Tuesday, 2 December 2014

I can...open the door to adulthood.

Our children grow up in the blink of an eye... before you know it they are going to high school and then it's only a few short years before they enter into the adult world. Skills needed to negotiate that adult world need to be introduced and practiced long before they will be used. Our students need lots of time (and help) to learn about how things change when you become an adult. This month we will consider some of the supports that we can put in place to help our students take on this challenge.

Keeping Communication Relevant - Reviewing and Updating Vocabulary- Personal communication displays and devices need frequent review to determine whether all the vocabulary required by an individual is available. When changes are made to vocabulary, we need to ensure that our students know where to find their new words. Our vocabulary needs change as we get older - often our students need help to learn new words ("What is a budget?", "I need to book an appointment.") and to find out how to use them appropriately. 
Consider including generic vocabulary for people and places:
  • 'support worker' vs. 'Julie'  (support teams sometimes change frequently)
  • adding 'man/woman' if not already included on a display
  • 'someone else'

Remove immature vocabulary, and change language to better reflect the age of the person using the system.
  • "Yo!" to "Good afternoon"  

Expand topics to include those for self-advocacy and directing others.
  • directing personal care routines 
  • participating in meetings
  • maintaining communication device or writing system
  • changing or repairing seating
  • arranging and using transportation
  • discussing politics
  • organizing banking and finances
  • community-based events such as grocery shopping, eating out
  • safety and emergency situations
  • legal issues

Include young-adult/adult appropriate topics like:
  • death and bereavement
  • intimacy and sexuality

Here are a couple of great resources related to vocabulary around adult communication topics. 

See What We Say - Situational Vocabulary for Adults who Use AAC by Barbara Collier.
This guide provides a catalog of suggested words and phrases contributed by people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for a variety of situations. Topics include advocacy, friendship, sexuality, employment, directing services, legal issues etc. You will get tips and suggestions from adults who use AAC on how they best communicate in various situations. People who use AAC can purchase this for $20 from the site.

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University  This website contains vocabulary (graphic symbols and icon sequences) needed to participate in 8 socially-valued adult roles: 

  • College Life 
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Employment
  • Sexuality, Intimacy, and Sex
  • Reporting Crime and Abuse
  • Managing Personal Assistance Services
  • Managing Health Care, and
  • Using Transportation

Widgit Health provides a range of symbol-based information sheets to help facilitate clear communication in an emergency situation. 

What are soft skills, why does my teen/young adult need to learn them and how can I teach them? Visit the Special Learning blog to read about considerations for learning social skills needed in the workplace.

Community Connections

youth enroute logoTalk with families who also have children who are transitioning into adulthood to find out what resources they are using. Your local children's treatment centre may have groups, supports or information that can be explored before your child leaves school. At Thames Valley Children's Centre in London, these types of resources are offered through the Youth En Route program.  More information for youth can be found on the website at www.tvcc.on.ca/for-youth.htm

Hutton HouseHutton House in London, Ontario is an example of an organization that offers an array of activities and resources for people with disabilities moving into adulthood.  As their mission states: "Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests".

Teaching & Training others: 
Individuals who have complex communication needs may come into contact with many more people once they are adults. New environments bring new people into the picture. Appointments in the community also involve new people. It can be helpful to have some strategies in place for sharing information quickly and easily around communication strategies and personal preferences. 
 - Have photographs available to show others quickly how you like things done or set up (e.g. mounting of a speech generating device, location for charging device).
 - Use scripts to give directions to unfamiliar communication partners about how they can communicate with you.
- Look for apps that can be helpful in sharing information. Here's one that was recently brought to our attention, that can be used to explain what's needed for a particular event or process. For example, you can create a short presentation on how to set up the mounting components for a speech generating device, focusing attention on the most important details.  Explain Everything app  is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere.

It's a great idea to update a Communication Passport when high school is done. The Call Centre in Scotland has a template specifically for adults.  

Don't forget to add contact information to all of the pieces of your communication system. Being out in the community more often means there are lots more opportunities for things to get lost. 

Finding meaningful activities:

Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf
Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf
Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf

AAC Leadership Course Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) offers this online course for adults over 18 years of age who use AAC. The course is designed to assist adults who use AAC to learn skills to support:
  • Other adults who use AAC
  • Clinicians working with children who use AAC and their families
  • Students in disability fields
  • Organizations to improve communication access to goods and services
The course contains lessons and assignments about:
  • Effective communication
  • Collaborative problem-solving
  • Disability services and resources
  • Communication rights
  • Participating on committees
  • Making presentations

Reach out and be inspired by those who have lead the way:

Check out Robert Jean's website - he proves that there is life after high school!

John Draper draws on his life experiences to help inspire accessible and inclusive communities.  He has won many awards recognizing his efforts to promote equality for all citizens through his presentations and resource development. Check out his Resources and Learning Options on Together We Rock!

Kevin is a university student, an author, and an athlete.  See his story  at I Am Able - Kevin Enners

Keep checking the Breaking the Ice 2015 conference website for the 2015 conference information.  This is an event created by, and for, individuals who use AAC and their families. It's the only event of its kind in Canada and was designed to bring the community of people who use AAC together to share ideas, learn from each other, and create new friendships.   

We're All Stars is an annual daytime celebration for TVCC school age clients (10 years & up) and is held in conjunction with the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction. Next year's event will be held on February 2, 2015 from 10am – 2pm at the London Convention Centre. 'All About Me' displays are needed from TVCC clients who have a story about themselves to share, but may be too shy to get up on stage and shout it out. It's a wonderful opportunity to share accomplishments and achievements.

Colin Philips is a young man who uses AAC.  He speaks about his experiences with transitioning into adulthood and realizing that he is gay. 

Check in with manufacturers for ideas and resources pertaining to adults.
As usual, many of the companies that develop and produce AAC resources have information on their websites that is specific for certain age groups or topics. For example, Dynavox has some useful newsletter articles related to issues that adults who use AAC may face.  These articles include topics such as maintaining social relationships, using the telephone and managing daily activities.

Finding AAC services for adults in Ontario
AAC services for Adults in Ontario provide information for about each clinic and whether or not they provide service to adults. Contact a clinic near you to get more details.


This issue of Augmentative Communication News 2005 focuses on the significant and challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

Professionals can use the book Transition Strategies for Adolescents and Young Adults Who Use AAC to help support the journey to adulthood for people who use AAC.  

Talking Mats is an established communication tool, which uses a mat with symbols attached as the basis for communication. It is designed to help people with communication difficulties to think about issues discussed with them, and provide them with a way to effectively express themselves in a visual way that can be easily recorded.

Upcoming Events
Visit AbleNet University online on December 17, 2014 6:30pm CST to learn about Assistive Technology (AT) for Common Core College and Career Readiness for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities - Supporting Access Skills. This free workshop will explore how teachers are supporting students in learning assistance seeking behaviors through the use of AT to create opportunities for greater independence and truly finding the least restrictive environment. Learn More or Register Now. This is Part 4 of a series and the previous 3 parts can be found here

ACS Education Sessions 2015
TVCC is offering the following workshops to support low-tech no-tech communication strategies for parents, caregivers or service providers who want to learn more about communicating with children/youth who use AAC. Register at www.eventbrite.ca by entering the title of the workshop (make sure the city you are searching is "London".) You may also call 519-685-8700, ext. 53367 or (toll free: 1-866-590-8822, ext. 53367). 

How to Choose Powerful Words
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015      Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015     Time 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
With the space limitations of most low tech systems and communication displays, we want to ensure that our communicators have access to the words that will have the most impact and usage throughout the day. This workshop will demonstrate how to use Core Vocabulary, the 200 words that account for 80% of our communication to enhance a client's communication potential. 

How to Use Symbols so Your Child Will Too
Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015         Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, November 5, 2015      Time: 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Children learn how to talk by listening to and copying others. Learn how to facilitate communication by using symbols / strategies for children who are non-verbal or difficult to understand. During every-day fun activities, you will learn some key strategies and techniques. Materials will be provided for you to take home so that you can start immediately. 

Make & Take Workshops - Communication Passports (May) & Adapted Books (Dec)
Date: May 13, 2015         Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: December 2, 2015      Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. 
These workshops are in development. More details to follow on the TVCC website. 



Saturday, 1 November 2014

I can ...colour my world!!!

  As November sets in, so does the cooler weather and this can mean spending more time indoors.  Why not nurture our budding artists by exploring different ways for our children to express themselves and create their very own masterpieces???  This month, we'll talk about some ways that your artists might become the next Picasso! 

Easy & Free Painting/Colouring Programs Online
ABCya Paint is a free online painting, colouring and drawing activity for students. Fun tools and accessories such as stickers, coloring pages, spray paint, stamps, typing, rainbow brushes and much more allow kids to be creative. Paint is a great app for kids to engage in digital storytelling. The pictures your students create can be saved to the computer and printed out to showcase to everyone!!!

Tux Paint is free computer art software for children.  It combines an easy-to-use interface, fun sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon mascot who guides children as they use the program.


The Nick Jr website has a number of different art activities for your students to explore and print out. In the Colouring Game, they can choose a picture and then use the paint tools to colour it in. Students can also create Spin Art, create a page full of Stickers, or choose to just paint/colour freehand on the Free Draw activity. There is a 30 second advertisement before the program begins, but it is a lot of fun, so worth the wait!

The Escape Motions Flame Painter is a website where students create flame type swirls as they hold the left
click button on the mouse and move the cursor of the mouse around. They can create multiple layers of flame and change the colour and other variables of the flame.  The creative piece can be shaved and shared via email or social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).

Hello Kids has a simplified
online drawing tool for beginners.  It works best in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers (free and also available online).  This program allows students to try out different drawing effects with a single line and either save their work, or clear it off and start again.

One Motion Sketch and Paint allows you to save and print your artistic creations.  It provides a large workspace and an array of painting tools that are easy to use.

At Online Colouring, you can choose from a library of hundreds of pictures that you would like to colour. Then, just pick a colour from the palette, then click on the section of the picture that you want to colour in.
  You can erase your last action or clear your whole picture.  The pictures can also be printed as a paper copy.
Try creating some relaxing shapes at the Swoodle Thai Chi Doodle. You can choose your calm colour, then press and hold the left click button of the mouse, while moving the cursor, to come up with some truly unique designs.

How do I make these activities work? 
Although all of these activities require mouse input, you should be able to use any alternative access that behaves like a mouse (i.e. that using your access method, you can move a cursor on the computer and perform a click function). Some examples of this are using Mouse Keys that can be setup in the Windows or Mac-based operating systems of your computer, or mouse controls on your high tech speech-generating device.  If you are unsure of how to make this work for your student, speak to your TVCC ACS clinicians.  

Using Eye Gaze?
Most of these activities should be accessible using eye tracking technology as well.  By having a switch, or another mode for the 'left mouse button' to depress, the paint brush will follow the path of the eyes and 'paint' when the mouse button (or switch, or software equivalent) is depressed. Talk with your ACS clinicians if you need some support around using this feature. 
Tip - For some colouring activities, students may find it useful if you 'magnify' the page so that the targets of the paintbrushes, colours, stickers etc. are bigger and easier to select. Check out the Display options in the Control Panel on your computer's operating system to make these changes. 

Say Cheese!!!
Another form of artistic expression can be through photography and/or videography.  Some companies have created digital cameras and video cameras that are accessible via switch for those who cannot manipulate the small buttons on an un-adapted camera. What a way to capture memories forever and to be able to dabble in the artistry of portraits, candid shots, lines, shadows, lighting, or the abstract!

Visit RJ Cooper's site to see a camera that has been adapted so that it can be controlled using switches.  You can set it up to use one switch to turn the camera or videocamera on/off,  and another switch to snap the photo or start the camera rolling!  An assortment of switch adapted cameras are also available at  AbleData and other retailers that sell adapted products.

Many of the high tech speech generating devices that are available now have their own digital cameras built right into the device. Often, they can be setup so that the camera can be accessed in the same way that the communication messages are selected. Talk to your ACS clinicians for more information about this. 

Embellish Those Photos! 
There are lots of apps that will allow you to add personalized artistic touch to your photography.  You can get bright and crazy or go for a softer look.

Cam Wow is an iOS app (i.e. for iProducts like the iPad, iPod) that allows you to distort, fatten, pinch, and stylize your photos with real-time filters just like a photo booth!  You can see the effects applied before you take your photo!

Photo Booth for Windows and PhotoPad are two Windows-based versions of Photo Editors that can be downloaded for free.

Other tools for the Artist...
Paint n Swirl and Swirl Art are 2 products that are similar to each other and can help bring out your child's artistic expression! Paint colours are applied to a spinning blank card and using a switch to spin the card, your child can create a kaleidoscope of colorful designs. 

Etch A Sketch is a children's toy that has been around for decades.  Now, it's switch accessible so anyone can create those classic line designs.  When you are finished, just take it off the base and shake it and then you are ready to start again. 

Colour Bug Remote control art!  Create your own pictures with the bug by activating a directional switch that tells the bug where to move.  The bug holds a marker and draws amazing patterns that are fun and unique.

A Picture is worth a thousand words....but let's chat!
Remember that your artist needs to talk about the activity (give directions, make choices, comment, etc) as they are creating their masterpiece. Depending on the activity, a paper-based display may be a little more practical that having a high tech device in the mix (i.e. if it's a wet, messy project).  Here is one example of a communication board for painting from Boardmaker Share.  If you do a search once you're there, you may find others that are a better fit for your activity.    

There are no end of art activities happening in classrooms and at home every day. Try a quick Google or Pinterest search for art activities - the amount of ideas you will find is mind boggling!  Art activities provide a great opportunity to practice using some core vocabulary words and to model using some short phrases. Creating a new piece of art allows for repetition with variation. "Make it blue!", "Put it on", "more!", "stop", "look at that!", "Help me", "I like it!".The words and phrases that are modeled and used may be the same, but the "artistic" outcome will always be different!

Need some help?
Therapeutic Recreation support is available to TVCC clients if they wish to explore art in the community or at school to make it a successful experience.  Recreational therapists can look at the environment and opportunities and can help identify what barriers exist and what supports are needed for successful participation. Contact them directly (link above)or talk to one of your other TVCC clinicians.

Upcoming Events:

TVCC Augmentative Communication Education Sessions:

How to talk with symbols so your child will too - November 26th, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m
Children learn how to talk by listening to and copying others. Learn how to facilitate communication by using symbols/strategies for children who are non-verbal or difficult to understand. During every-day fun activities, you will learn some key strategies and techniques. Materials will be provided for you to take home so that you can start immediately.

Adapting Books - December 3rd, 9:00 - 12:00 p.m.

Is your child learning to use symbols for communication?  Does your child have a difficult time holding a book or turning the pages? Come join us for this session and learn how to adapt a book for your child. 

Participants will need to bring a book that they would like to adapt and later read with their child. Attendees will be asked to provide information about their book ahead of time (e.g. title and author) so that materials for adapting the book can be prepared for the workshop.  Picture books with limited text are most easily adapted but please choose a book that you think will be engaging for your child. 

 We're All Stars!

Save the date for We’re All Stars!
Coming February 2nd 2015 in London, Ontario.

We’re All Stars event is an annual daytime celebration for our school age clients (10 years & up) held in conjunction with the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction.
During the day, clients enjoy games, participate in All About Me displays, listen to presentations from 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.
Check the TVCC website - information will be updated soon.

ATIA 2015 Conference - January 27 – January 31, 2015, Orlando, U.S.

ATIA 2015 Conference logo
This event features more than 200 educational sessions spanning the breadth and depth of assistive technology and an exhibition hall where you can see the power of assistive technology in action. Professionals, teachers, users and parents will all benefit from this empowering new conference.

ISAAC 2016