true challenge I will use a new statistic service, Google Analytics. I have been signed up with them for some time, but don't use it. Here are my October stats from them:
  • 66.09%
  • New Visits

    Not bad. More visitors that last month, 1/3 of visitors are returning visitors, 39% look at more than one page (that is what the 61% bounce rate is) and the average visitor stays about three minutes. I haven't really learned anything I didn't already know, so let me dig a little deeper into the stats.

    The browser stats tell me 65% of my visitors use Internet Explorer (come on people, time to switch to Firefox!), 25% use Firefox and the rest use one of nine other browsers (I didn't know there were nine other browsers! This tells me I need to be sure to periodically checkout how my blog looks in Internet Explorer so I can maximize the experience of those visitors.

    Meanwhile 85% of my visitors use some flavor of Windows, 14% use a Mac and the rest use one of eight other browsers (flavors of Linux, iPod and iPhone and Blackberry to name a few). Thus I need to check in with some of my Mac users and make sure the site is working for them the way it should (feel free to comment and let me know).

    Nearly all of my visitors have their browsers set up in English, but I have visitors with browsers set to six other languages as well. Additionally my visitors come from 103 countries and territories, but most are from the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia (no surprise there, given I write in English). Perhaps I need to spent more time writing about special education in other countries to make my blog as well rounded as my visitors.

    Vistors to the site came from 306 different sources. Most visitors 60% come to the site after using a search engine, but quite a few come directly by typing in the address or using a bookmark. The rest come through other blogs, chat groups, listservs, social bookmarking and e-mail sites. (I have noticed a huge spike in visitors everytime someone posts my site to a listserv like QIAT or the Boardmaker Group.) One interesting fact - more visitors come through an image search than a text search. I guess I better keep posting lots of images.

    So there you have it, I have playe din traffic!

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