Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I can... enjoy winter activities!

December 2009
Winter is almost here and we can’t stop it from coming. So, we may as well embrace it!  This month, we’ve brought you some ideas for using AAC while participating in fun, winter-themed activities that can be enjoyed from the warmth of indoors!

Vocabulary suggestions for participating in Winter Activities:
What’s on your wish list?
More hot chocolate please!
I need my sweater.
Help me write a letter to Santa.
We need _____ for our snowman.
Happy Holidays!
Let’s watch a holiday movie.
It’s too cold! Let’s go inside.
Build the snow fort bigger.
Hooray! No school for 2 weeks.
Help me throw a snowball.
I want to catch snowflakes.

Winter can bring a lot of opportunities for outdoor fun.  However, sometimes we need to stay in the warm and have our fun inside. There are a multitude of activity ideas online which are often easy to adapt for children who use AAC. Here are some examples
       Apples 4 the Teacher - Fun Educational Website for Teachers and Kids
Sign up to receive free newsletters that contain lesson plan ideas, printables and more. Explore the Snowflake Factory – using partner assisted scanning, your child can create their own virtual snowflake and then make it ‘move’ in a blizzard, explode, melt etc. http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/winter/    

Also, using partner assisted scanning, your child can select colours to complete a picture with a virtual crayon. Several colouring pages and reading activities can be found at:

Partner Assisted Scanning is a method in which the communication partner indicates all possible choices by showing, pointing and/or speaking the names of all available items. The choices are then restated one by one, and the child confirms or rejects each item using their previously established “yes” or “no” response. Messages can often be conveyed more quickly because the physical effort required is minimized.

Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow - Preschool Learning Activities and Ideas
Here you’ll find lots of examples of activities in which your child could use a simple speech-generating device like a Step-by-Step to direct the activity. You can also register for the Rainbow Resource Room where you’ll find additional helpful resources.   http://preschoolrainbow.org/preschool-winter.htm

AbleNet’s The Wiz - Looking for a fun new idea for your Step-by-Step? Choose your Grade Level, and Communication Tools from the Product Family menu. You'll be on your way to a great new activity in no time. Search for the Winter theme activities. http://store.ablenetinc.com/wiz.aspx

No-Tech Ideas

Laminate symbols/vocabulary related to outdoor winter activities and attach them to your child’s coat or mittens using a rubber-coiled keychain.  Don’t forget to include messages like “I’m cold”, “Let’s do it again”, “Time for some hot chocolate”, “This is so much fun!”

Light Tech Ideas

Your child could use their sequential message device to tell the class each of the steps for making a winter recipe (e.g. cookies, hot chocolate).  Find some tasty recipe ideas in the Rainbow Resource Room at http://preschoolrainbow.org/join.htm.

High Tech Ideas

Use your computer to do some holiday writing.  You can write a letter to Santa using IntelliTools Classroom Suite software.  A template has already been created for you at aex.intellitools.com/searchdetails.php?act_key=dearsanta0

We’re All Stars
London Convention Centre
January 18, 2010
10am – 2pm

An annual daytime celebration held in conjunction with the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction. TVCC Clients can participate in All About Me displays, listen to presentations from 3 of their peers, get autographs from the Sports celebrities, and enjoy a pizza lunch. It is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and recognize the achievements of TVCC clients.  If you know someone who would like to have an “All About Me” display, contact Heather Pimperton, by December  14/09 at 519-685-8700 x58683 or

Free tickets are available through the schools. To attend, please request a ticket from your child’s teacher or educational assistant.

January 18, 2010
London Convention Centre
For tickets, contact for more information, please contact Bud at: budloughlin@royallepage.ca
or call: (519) 657-6005

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I can... read my book with you!

November 2009
In previous issues of I Can… we have explored the importance of developing literacy skills with students who use AAC. In this issue we take a closer look at what’s involved in adapting children’s picture books for early readers … or maybe a whole shelf of books!

Here are suggestions for core vocabulary that can be used to rephrase part of a well-known children’s story. Can you work out what the book is? Scroll to the bottom of the blog for the answer:

1. 1 little, 2 little, 3 little
5. I want to eat you!
9. Run away little one.
2. All go away
6. Ready? Here I come.
10. Away goes Big Bad.
3. Look! Here comes Big   
7.  You don’t eat me. Stop!
11. Uh oh. I see Big Bad.
4. Little one, little one, are
    you in?
8.No, no, no. You do not
   come in.
12. Here comes Big Bad again.

Help! I don’t have time to adapt books!
-    host an adapted book making party or coffee morning, to develop resources for a school library, or to get help in developing resources for your child at home. Many people are happy to help, especially when cake and coffee is on offer!
-    when people ask what your child would like as a birthday gift, provide a copy of the attached handout and a book wish list and ask them to help out by adapting a book or two
-    in schools, involve older students who can cut and laminate.

I don’t have Boardmaker software. Where can I find symbols and print them out?

-    Boardmaker is available for use in the TVCC Resource Centre.

How do I read a book using core vocabulary?

-    It takes a bit of practice to read a book using core vocabulary. Core vocabulary refers to words and messages that are used with high frequency, by a variety of individuals (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2005), and across a number of different language contexts. The advantage of using core vocabulary during story retells, is that your child will get lots of practice using those words. Learning about the words “big” and “bad” may be important for language development and more useful than learning the word “wolf”, a word that is not typically used in everyday conversation.
-    Before reading together with your child, read the story yourself and think about the main ideas related to each page. Then decide what words and phrases you can use to convey the meaning of the story as you read through. Make some of these core words available to your child so that he/she can use them with you as you read. Velcro them right into the book for ease of use.

No-Tech Ideas

-     Hunt at the Dollar store to find items to use as page fluffers that can make it easier to turn the pages. 
      Many items are available in the scrap booking and craft aisles. Ensure that  page fluffers are securely
      attached as these small items can be choking hazards.
-    Create a display that allows your child to have some control over the book reading process. Include  
      messages that allow your child to start an activity (“Read it again”), change what is happening (“Get a
      different book”), stop the activity (“Let’s do something else”) or comment on the book (“That’s 
       funny!”).  Add soft (loop) Velcro to your display. Put corresponding hard (hook) Velcro spots on the
      back of the books that you frequently read together. When a book is selected, pop the board onto the
      back and flip the book over to allow your child to use it.

Light Tech Ideas

-     Use a mini-flashlight (available at stores like Canadian Tire) to draw a child’s attention to the word and
       symbol that you are emphasizing as you read.

High Tech Ideas

-      Kids love to read books over and over again – you’ll get tired of the story long before they will! Record the lines of simple storybooks into a high tech device to allow a student to “read” more independently. Some devices will allow the addition of scanned pictures from a book to increase interest, e.g. Springboard Lite.

Talking With our Mouths Full!
October was AAC Awareness Month and a group of individuals who use AAC, together with family
and caregivers, met over lunch and everyone experienced conversing using only AAC.  The turnout was
superb and everyone participated with enthusiasm. Keep an eye out for next year’s event!!!

Also, check out The Many Methods One Goal to Communicate Collection of stories and videos at: 

Resources: Check out some websites ….

Information about adapted books: www.aten.scps.k12.fl.us/pdfs/Adapted%20Books.pdf

The why’s and the how’s: 

Adapt-a-Lap Book Holder for when you don’t think you have enough hands to juggle everything:
or the Table Mate, available at stores such as Canadian Tire:

ANSWER: Did you guess right? The book was “The 3 Little Pigs”.  

Thursday, 1 October 2009

I can... use the computer!

Now that the new school year is well underway, there are so many new opportunities available!  Your child may want to use the computer more at home and in the classroom.  Here are some quick and easy suggestions for using the computer with children who use AAC and may also need adapted access for the computer

Vocabulary suggestions for using the computer:
I love this!
I want to save it.
Let’s click the mouse.
Let’s try a different one.
Can we play that again!
This is boring.
Let’s do it again.
Can we print this out, now?
This one is my favourite!
What’s happens next?
Can we send an email?
I’m all done on the computer.

Sometimes, it may be easier to use a computer with some adaptations.

Challenge:  My student has difficulty with his vision.

Possible Solutions:
  • Use a keyboard with larger keys and/or keys on which the letters are printed in a colour that is in high contrast to the colour of the keys (e.g. IntelliKeys, Big Keys keyboards).
  • Change the display settings of the computer operating system (size of font and icons, colours) e.g., in Windows XP, go to: Start/Settings/Control Panel/Display/Appearance/Select Windows Standard (large) from the drop down menu and change font size to large or extra large/Apply/OK
  • Use a program that provides auditory feedback to the student when they have done something (e.g. reads back the letter they typed, ‘dings’ when they click a button).
  • Use a monitor arm to place the monitor in an optimal position to meet the student’s visual needs.      
    Questions???? Contact your ACS clinicians or your vision specialist.
Challenge:  My student has difficulty using a standard keyboard and mouse.

Possible Solutions for Keyboard Access:
·         Change the settings in the Control Panel either under Keyboard or Accessibility Options to adjust how the keyboard accepts input.  E.g . in Windows XP, go to:  Start/Settings/Control Panel/Keyboard/Speed OR Start/Settings/Control Panel/Accessibility Options/Keybaord tab/Use Sticky Keys (you can press the ‘Shift’ key, release, then press a letter to have the letter capitalized instead of having to press both keys at once).
·         Use an expanded keyboard like the IntelliKeys that can be customized as needed to match the activity (e.g. keys with pictures and/or words rather than individual letters).
·         Use an on-screen keyboard which allows the student to use a mouse to select letters from the computer display (see links to demo versions under Resources).

Possible Solutions for Mouse Access:
·         Change the settings in the Control Panel either under Mouse or Accessibility Options to adjust how the mouse looks and moves. E.g., in Windows XP, go to:  Start/Settings/Control Panel/Mouse/Pointers (change how the cursor appears on the display) OR  Start/Settings/Control Panel/Accessibility Options/Mouse tab/Use Mouse Keys (allows the student to control the cursor using the number pad of the keyboard).
·         Use a switch with a switch-adapted mouse to perform a mouse click (see resources).
      Try using a different kind of pointing device (e.g. trackball, joystick).                 
Questions? Contact your OT.
No Tech Ideas
  • Create a communication display with messages that include some of the vocabulary listed on the first page of the newsletter.  This could be made accessible to the student either by placing by their computer workstation or on a frame around the edges of the monitor.  

Light Tech Ideas

High Tech Ideas
  • Using computer for presentations or a slide show (e.g. create a Power Point presentation ‘All About Me’.)
  • Some speech-generating devices can be used to control your computer. Talk to your ACS clinicians for more info.
  • For students who are not yet reading/writing using text entry, use a symbol processor (e.g. Writing With Symbols) rather than a word-processor. Symbol processors can usually be setup to display symbols and words together, symbols alone, or words alone. E.g. http://www.widgit.com/resources/wws_menu.htm
Talking with our mouths full!

In celebration of AAC Awareness Month, we’re getting together for a special lunch! Tuesday October 27, 2009 at Shelley’s restaurant in London. See the attached flyer for more details
School Age Children With Special Needs: Accessibility - Getting What You Need
Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009 from 9am-3:30 pm
Parents/caregivers can choose from a variety of interactive workshop sessions and view vendor displays and exhibits For more information go to: http://www.tvcc.on.ca/index.php?option=com_events&task=view_detail&agid=284&year=2009&month=11&day=21&Itemid=830 
To register: Contact Carrie Connell at 519-685-8700, ext. 53367 or register@tvcc.on.ca

http://www.lburkhart.com/handcomp.html describes benefits of using computers with young children and gives more ideas for adapting access.

Not sure if an on-screen keyboard will work? Demo versions at:
http://softboy.net/osk/ , http://www.wivik.com/downloads.html

Purchase a Switch adapted mouse at https://store.bridges-canada.com/P-81SAM/Switch+Adapted+Mouse+Usb+%26+Ps%2f2

Websites (activities and info)
http://moojob.com/dork/ switch accessible game for older students, free trial

www.starfall.com lots of fun activities for children who are learning to read

http://www.priorywoods.middlesbrough.sch.uk/index.htm resource section with activities for switch, touch screen and pointing device users http://www.accpc.ca/elp-toolsstrategies.htm book reading and early writing

http://www.accessiblebookcollection.org/Default.htm electronic books 

http://www.oneswitch.org.uk/2/switch-downloads.htm switch games

http://rjcooper.com/rj%27s-free-games/index.html switch accessible games

If your child needs to write at home, and is physically unable to do so with a pencil, he/she may be eligible for funding assistance toward the purchase of a computer http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/adp/comm.html

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

I can... gear up for school!

Welcome back! Fall is here and with it comes a new start in school, a chance to meet new friends, goals to be reached and endless opportunities for successful communication. However, as we all know, time is short and the months will fly by. Remember your monthly “I Can …” newsletter for some quick and easy ideas to help those who use AAC.

Vocabulary suggestions for going back to school:
How was your summer?
Wanna know what I did?
I missed you.
What’s your name?
What are we doing next?
Tell me about your summer.
Can I play with you at recess?
Guess what I did this summer!  You can ask me ‘yes’ ‘no’ questions.
Do you have any photos?
Can we schedule a play date?
Can you add your name to my communication display?
Check out my photos.  They’re in my backpack.
“I Can…participate in class" - ideas for getting things off to a good start

New school year, new class, new teacher and new friends to make. When a student uses augmentative and alternative communication it can take some time for new listeners to become familiar with how to interact successfully with that student. Here are some suggestions to help facilitate this:
·        Make sure the student has their device or symbol board in front of them
·        Have your student show his peers how he indicates ‘yes’ and ‘no’
·        Make peers aware of all the ways the student uses AAC to express himself
·        Help peers understand how best to present information, to ask questions and what to look for as a response
·        Organize a ‘Show and Tell’ during which all students have an opportunity to use a communication board or device
·        Remember that using AAC takes time – your student may need a prompt that his turn is coming to answer a question so that he can get his response ready
·        The student using AAC may not have the exact vocabulary needed to participate – think of how to ask a question so that general vocabulary rather than specific can be used (e.g. ask student to describe dinosaurs – loud, big, noisy, dirty etc. rather than asking for specific names)
·        Learning new concepts – let parents or caregivers know if vocabulary needs to be added to a device or communication display to facilitate the student’s learning
·        Become familiar with the vocabulary on your student’s display so that you can easily model communication and so that you are aware of the words that the student is able to use. Sometimes it helps to have a larger copy of the display available in the classroom for reference
 ·        Explore resources to increase AAC awareness in the school – your student’s AC clinician can make a presentation for the class upon request

·        Device problems – technology often breaks down - let parents, caregivers or clinicians know if there are any problems with batteries, screens or cables as soon as they happen

 No-Tech Ideas
  • Use photo albums to talk about what happened in the summer – add post-it notes for details.
  • Have your child participate in “writing” a summer report by selecting between sentence starters, information and endings.

Light Tech Ideas

  • It’s never too early to start planning! Start creating overlays for Trick or Treating now, so that your child can practice before the big night.

High Tech Ideas

  • Create word or phrase based toolbars within IntelliTools software to allow students who use alternative access to generate creative writing.
Talking with our mouths full!      In celebration of AAC Awareness Month, we’re getting together for a special lunch! Tuesday October 27, 2009 at Shelley’s restaurant in London. See the attached flyer for more details.

Don’t miss out!!!  Device Training opportunities!!!
ACS will be hosting the following full day workshops at TVCC: 
September 28
Dynavox V and VMax
September 29

Resources: Check out some websites ….

AdaptedLearning.com is a free web resource from Mayer-Johnson and DynaVox that combines file sharing, powerful search capabilities, implementation articles, open discussion forums, and community functions. Start finding what you need among thousands of Boardmaker boards and sharing what you have created to help others.

http://aex.intellitools.com/ sign up for the IntelliTools activity exchange, which provides access to hundreds of free Classroom Suite activities.

Check out manufacturers’ websites for new products, such as Ablenet’s “Equals”, a mathematics curriculum for students of differing abilities http://www.ablenetinc.com/Home/Curriculum/Equals/tabid/460/Default.aspx

http://closingthegap.com/ Closing the Gap strives to provide parents and educators alike, the information and training necessary to locate, compare, and implement assistive technology.

Monday, 1 June 2009

I can.. have an awesome summer!

June is here already – where did the school year go? This is the final issue of the I Can Newsletter for this year. We hope that you have enjoyed them and  found them useful. Summer is a time for getting outside, spending time with friends, meeting new people and going to camp! These are all great opportunities for communication.

  Vocabulary suggestions for sharing information about the summer holidays:
My vacation was cool!
What did you do all Summer?
Check out my journal.
Can I tell you more?
I went to camp. It was so fun!
Please find my camp display.
My favourite thing was learning to kayak.
My cousin and I went to the beach. Want to see my photos?
Wanna know what I did all summer?
Look what I made!
It was the best summer ever!
Tell me what you did.

 Words for Camp!

Before heading off to camp, remember to pack your child’s personal communication board(s). Your child will be meeting new people, making new friends and will have many opportunities to practice their social communication skills. This is a perfect time to check that your child has access to a core vocabulary that can be used across all situations. See the February 2009 Newsletter: “I Can … Find the Words” for more information about developing and using a core vocabulary.

 As there will be some novel situations at camp, your child may also need some topic specific camp vocabulary. Give your child some practise using the new vocabulary to help him/her use it functionally. Help your camp counselor by providing a copy of your child’s communication board before camp starts, so that camp staff can get familiar with the board.

 Not going to camp this summer? Take advantage of opportunities for vocabulary development with help from your child’s friends. Peers can help by providing age appropriate suggestions for vocabulary to add to a board. This works best when your child is involved in selecting the words and choosing where they should go on the display. 

So many new and exciting events can happen over the summer. It is a great opportunity to help your child do some writing. This could include a journal or diary, writing a story, a letter to a relative or pen pal, writing poetry after being inspired by nature and the outdoors or messaging on the computer. Your child can do this via a variety of modes, e.g. on the computer, using their communication device or display that has been customized with appropriate vocabulary for the summer.

No-Tech Ideas

  • Create communication displays for times when it’s not possible to use a high tech device (e.g. on the beach or around the pool). Laminated symbols can be attached to Styrofoam trays or pool noodles for use by / in the water.  
  • Collect “remnants” that show what you have been doing during the summer months to add to your picture-based communication display. These could include movie stubs, menus from a hotel where you stayed, a flyer from an attraction. Add some conversation strategies to your pages to make your remnant book interactive “Guess what I did this summer”, “Do you want to know more?”.

Light Tech Ideas

  • Talk to your child’s camp counselor ahead of time to find out about camp activities. Make overlays that will allow your child to take an active part in them, e.g. picking a campfire song or being the leader for a scavenger hunt.  
High Tech Ideas
  • During the summer, you can make some communication pages on your device to tell about your vacation.  On many devices you can add photographs to the buttons or to make visual scenes.  Check device manufacturers’ websites or ask your ACS clinicians for assistance.
Lights, Camera, Action!

August 24 - 28, 2009
Join us at Setting the Stage or On With the Show, theatre camps for aspiring actors who use a speech-generating device. Act alongside the Original Kids and invite your family & friends to the final performance.
Location: Spriet Family Theatre at Covent Garden Market, London.
For more details on this and other Opportunities to Participate check the brochure at: www.tvcc.on.ca

Don’t forget to provide us with your feedback on the Newsletters at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=PWeBzQFNaR6X1lWoqfVPVQ_3d_3d

Resources: Check out some new websites that you haven’t had time to explore during school….
HelpKidzLearn -free online switch-accessible games & activities http://www.helpkidzlearn.com/
One Switch – switch-accessible games, activities, music, interactive art, ideas and a blog   

Did you know…

Easter Seals operates residential camps with specially trained staff, which offer safe but exciting, fully accessible programs. Easter Seals also offers the Recreational Choices Funding Program that allows families the opportunity to choose a summer recreational program that best suits their child.