Saturday, 1 December 2007

I can..write!

Often, kids with physical disabilities do not have many opportunities to engage in writing activities.  There are many ways to adapt activities to allow active participation in writing. Here are some ideas to get your kids excited about writing: make a wish list for Santa or a birthday, write a journal or online blog, write a story about an imaginary place, write a funny poem, write an email to a friend, keep a Facebook page updated.

Here are some ideas for vocabulary your student might use when writing:
I want to write to….
Can you print this for me?
Let’s add a picture
I want to write more
Let’s send this in the mail.
I want to email
I want to write about...
Can you read it back to me?
This is a great story!
How do you spell…
What do you think of my work?
Let’s make a list
Can I check my email?
Let’s go to my Facebook page
Dear Santa,

Building A Story
  • Try using symbols to create simple stories with a beginning, middle and end. Give your students the opportunity to choose from a selection of story starters, plots and conclusions. Below are some examples to get you started. Based on your student’s reading ability, you can choose to use symbols or just text. See additional examples in the “I Can” resource package attached.
  • Try making multiple copies of the symbols/text. As a student makes a selection, provide them with a copy for them to paste on a paper. At the end, the student will have a hard copy of their story.

Story Starters
Story Plots
Story Conclusions
Once upon a time
a dragon breathed fire on all the land
and he was chased out of town and never seen again.
In a land far, far away
a princess found a frog
and everyone lived happily ever after.
One dark and stormy night
a monster was wandering the streets
and changed into a beautiful unicorn.
In the middle of stinky wet swamp,
a caterpillar ate a monstrous mushroom
and sailed away across the ocean.

Make a Big Book
Have your older students create simple patterned stories that are often used for young children.  Provide an opportunity for your student to share this book with younger students or show it off with their reading buddy. Below is a link to a book with reproducible patterns for making big books for younger kids.

No-Tech Ideas
  • Fill in the story – Write simple sentences. Encourage your students to make choices to fill in the blanks. E.g. Michael likes to ______. (Swim/Eat/Drink/Dance/Jump)
Light Tech Ideas
  • Try recording a story that your student has written onto a Step-by-Step™ communicator so that your student can re-tell the story to friends, family and others.
High Tech Ideas
  • Students need access to a wide variety of vocabulary for writing. Often students who use a speech-generating device have only one word to express an idea or concept, e.g. “happy”. Give them access to a large and rich vocabulary bank. For example, instead of saying “happy” your student may want to say “excited”, “thrilled”, “elated”, “jumping for joy”, “energized”.
  • Provide your student with vocabulary on their speech-generating device to allow them to meet their daily writing goals.
  • Students may use adaptive software programs such as Intellitools Classroom Suite, Clicker, or Writing with Symbols. Check out the manufacturer’s website for an extensive list of activities to download.
  • A selection of writing activities from the manufacturers websites related to winter and holidays are available to sign out. Please contact Gill Steckle or Kristel Pallant for a copy at 519-685-8700, ext 53413/53361 during the month of December 2007.
Activities to Download

- Activity Exchange by Intellitools

- Resources by Widgit (Writing with Symbols)
Resources for teachers and educators:
Need extra help with using adaptive software programs?

Thursday, 1 November 2007

I a book!

Everybody loves to read books!  Book reading is more fun when you can fully participate by talking about the book, turning the pages and reading some of the lines. 

Here are some ideas for vocabulary when reading books with your student:
Let me see
Turn the page
Read it again!
I want another book
I want a different book
Read some more
That was a good story
I want to read with…
Let me see that picture
I can’t see the pictures
Where’s my reading buddy?
I love this book
That’s scary!
I don’t like that story
I want to read…
That’s silly
Can I read a book on the computer?
It’s my turn to pick
Let’s go to the library
Let’s check out a….book
What happens next?

How to Adapt a Book

Page Fluffers: Adding pieces of foam, weather stripping or sponge to the corners of a book may help a student to turn pages independently.

Adding Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) from Boardmaker™
Add PCS symbols to simplify the text in a book.
Add PCS symbols to make requests while book reading e.g. “Turn the page”, “Read it again”.

Velcro™ On Covers: Place "male" Velcro™ (rough, sticking out surface) on the back cover of children's books. The Velcro™ strips will adhere to carpet so that the book won't slip and slide while the child is turning pages

Go on a Library Fieldtrip All of London’s Public Libraries participate in the “Libraries for All” initiative. Alphabet, word and picture boards are available at all branches. For more information contact Linda Ludke at the Public Library.

No Tech Ideas: 
  • Create a general display for all book-reading activities.  Try using the display provided in the “I Can…read books” resource package.
  • Create a specific display to allow your student to comment on the characters and story plot. 
  • Kids are often motivated by stories in which they are the central character.  Create personalized stories about your student using digital photos.
Light Tech Ideas
Use a BIGMack® to allow students to make requests e.g. “Read some more”, “Turn the page”
Encourage students to actively participate by saying the repeated line(s) in a story. A list of suggested books with repeated lines is included in the “I Can…read books” resource package.

High Tech Ideas
Program a story into a Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA) so that your student can read a story to a reading buddy or younger student.

Resources for teachers and educators:

Monday, 1 October 2007


There are so many resources available on the Internet, that it can be confusing and time consuming to sort the useful from the useless. Here are some suggestions for websites that might be useful in the classroom, particularly for students who use adapted access or augmentative communication.

Here are some ideas for vocabulary when using the computer:

I love this website!
Let me do it.
Let’s send an e-mail.
Click the mouse.
What is that?
Let’s try another page.
Let’s go back.
My turn.
This is boring.
Do it again.
Your turn. 
Do you like it?
Check out the links.
Uh oh! I don’t think we did it right!
What do you want to do?
What does this do?
This is fun!
I’m all done.
What else can we do?
Add this to my favourites.
Let’s print it.

 Check out these websites!  First, the fun stuff….
No Tech Ideas
  • Create a simple cardboard frame that fits around your computer screen. Add a strip of Velcro® so that you can position symbols for the student to select.
  • Create a picture display with website choices and vocabulary listed above.

Light Tech Ideas
  • A switch-adapted mouse can allow a student to use a switch to activate a mouse click.
High Tech Ideas
  • Many high tech communication devices allow the user to control the computer and input text into documents. If you are not sure how to do this, talk to your ACS clinician.
Computer Accessibility Options
  • Enlarging the overall screen size can help students who have visual difficulties. For example, in Windows XP, go to: Start/Settings/Control Panel/Accessibility Options/Display Tab/Settings/Select Windows Standard (large) from the drop down menu/OK/Select High Contrast Check Box/Apply
Resources for teachers and educators:
Ready Made Activities to Download:

Saturday, 1 September 2007

I can...cook!

Shopping, cooking, clean up…these are all great activities that provide many opportunities for communication. Students can talk about healthy food choices, express likes or dislikes, choose favourite flavours or pick which chore to do first. So dig out the mixing bowl, the spatula and the Ablenet Powerlink® and let’s get baking!

Here are some ideas for general cooking vocabulary:
It’s my turn.
I made it myself.
I’m a chef!
Can I taste it?
What is that?
Is it cooked yet?
Let me see.
I want to stir.
What do we do next?
I want to cook something different.
Uh oh! I don’t think we did it right!
That tastes gross.
Do you like it?
That’s my favourite.
Let me do it again.
Looks like dog food!
Tastes good, doesn’t it?
I want to help.
This is the fun bit!

Recipe with Picture Communication Symbols:

No Tech Ideas:

  • Add Picture Communication Symbols to simple recipes to allow your student to follow the steps.
  • Provide simple symbol boards so that a student can e.g., pick the colour of the icing, the shape of the cookie cutter, etc.
  • Choose recipes that offer many choices to allow maximum participation, e.g. pizza toppings, tacos, fruit salad.
  • Laminate your recipes for durability and for frequent use.
 Light Tech Ideas
  • Program each item from your grocery list into a sequential message device: the student can remind you what to buy at the store.
  • Program the steps in a recipe into a Step-by-StepTM communication device. Your student can then direct the cooking process.
  • The AbleNet Powerlink® 3 Control Unit allows a student who uses a switch to operate small appliances such as a blender or food mixer.

High Tech Ideas
  • To assist a student in selecting recipe steps successfully, each step can be programmed into a single button, which automatically links to the next step.
  • Keep your students’ vocabulary expanding by introducing new words based on resources such as Canada’s Food Guide. Talk about the different food groups and healthy eating choices.
  • Students who have a favourite restaurant may be motivated to order their own food. Program a page based on a social script for ordering food (containing greetings, food choices, questions, comments etc.)
Resources for adapting cooking activities:

Suggested cookbooks for the classroom.

Friday, 1 June 2007

I can...tell a joke!

