Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I can...make a difference!

Our gift to you this holiday season…a newsletter filled with ideas for how you can make a difference. You can give back in so many different ways. Just find the one that works for you! Happy Holidays from ACS!

Organize it!
Create a seasonal “caring” page on your child’s speech generating device, related to a class or neighborhood project. Help coordinate a food drive or toy/gift drive in your classroom or youth group by using your speech-generating device to ask for donations. Check with your local food bank, radio station, church etc. for ways you can help. You can also clear out your bookshelf or clothes closet at home - organize a book/clothing trade with your friends or classmates, then donate the remainder to Goodwill (your parents will also be happy that you cleaned your room!)

Write it!
Get out your paper, pencil, keyboard or switches and start writing… Set up templates in software for  “error-free” note writing, including an introduction, content and ending (e.g. in Classroom Suite, Communicate:SymWriter). Or, use Post-It notes for quick and easy content selection. Write word/phrase choices (“Dear Mom”/“Dear Santa”/“Dear Grandpa”) on notes and support your students to select their choices and write the note.
Practice letter-writing skills with a note to Santa. Younger students can work on wish lists. Older students can be “Santa’s helpers” responding to the letters. Write a note to surprise someone. Tell your crossing guard how much you appreciate their help. Give a thank you note to that lady at the library who helps you check out your books. Add photos to your message, e.g. Say it with a Wordle! Create beautiful word clouds to give to a friend or family member. Use as a card or print onto a t-shirt, mug, mouse pad etc. Don’t forget your thank-you letters. A thank you note doesn’t have to be long, just heartfelt. Send by e-mail, or snail mail…everyone loves to get something that’s not a bill in the mail!

Say it!
Surprise someone (nurse, teacher, secretary, etc.) with a personal message on an SGD to thank them for their support or help this year. Pick someone your child doesn’t typically “talk” to, so that they can experience how powerful augmentative communication can be.

Join it!
“Kilometres For Communication” is a national campaign to raise awareness about AAC and to raise money for AAC supports, technology and opportunities.   Two brothers (one who uses AAC) and their mother will cycle across Canada to meet with alternative communicators, change attitudes and raise funds.  Visit their website where you can share your AAC story with others, donate, or ride along.

Little Bytes:
  • Give your time… Make a point of giving that extra time that a person who uses AAC needs.  It often takes considerably longer for a person using AAC to respond or to generate a message. Take the time to learn how that person uses their communication system.
  • Check the TVCC website for information about volunteering, donating and participating.
No Tech Ideas:

  • Use one of your talents to make a little gift for someone (e.g. decorate a container to hold some favorite things, make some flowers with pipe cleaner to brighten up a winter day). Students who use AAC can help by picking the colours, fabrics, pictures etc. to be used in the project. Hold up the items for choice making or use a communication display.
Light Tech Ideas

  • There’s no end to the different types of items that you can collect and donate to a worthy cause: used printer ink cartridges, pop can tabs, stamps, milk bags, etc. Check at your local church, school or youth group to see what people are asking for. Organize a class project to collect items. Have your students who use single message or simple speech generating devices visit classrooms across the school to introduce the project and to give the details.
High Tech Ideas

  • Follow up your class project with a presentation: have your students research what happens to those items that are collected  - how do milk bags turn into sleeping mats? How do pop can tabs transform into wheelchairs? Present the information so that people know that they have contributed and made a difference. A student may make the presentation on an SGD, or perhaps use their writing system to create a display.
I Can…be a Star!
Karli Steen captured the attention of London Free Press readers with her Letter to the Editor on Oct 13/10. She uses Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software for this type of writing as well as her academic writing at Fanshawe College – Way to go Karli!

Free gifts from ISAAC Canada!
1.      FREE Connecting to Communities DVD & Guide to people who use AAC or their family members with their 2011 membership. First come first served, while supplies last. 
2.      $20 off new membership when you renew with a new member.
Contact Kelli Vessoyan for more info.
Ask for a ticket to the Sports Celebrity Dinner for Christmas and hang out with the sports stars… proceeds will make a difference for clients at TVCC! We’re all Stars is an annual daytime celebration for school age clients for the event available through schools. Clients are encouraged to showcase themselves on an All About Me Board during the event.  See information attached.

  • Access 2 Entertainment program: through this program, people with disabilities who require a support person carry a personal Access 2 Entertainment card with them. The card provides free admission (or a substantial discount) for the support person at all participating entertainment venues.
  • Connecting to Communities: make your voice heard! If you are 15 years or older, have a communication disability and use AAC, join the new online ACCPC discussion forum to talk about the barriers you face when accessing businesses and services in your community.

Monday, 1 November 2010

I can...use today's technology!

Technology changes so rapidly that it can be challenging to keep current. New technology is often more widely available, comes with a wide range of software or apps, and may offer a less expensive option for people with communication needs. 

What's New, What's Hot?
Here are some of the latest technologies that may help meet communication needs.  Communication software is now more readily available for off-the-shelf technology that many are already using.  Check websites for feedback and reviews.  Changes occur frequently.  Also remember that commercially available options will not meet everyone's needs. You may want to pursue an assessment through an Individual Authorizer or an AC clinic.

Proloquo2Go: Communication on the Go for the Iphone, iPad and IPod touch. Offers a full-featured, easily customizable AAC solution with over 7000 symbols, natural sounding voices, and ease of use. App cost $189.99. 

Speak it! Text to Speech: Reads emails, documents, web pages, PDF files aloud on iPhone or iPad. 4 voices. App cost $1.99

Tap to Talk™: A symbol based communication app for e.g. for Nintendo DS,  iPhone, iPod or IPad. The free version comes with a fully functional album but cannot be customized. Individualized albums can be customized through a paid subscription of  $99.95 year.
Sounding Board ™: Create custom boards (with up to 9 message locations) using AbleNet symbols or your own photos on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Cost $49.99.

Icommunicate: Create pictures, flashcards, storyboards, routines, and visual schedules. Custom audio available. Cost $29.99
Grace: Picture Exchange System created for children with ASD and used similarly to PECS. User selects pictures that then appear at the bottom of screen to create a phrase/sentence. Customizable picture and photo library.  Cost $37.99.

SGD manufacturers continue to develop portable device options. E.g  Dynavox® Express™ & Maestro™, Jabbla Smart & Zingui;2;&item=18

TapSpeak Button: $9.99. Turns iPhone or iPod into a single message device.
ICOON: Picture Dictionary with 500+ symbols in 12 categories. Point to desired picture to communicate. $0.99
iConverse: Basic communication boards with 6 different category icons that represent basic needs through auditory & visual representation. Customizable icons/speech. $9.99

Little Bytes: Thoughts & Reminders
If your child’s seating is being changed, don’t forget to let your seating clinician know what the AAC system is, how your child accesses it and where it is mounted.  Ask if you should bring the AAC system to the seating appointment. If you need help with this, contact your ACS clinicians.

No-Tech Ideas
  • My Communication Purse® is a cool way for your young symbol fashionista to carry her words. The cover of the purse is Velcro® receptive to use as a communication display panel. Six internal compartments keep communication symbol cards organized.
Light Tech Ideas

High Tech Ideas

  • If eligible, funding for some communication devices may be covered by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Individuals need to be assessed by a qualified practitioner (authorizer), who can prescribe appropriate equipment based on specific needs of the person. Funding is not supplied retroactively.

I Can…be a Star!
The room went silent as 18 year old Qyzra Walji of Oakridge Secondary school took the stage at the London Accessibility Committee's, 16th Annual Empowerment and Action Day entitled "Assistive Technology: Enhancing our Lives".  Qyzra spoke about how the use of AAC has enhanced her ability to reach her full potential.  She did a fabulous job and was well received!

Coming this month …
3rd Annual School Age Children
with Special Needs Sat. Nov. 20
2010. A full day of interactive workshops, geared to parents/caregivers of school age children and/or children soon entering the school system with special needs. Come see us at the displays featuring AAC! Check the TVCC Calendar of Events for details:

Used it? Review it!
If you have tried any new hardware or software for communication, share your thoughts. Let us know what you think and we will share it with our readers.

Resources: Informative stories, videos and access to resources related to current emerging AAC developments.

Communication boards can be created on MyTalk workspace on computer or mobile device.  You can use images from the built in library or create your own with up to 32,000 cells stored. 30 day free trial followed by $75.00 annually.  MyTalkTools Mobile Lite has only 12-cell capacity, using one or two boards Cost: FREE.
Locabulary: Pre-programmed words & phrases are made available based on your GPS location. Ability to type custom sentences. Cost: FREE
Talk Assist:  anything you type in will be spoken out loud. Phrases will be saved to a history, and favorite phrases can be bookmarked for regular use. Cost: FREE

Friday, 1 October 2010

I with my mouth full!

Sometimes it’s not bad manners to talk with your mouth full! October is   International AAC Awareness Month and the TVCC ACS has organized a special lunch event to celebrate individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Join us (see attached flyer), or organize your own event to heighten people’s awareness of what it really means to use AAC.

Host your own “Talking with Our Mouths Full” event – people learn a lot through experience. Provide family, friends, peers or colleagues with an opportunity to find out how it feels to use AAC by organizing an event where everyone gets to use an AAC system. Everyone is encouraged to “leave their voice at the door” and to communicate just with the communication displays provided.
Here are some tips to help plan your own event:
Type of event: Keep it simple with a “quiet coffee morning”, or invite the whole family for Thanksgiving dinner! This event can take place at any kind of get-together. Decide who you’d like to invite and the best venue for that group (e.g. peers might enjoy a pizza lunch at school, family might participate at a regularly planned lunch).
Invitations – have a child who uses AAC help to make the invites using symbols. Let people know ahead of time about the menu and the cost.
What to bring - remind people to bring their own communication boards or devices; make communication boards available for those who do not have them. It’s OK to write or draw, so have notepads, pens & crayons available.
Venue: If you are heading out to a restaurant, choose somewhere accessible and where they are open to learning about communicating with people who use AAC. Call ahead to let them know about your event, and what needs to be in place.  Ask the restaurant for a copy of their menu or look online. Remember that you might need to accommodate individuals’ special diet requirements, for example puréed food, and that extra space might be needed for those using wheelchairs.
Topics of communication: Mealtimes are not just about food. Include vocabulary to allow conversation around current events, upcoming holidays, social comments etc. If you have a mix of ages, have a variety of topics for children, teens and adults.
Meet your guests at the door: explain how to use the communication boards and the rules!
Keep it fun! Have some games to play (with associated communication boards) while waiting for the food to arrive, e.g. X’s and O’s, Bingo, Hangman.
Have a “talking jar”. People who talk (by choice or by accident!) have to put a Looney into the jar. Donate the collection to ISAAC or a charity of your choice.
Find out what people learned from the experience. Ask them to write down their thoughts on a Post It note and add the note to a board or wall where everyone can see it on the way out.

Little Bytes:
Need access to symbols but don’t own Boardmaker? You can use Boardmaker at the Central library in downtown London or in the TVCC Resource Centre. Various other free symbol sets can be found on the Net – see Resources on reverse.

No-Tech Ideas
  • Pass It On: Share a little information to help a person who uses AAC. Often individuals develop specific individualized communication (e.g. “I can say “yes” by looking up and to the left”). Communication partners need to know what to look for, in order to respond consistently. Copy a short description detailing the communication on several Post It notes. As you see others during the day, tell them about the communication and pass on a few of the Post It notes as reminders. Ask that they in turn “pass it on” to someone they talk to.
Light Tech Ideas:
  • Record messages onto a simple speech-generating device to allow a student to welcome people to your event. Include a question or two to get the interactions started: “Welcome to our quiet lunch. Please take a communication board. Leave your voice at the door and use the board to chat. What do you think you will have for lunch?"
High Tech Ideas:
  • With many high tech devices, it is possible to print out the communication pages so that you have a low-tech paper display. (This works well as a back-up if your device is not available or not working). Talk to your ACS clinicians if you have questions about how to do this.
I Can…be a Star!
Lights, Camera, Action!
In August our TVCC actors delighted an audience by performing 6 adapted plays, using speech-generating devices to deliver their lines. The plays were written and directed by an amazing group of Original Kids. What an experience for everyone involved!

If you know a “star in the making” who would like to join us next August, send an e-mail to Kelli & Gill (contact info below). We’ll let you know when the planning begins.

Coming soon…
3rd Annual School Age Children with Special Needs Sat. Nov. 20 2010, 9:00am - 3:30pm
This full day of interactive workshops is geared to parents/caregivers of school age children and/or children soon entering the school system with special needs. Come see us at the displays featuring AAC!
Check the TVCC Calendar of Events for details:
ISAAC Canada – use this website for general information about AAC that you can share at your event:
Free picture / symbol resources:
Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students
Speaking of Speech promotes the exchange of free materials for SLPs and teachers, organized by topics: 
Grocery PECS has realistic grocery pictures and free DVD pictures at
Print ready to use communication tools at do2learn 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I can...get started!

It may not be January, but September is a time for new beginnings too. It’s time to start back to school with all the new challenges and excitement that brings. Our newsletter this month will focus on starting points: where to begin with augmentative strategies to support communication, reading and writing. Here’s to a great school year!

Setting Communication Goals: September is a natural time to think about communication goals. This can tie in nicely with an IEP review or general team meeting at school. Think about the many ways that your child communicates successfully. What is working well? What are your or your child’s hopes for communication development? What would it take to make those hopes a reality? Make goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and share them with everyone who interacts with your child. Set a time to review the goals in the weeks to come, to see progress and to keep on track. If you need help developing AAC goals, talk to your ACS clinician.

Starting to Read:  Make books available to your child everywhere. Books come in all shapes, sizes and formats, including electronic books.  Typical children will read a book over and over.  Children who use AAC need to have the same opportunity. Books with repetitive lines are a good start as they allow anticipation and participation (record the repeated line onto a device). Electronic books can offer greater independence with book-reading for some children. 

Starting to Communicate:
Introduce augmentative strategies in fun, motivating activities, to encourage your child to participate. Children need lots of opportunities to see how symbols or recorded messages can affect their world. Think about games that you have in your classroom and words that can be used for participation (“I go”, “you go”, “I want to see”, “Stop!”). Using core words across activities allows kids to develop an understanding of how these words can be used for many reasons. Use symbols and devices when it is your turn, so your child can see how to use them.

Starting to Write: Early writing is an important part of literacy development. Children start learning to write by colouring, scribbling and ‘pretending’ to write.  Children who use AAC need multiple, meaningful opportunities to write (e.g. writing captions for pictures in scrap books, signing their name, making a list, making notes or cards).  For your child, these opportunities may require a less traditional format (e.g. using eye pointing, partner assisted scanning or computer based scanning to select letters with a partner writing the selected letters down). 

No Tech Ideas:
  • Your child can share information with others using a small photo album and Post It Notes. Put photos of events that your child wants to share with others into the album along with supporting remnant information, including ticket stubs, brochures and labels. Write specific information on the Post It Notes (“ Mom, Dad and I went to Marine Land. The penguins were my favourite.”) Add a question to encourage interaction (“What did you do this summer?”).
Light Tech Ideas:
  • Record a sequence of messages on a Step-by-Step so your child can chat on the first day of school (“Hello again. How was your summer?  What was your favourite part?  Wanna know what I did?  I went to the cottage with my family.  We went swimming and hiking.  It was awesome!”).
High Tech Ideas:
  • Use a Smart Board to create a story about the summer as a group activity within the class. Customize palettes with choices in Intellitools software for words/phrases that can be selected by students one after the other to create a silly summer story. Then, read the story aloud.  If you don’t have a Smart Board, create a story the ‘no-tech’ way using Post It notes for word/phrase choices.
I Can…be a Star!
Over the summer a group of youngsters who all use AAC came together at TVCC to become Word Warriors! Our goal: to seek out new words and to use them to take over the world! Watch out for our Warriors!

Talking with our mouths full!
October is AAC Awareness Month. Join us for lunch to celebrate AAC on Tues. Oct.19, 11:30 am at Shelley’s restaurant in London. If you don’t use AAC, be prepared to check your voice at the door and explore new ways to communicate! See Calendar of Events at


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

I can... have fun outside!

Summer is here again, with lots of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the weather! Many activities can be adapted so that kids who use AC can get involved. This is our last issue of the I Can Newsletter for this school year. Thanks for reading, we hope you have found some useful information. Here are some suggestions to keep you busy all summer long. Enjoy!

Vocabulary suggestions for summer activities:

Wanna buy some popcorn?
Take a picture of me!
I can’t wait to go to camp!
Let’s play a game outside.
Only 3 more sleeps until….
I love swimming.
What are you doing this summer?
Can I stay up late tonight?
What’s your favourite summer activity?

Adapting Summer Activities

Playing Games: If you have access to Boardmaker, or other picture symbol libraries, these games are easy to create, using theme vocabulary (beach words, camping words, sleepover vocabulary etc.). There are also examples of pre-made boards on the Internet.

·         Create a low-tech displays or pages on a speech-generating device for quick and easy games such as Simon Says (with lots of movement suggestions “wiggle your nose”, “touch your feet”, “stick out your tongue” and taking turns being ‘Simon’) or I Spy with my Little EyeTravel Bingo can be fun to make that car journey go by a little faster.

·         Scavenger hunt:

·         Gardening game:

Lemonade Stand: Whether you are hosting a family bbq, away at the cottage or running a yard sale, setting up a lemonade stand is always fun.  Your child can use adapted devices to make all kinds of goodies to share or to sell.  See attached pdf instructions on running a popcorn stand or making smoothies.  You can sign out equipment such as a Powerlink from TVCC Equipment Services.

Volunteer:  Volunteering can be a great way to help out and meet some new friends. Here are some ongoing volunteer opportunities at TVCC.

Contact Volunteer Services at 685-8700 ext 53452 or by e-mail at volunteer

Create a Summer Photo Journal:  Remember to take photos of all your summer adventures so that kids can share what they’ve done with others.  There are a variety of ways to store your photos such as digital keychains or photo frames, using an Ipod or simply printing them out.  Try adding some captions with comments and questions to make your photo journal more interactive. Your child can also participate in taking photos by using a switch-adapted camera.

No-Tech Ideas

·         Put together an information sheet detailing the best ways to make communication successful for your child. This can be sent to summer camp for counselors to read.  See an example of a camp information sheet attached. This can be customized, printed out and laminated to survive the great outdoors!

·         Eating out can be fun.  Try giving your child the opportunity to order for themselves at a restaurant.  Check out some of these ready made boards in PDF that can be used at the following restaurants:

Light Tech Ideas

Make your buddies laugh with a joke of the day, recorded into a simple speech generating device, such as a Sequencer or Step-by-Step. Here are a bunch of jokes to choose from:


High Tech Ideas

  • Try out these mp3 Camp Songs on your device:
MP3 format:  Wav File Format:

I Can…be a Star!

Jacob Wray enthusiastically practices his speech to his class.  Jacob has successfully completed functional training on his talker (speech generating device) and has received a certificate for his hard work and perseverance.  Congratulations Jake!

Lights, Camera, Action!

August 23 - 27, 2010

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 for details at:

We Need Your Feedback!!!

If you have any topic suggestions for future issues of the “I Can” Newsletter, please let us know at the following e-mail

Don’t forget to provide us with your feedback on this past years’ newsletters at: Thank you for all your help!


Saturday, 1 May 2010

I can...juggle numbers!

May 2010

Math concepts are part of many important life skills.  For kids who use AC, it may provide them with the opportunity to become more independent and have control over their day-to-day lives. 

Money, Money, Money:  Kids who use AC need experience dealing with currency so that they can develop the life skills to handle money in adulthood.  Try some of these software and online activities:
·           Counting Coins Software (with Canadian currency):
·           Online activity to practice making change:
·           Canadian currency symbols are available within Boardmaker™ for creating low-tech displays. 

It’s about time:  Concepts of time are also important for kids who use AC so that they can manage their own schedules and appointments. 
·           Try out this online game to help with kids learn to tell time:
 1,2,3…Let’s go! Kids who use AC also need a way to talk about numbers to practice counting.  Try some of these fun numeracy activities: 
·           Board game: 
·           Try creating a number board on your student’s communication device so that they can practice saying numbers and answer questions in math class.
·           Check out this switch accessible math software:
·           Ablenet’s Wiz provides a list of ready-made lesson plans, which target a variety of math skills.  In the drop down box titled “What is your activity theme or content”, scroll down and select “Math”. 
·           Older students may enjoy this resource on card games:

Making online games and software more accessible:
Try using partner assisted scanning or live voice scanning to allow kids who use AC to make choices when online games and software are not switch accessible. In this method, a caregiver would read aloud (and possibly point to) the choices.  Ask the student to indicate “yes” when the caregiver gets to the choice that they want.    See this link for a video on partner assisted scanning:
Try using partner assisted scanning with this online activity:

No-Tech Ideas

  • Bridges Canada has put together some math kits for differing abilities.  See attached pdf for more information.

Light Tech Ideas

  • Try using a Step-by-Step communicator to count out loud.

High Tech Ideas

·         Check out SGDs for ready-made math pages.  You can also check on the manufacturer’s website for additional pages such as these pages available for Dynavox users:
·         Do you have a student who uses voice recognition software and would like to use his/her voice to complete math assignments too?  Check out:

Have you heard about
Self Discovery?
Explore and plan for life after high school. Identify strengths, preferences, skills and find accommodations that work for you in dealing with disability. Contact Lynn at 519-685-8700, ext. 58678

The 14th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) in Barcelona is taking place in August 2010.  The conference includes families sharing success stories, exciting breakthroughs, fun social activities, scientific paper presentations, and demonstrations of assistive equipment

Call for 2010-2011 School Year

“I Can” Newsletter Topics
Want to see an issue of the “I Can” newsletter focus on a particular topic?  We are compiling a list of topics for the next school year and would love your feedback. 
Contact Gill Steckle /Kristel Pallant 519-685-8700, ext 53413/53361.

·           RJ Cooper has accessible calculators available: Talk ‘n Scan calculator and Big Calc
·           For lots of links to cool math activities online, scroll down to the math sections on the following website: