Monday, 1 December 2008

I can... party!

Everybody loves a party! From a child’s birthday party at a classmate’s house, to that teenage sleep-over (no parents allowed!) or a wild, crazy night out! Parties provide us with a chance to dress up, spend time with our friends and to meet new people. What a great opportunity for social banter, telling stories, gossiping and asking questions!

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for getting ready for a night out:

Can you hold the mirror so I can see?
Please find my hairstyles page. I’ll show you the one I want.
Please show me my clothes choices.
I love it!
I would like something different.
What colours are there?
Not quite what I had in mind!
What do you think?
You look great too!
Can you call me a taxi, please?
Looks great!

Teens and Personal Relationships
For older teens, parties provide an environment where relationships can develop, new experiences can occur and boundaries may be tested. Often it can be difficult for teenagers to engage in discussion around such issues. An individual who uses AAC will likely find it even more difficult, as he/she may not have the vocabulary to talk about potentially sensitive topics such as relationships, sex and alcohol or drug use.

“Speak Upis a web site that offers many resources around relationships and sexuality, including communication displays and links to other websites that teens, young adults and parents of individuals who have complex communication needs may find useful. The website also highlights the importance of enabling individuals to disclose information about abuse.

“Speak Up is about ending the silences that prevent people who use alternative ways to communicate from protecting themselves from sexual abuse. It is about giving people with complex communication needs the information, education and means to communicate about healthy sexuality and sexual abuse”.
The Speak Up web site can be found at

No-Tech Ideas

  • Kids like to share information about themselves and their experiences. Take photos at a party and make up a small communication book using a dollar store photo album. Add labels that invite interaction from others, e.g. “I went to the Very Merry Mickey Party at Disney. That’s me with Baloo the bear. If you went to Disney, who would you party with?”
Light Tech Ideas
High Tech Ideas
  • Music files can be played on some dynamic display devices – choose the music ahead of time and be the DJ!
  • Photos can also be added to devices – perfect for sharing information about the party at a later date. Some Speech Generating Devices, such as the Tango! ®, even have the camera built in! 

    Opportunities to Learn
    Don’t forget… Coming Spring 2009!   
    ICE (Independence, Community & Empowerment) Conference:
    “It’s All About Hope”
    This is an event created by and for individuals who use AAC and their families. It was designed to bring the community of people who use AAC together to share ideas, learn from each other, and create new friendships. Keep checking the ICE website for details.
    Fun Stuff!
    Tuesdays Feb 3 - Apr 14
    6-6:45 pm @ TVCC, Fee: $70
    Fun interactive music program for children with disabilities and their siblings. This is a partnership between TVCC and Music for the Very Young.        
    More information on this and other upcoming activities at:
Resources: Check out the following websites for great information and ideas…

Intellitools Ready Made Activities

Saturday, 1 November 2008

I can... get ready for the holidays!

Is it already that time of year again? As 2008 draws to a close, students are starting to think about the holidays, celebrations and time to be spent with family and friends. It’s a time for giving, a time for wishing and a great time to talk about special events that happen only once a year ….

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for the holidays:

Happy Holidays!
Let’s sing some holiday songs.
See you in January!
What are you doing over the holidays?
I’ve been so good this year.  I’m hoping for a….
My favourite holiday movie is….what’s yours?
My favourite holiday food is….what’s yours?
I’m going to miss you over the holidays.
What do you like best about the holiday season?
I want to write a letter to…
Can we play some holiday games?
Have a Happy New Year!

Gift Ideas!
Sometimes it can be challenging to find gifts that are fun and appropriate for students who use switches to control their world.  Here are some suggestions to consider for the wish list (or maybe even the classroom wish list!).

Switch Adapted Products for the Young at Heart:

Switch Adapted Products for Teens:

Switch Adapted MP3 Player:

Computer Hardware & Software:

Switch It Software: There are many different topics of interest for children e.g. Switch It Diggers


AbleNet has made improvements to many of their products.  Now would be a great time to purchase a new Step-by-StepTM.

No-Tech Ideas 

Light Tech Ideas 

  • Keep everyone up to date with what’s happening: fund raising events, the school play, the Christmas concert. In the weeks leading up to the December school break, there are often many new and different events happening around the school. Designate one of your students to report on the events each week. Classmates can decide on the topic for the week and the information that needs to be reported. A peer could record the messages into a Step-by-StepTM, and then the student could then report to students across the school.

High Tech Ideas

This is a great time of year to complete some topic-specific writing tasks.  Make use of some ready-made activities.

Write to Santa:

Winter Holiday Writing (including Kwanzaa, Christmas, Eid and Hanukkah):

Write about Charles DickensA Christmas Carol’:

 Enjoy some holiday-inspired cause & effect activities:
e.g., Gingerbread Blues, Singing Santa, Have a Quacky Christmas & Up on a Housetop:

Fun Stuff!

Mon Jan 19, 2009

“All About Me” displays give TVCC clients the opportunity to show photos, ribbons, trophies, art, stories, and anything else that highlights their successes and challenges.  If you know someone who would like to have a display at this event, please contact Kim Pancino at 519 685 8700, ext. 53463 by December 22nd for further information.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

I can... get to know you!

Since starting back to school in early September, your students have likely had several opportunities to meet new people: teachers, classmates, support personnel, even a new bus driver.  Meeting new people can be challenging, particularly for students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Here are some ideas to make this a less stressful process.

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for getting to know new people:

Great to meet you!
Let’s trade e-mail addresses.
What’s your name?
There are some things you need to know about how I communicate…
I’d like to remember your name. Can you help me add it to my device?
I need to compose my message. It will take a few minutes – can you wait?
Tell me something about yourself.
Check out my “All About Me Book”, it’s in my backpack.
I don’t think we’ve met. My name is …
Do you have time to talk?
Please get my symbol display.
How are you doing today?

Communication Passports or All About Me books

Communication passports are books that present an overall picture of a person. They are written in a way which reflects the person’s personality and can include the following:

  • general background information including details about likes & dislikes, family and friends;
  • a description of how the person communicates and how others can best communicate with them;
  • a summary of the person’s views and preferences.
Communication passports are best created in partnership with the person who will “own” the  finished product. They need to be unique and engaging to others. These resources are particularly useful at times of transition, for example when a student moves from elementary school to high school. Check out the following website for details on how to develop a Communication Passport and templates that can be used.

No-Tech Ideas

·         People can be nervous about talking to an individual who uses AAC. Help your student create a personal introduction to their communication system. Write a short paragraph about how the system is used and how the student wants the listener to help. Post it in a place, where all listeners will notice it & read it, for example on a tray or a wheelchair.

Light Tech Ideas

·         Ablenet carries a range of introductory devices that work well for students who want to share information or news. The good news is that they have recently improved some of the devices, such as the Step-by-StepTM, which now has 2 full minutes of recording time, better digital sound and improved battery life. Makes a great Christmas gift!

 High Tech Ideas

·         Some devices have Internet, email and messaging capabilities. Chat with your ACS clinician to find out more about this.

·         Remember your Internet safety tips

Fun Stuff!

Opportunities to Learn
Coming Spring 2009!     
ICE (Independence, Community & Empowerment) Conference:
“It’s All About Hope”
This is an event created by and for individuals who use AAC and their families. It was designed to bring the community of people who use AAC together to share ideas, learn from each other, and create new friendships. Watch for more info in “I Can”.

Artistic Touch
This program is designed for youth who would like to get together in a supportive setting to learn and experience the areas of acrylic paint, sculpting, drawing, take part in an art exhibit and more.  For budding artists 13 years and up.

Date: Saturdays: Oct 18 - Dec 6, 2008
Time: 10 - 11:30am
Location: TVCC, London
Fee: $85

Resources for families and educators: Check out the following websites for great ideas…

          · A Talking Photo Album is a great way to share information about activities that interest a student:
· Community Success Software presents step-by-step illustrated instruction in community activities and the social skills needed for each activity:
· Read more information about the 2007 ICE conference (See “Opportunities to Learn”): media/omod_news/2007/ICE2007.htm

Monday, 1 September 2008

I can...get organized!

Welcome back! A brand new school year…a great time to encourage students to become more independent by keeping themselves organized!  There are all kinds of ways that we can help our students to keep track of their schedules and to remember what tasks need to be completed.

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for getting organized:
Let’s start a timer!
Where’s my visual schedule?
I’ll check my day timer.
Let’s record that in my Step by Step ™
Can I help check it off?
Can you add that to my reminder list?
Here’s our grocery list….
Can you record a reminder in my Step-by –Step ™ for my mom?
Is it time for lunch yet?
Do you want to hear what I did at school?
What do we need to take on our class trip?
Let me tell you about my summer vacation…

Visual Schedules  
  • Encourage a student who uses an SGD to remind the class of upcoming events or the daily schedule. Use this in combination with a visual schedule in your class to help remind all students of what’s coming next. To make a visual schedule more manageable, split it into a morning and an afternoon section. Show a book buddy how to use a visual schedule, so that your student can see it being used by many different communication partners. Remember that a visual schedule is not just a classroom decoration! It needs to be used frequently so that the student can learn the sequence of events throughout a given time period.
  • Check out the SetBC website at for a great description of the different types of visual schedules and how they are used.

No-Tech Ideas 
  • Post-It® Notes are great for reminders, adding temporary information to a communication display or as a communication exchange (a series of messages on subsequent notes)


Light Tech Ideas
  • Use a student’s Step-by-StepTM to add a reminder for home. Make it part of the overall daily message, so that the social function of the device is not lost. “Hi Mom & Dad! I had a great day today. We listened to a story about Fall and watched a puppet show. Don’t forget I need to bring in some indoor shoes for gym tomorrow.”

  High Tech Ideas

·         It may be difficult to know whether a student has certain vocabulary within his SGD. Many of the device manufacturers provide support materials that can assist facilitators who want to model language for the student, e.g. wall charts, vocabulary lists and copies of the symbol sets for printing. Ask your ACS therapist to help you find the resources that you need.

·         Many high tech devices have integrated e-mail capabilities, reminder functions and address books that might be helpful to a student. Check the manufacturer’s website or ask your ACS clinician for information.

Opportunities to Learn
Tuesday October 23 2008 is AAC Awareness Day. Look for information on this event and other AAC related issues at
Look for events that are happening locally!

Fun Stuff! 

Pawsitive S.T.U.F.F. is a bear making party for children aged 3 – 12 years who use AAC. This is a partnership between TVCC and Celebration. Saturday October 4th, 10am – 12pm. $50. For further information call 519-685-8700 ext. 54097


Resources for families and educators: Check out the following websites for great ideas…

For older students, Hutton House has developed a series of age appropriate books  
First Money Software (money management skills)  
Match Time Software  
Time Scales Software  
Making Sense with Numbers Software   
Time Timer

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I can...keep in touch!

As the school year draws to a close, students may want to keep in touch with all their friends over the summer vacation. Today there are so many ways kids can connect including e-mail, letter writing, text messaging, Facebook and using the telephone. Students who use augmentative communication may need some help to use these methods effectively.

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for talking about keeping in touch:
What’s your e-mail?
Are you on Facebook?
We’ll be BFF!
I’ll send you a postcard
Give me a call over the summer.
Write back soon!
Do we have stamps?
Do you have a cell phone?
I’ll post my vacation pictures
Help me write a letter.
What’s your Facebook status?
Keep in touch!

Get Connected!

Ability Online is a free and monitored online support community that links kids with disabilities or illness to other kids and adults who care.   It also provides information on health related issues.  You must register online and then you will be sent a password via Canada Post. 

Help students create an address book so that they can exchange e-mail addresses to keep in touch with their friends over the summer.
  • If a student has difficulty with spelling while composing an e-mail, try using symbols to help them choose which message to send to a friend. For example:
  • I Can E-mail by RJ Cooper is a simplified e-mail program available for purchase.  It breaks down the task of sending an e-mail and provides auditory prompting.  It is best suited to someone who can access a keyboard. approximately $125.

Send an E-Card
Students can send each other e-cards using Mayer Johnson’s website.  Browse by topic such as birthday, missing you etc.

No-Tech Ideas
Try creating a remnant book or journal of the summer holidays so that students can share their memories.

Light Tech Ideas
Collect vacation photos and display them in a talking photo album.

High Tech Ideas
  • Students who use voice output devices can talk on the phone too. Try programming a few phrases to let the person receiving the call know that the speaker is using a voice output device.
  • Ask your students to report on their summer vacation once they return to school. They can share their stories with the rest of the class by using their communication device.
Resources for teachers and educators: Check out the following websites for great ideas…

Thursday, 1 May 2008

I can...get involved in science!

Getting involved in science helps us to learn about our world and to answer questions about why things are the way that they are. There are lots of resources to make science fun for all ages! Help your students who use augmentative communication to check out cool websites or to get their hands dirty with a “green” activity.

Here are some vocabulary suggestions for talking about science:
I want to see it!
Is it going to blow up?
How does that work?
Why did that happen?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
That’s cool!
Can I have your pop tab?
I love science!
I’m scared!
Let’s save it!
I have a litterless lunch!
Let’s clean up our school!

Go Green!
Encourage your students to get involved in taking care of our environment.  Try one of these suggestions with your student(s): 

Save your Pop Tabs for a Wheelchair!
Did you know it takes 1,000 aluminum pop tabs to equal one pound? Aluminum can be sold for approximately 60¢ a pound. The money raised is donated to the March of Dimes Assistive Devices Program. They help buy wheelchairs for children who need them. Challenge your classroom or school to collect pop tabs throughout the year! Involve students who use a voice output communication aid in an end of the year assembly to tell the students how much money was raised and how that money will be used.

Create a Recycle Team!
Encourage your students to participate in the collection and sorting of recycling materials for a classroom or two. Try recording a message on a Step-by-Step™ communicator such as “I’m here for the recycling”, “Reduce, reuse, recycle!” Use this chart to help kids sort their recycling:

Create a Buy and Sell Board!
Many children who have disabilities have expensive equipment or toys that they may no longer need. Why not have a place where parents can post a picture or an add for equipment that they don’t have a need for? Be sure to indicate that parents should check with their child’s therapist to ensure that the equipment is appropriate and safe to use.

No-Tech Ideas
Create a specific communication display for use during a science project or experiment.

Light Tech Ideas
Use a Step-by-Step™ to allow a student ask questions during a science experiment. Try recording questions such as “What are we going to be doing?”, “Will it make a loud noise?”, “Why did that happen?”

High Tech Ideas
Sometimes students are limited because they only have access to a basic vocabulary. Review vocabulary pages available to your student and talk about other words that he or she might like to add. For example, when talking about the Solar System, it’s one thing to be able to name the planets, but your student may also want to talk about “asteroids”, “comets”, “meteoroids”, “interstellar space” and “nuclear fusion”. (The student can even explain these terms to a parent!).

Resources for teachers and educators: Check out the following websites for great ideas…