Kids love to tell jokes…the sillier the better!  Jokes are quick and easy to tell and can be said over and over again.  Jokes provide a great opportunity to practice language and social interaction skills.  This includes practice for consistent turn taking that is predictable and fun. Have your students share jokes with a variety of people in your school such as reading buddies, principal, other teachers, secretary, caretakers, librarian and bus drivers.

Here are some ideas for general joke telling vocabulary:
Do you want to hear a joke?
That doesn’t make sense.
I don’t get it.
Do you know any jokes?
That’s stupid!
Tell it again!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
That’s a groaner!
Good one!
Do you have any more?
I have one to tell you.
Bring me another joke tomorrow
Mine was funnier.
You should hear this one?
Get it?
C’mon guess?
Give up?
Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Is that the best you’ve got?
No, still don’t get it.

Some funny jokes…

Why does the hamburger go to the gym?
To get great buns!

Why do seagulls fly over the sea?
Because if they flew over the bay, they would be bagels!
What do you call chips that aren’t yours?
Nacho chips! 
 Have I told you the joke about the butter?
I’d better not…it might spread!
Why was the math book sad?
Because it had too many problems!


No Tech Ideas

  • Post-It® Note Jokes – write a joke on a Post-It® note and the punch line on the Post-It® note underneath.
  • Try laminating a PCS symbol that represents the joke and one that represents the punch line. Use a dry erase marker to write the joke and punch line on the reverse sides.
  • Write a joke on the front of a folded piece of paper with the punch line on the inside.
  • Try providing symbols that will allow your student to comment on the joke he/she has heard e.g. “That’s a groaner!” “Funny one!”
Light Tech Ideas 

Step-by-Step communication devices are great for telling jokes because they are quickly programmed.
  • Try including phrases to catch and maintain a person’s attention such as “I have a joke for you.”, “C’mon, guess…”.
  • Instead of sharing news between home and school, try sharing a joke.

High Tech Ideas 

  • During morning announcements, have a student who uses a voice output device tell a joke to the school. (Test this out with your P.A. system to ensure the device is easily understood when amplified.)
  • Simplify the student’s physical access to the joke by linking the joke and the punch line together for a no-fail joke telling experience.
  • Try using recorded speech to give emphasis to the joke.  
Resources for telling jokes:

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

I board games!

Kids love playing games with their family and friends.  Try adapting a popular game so that kids who use Augmentative Communication can increase their participation. We have chosen Don’t Spill the Beans® by Hasbro to provide you with some ideas on how you might adapt a game.  Think about the games you have in your class to see if students can take a more active role when playing.

Vocabulary Ideas:  To hear what kids really say when they play board games, invite a group of peers to play the game and make a list of what you hear.

Here are some ideas for general game vocabulary:
My turn
Move my piece please
No cheating!
Your turn
Roll the dice
This is fun!
I win
No fair
Whose turn?
Roll again
What number did you roll?
Pick a card
Do you want to play?
Can we play again?
Can I go first?
I quit
Hey, I was supposed to go!

Specific vocabulary for Don’t Spill the Beans® by Hasbro
Don’t spill the beans!
You spilled the beans!
Be careful
Try another one
He’s tipping
Can you put a bean on for me?
Put it to the right/left
You have more beans
Put it in the middle
This is easy
This is getting harder
I think it’s gonna spill
Watch out
You spilled them
It’s not my fault
Oh no!
It’s getting close!
I’ll get the beans out

  • Try making the communication display in the form of the board game or game character.
  • If there are specific characters on the board game, try colour photocopying the board and cut out the characters to use as symbols.
  • Make individual Picture Communication Symbols (PCS).  Kids can either point or look at the symbol they want.
  • Make or buy oversized dice – easier to throw and to see
  • Use a wooden playing card holder or Playdoh® rolled out to hold the cards 
Light Tech Ideas 
Sequential Message Device: You can record a variety of phrases that allow a student to comment or ask questions about the game. For example:
  • Who’s winning?
  • Is someone cheating?
  • Is it my turn yet?
  • This is fun!
Simple voice output devices: Create communication overlays based on vocabulary needed for the game. Use intonation to make the messages more meaningful.

High Tech Ideas
  • Most high tech devices will allow both recorded speech as well as synthesized voices. Try using recorded speech to make messages more expressive e.g. “I win!”, “No fair”, “Is it my turn yet?”
  • Try using scanned images of the characters in the game.
Resources for playing games: