Tuesday, 4 March 2014

I can...use a switch to write with Clicker 5!

Teaching kids who have physical disabilities to develop writing skills is no easy feat!  Often these children struggle with holding a pencil and require hand over hand assistance to produce text or to access a standard computer or mouse.  Despite this, the independence and connection literacy can provide to students with disabilities is invaluable. Although there are many different methods to support writing, in this issue we'll explore ways to use Ontario ministry licensed software Clicker5 to engage kids in early writing activities that are switch accessible.

How do I know if my student is ready?
The truth is that no one can know for sure but there's no harm in trying it out.  We've talked about the "least dangerous assumption" in the past which basically states that in the absence of absolute proof it's safest to assume that a child is ready and would get some benefit from exposure to engagement in early writing activities.

What do I need to get started?
Well, there is some equipment you'll need to purchase or borrow.  You'll need a switch interface that connects a switch(es) to your computer.  There are a few different kinds and the people who make Clicker also have one called Crick Switch Interface.  You can also use Don Johnson's switch interface version 6.  If you have another kind, then you can plug it in an take a look and see if Clicker will accept the key equivalents that it would send.

1 switch or 2?
If your student is using 1 switch, you'll  use a automatic scan. Each choice in the scan is highlighted on the screen at a predetermined speed. When the desired choice is highlighted, your student hits his/her switch to activate the selection.

If your student is using 2 switches, he/she could use one switch to move through the choices and the other switch to make the selection.  This process is referred to as step scanning.  One of the benefits of step scanning is that the timing element is removed.  This means that the child can control when the next choice is highlighted.

Next step...Clicker 5
This isn't the latest version of the software (Clicker 6 is now available) however we're talking about this one because it's ministry licensed in Ontario.  The downside is that many of the ready made activities online are available in Clicker 6 format and won't work with Clicker 5. However you can easily create your own activities based on your student's interests. 

Creating an Activity
Below are some cheat sheets aka brief instructions about how to create an activity but FIRST...plan out your activity on paper. Consider how much information your student can handle at once and make your list accordingly.

Here are some ideas for error free writing

Winter is + choice of :snowy, mittens, hot chocolate, cold, skiing
I like + choice of : ice cream, pizza, hot dogs
Dear Mom + choice of: I love you, I miss you, You're the best!
My brother  + choice of: is my buddy, is stinky, is in grade 3 

Here are some more ideas that provide choices (with the possibility of errors)
My pizza has + pepperoni, toothpaste, cheese, socks
I like blue + shirts, crayons, oranges, water

Download these instructions to learn how to create a new grid once you have your vocabulary chosen.
Clicker 5 Cheat Sheet 

Some Ready Made Resources
Here are links to some ready made resources that may be modified for kids who use scanning.
 Turning on/off switch control
So, you've created the activity and now want to see how well it works with scanning. Download this CARD and tape it next to the computer so you can quickly and easily access the info. 

Need more help?  

SET-BC: http://www.setbc.org/setbc/access/access_clicker5_resources.html
CALL Scotland: http://callcentre.education.ed.ac.uk/resources/Quick-Guides/Software/Clicker/ 

What about writing at home????
In Ontario the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides funding for a writing aid to people who have a physical disability, who have regular home writing needs and the literacy skills to be able to write.  There are specific eligibility criteria that must be met to access funding - talk to your Occupational Therapist to find out if your student qualifies.

Upcoming Events

Here are some fantastic opportunities to hear presentations from some very distinguished names in  the AAC field - and the best thing is that some of them are presenting LOCALLY!

PODD (Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display) Communication Books - Official 2 Day Introductory Training, presented by Linda Burkhart. Linda is an internationally known pioneer in the field of simplified technology for children with severe challenges. Come learn strategies for creating multi-modal language learning environments that provide receptive models and expressive opportunities for language development.
When:Saturday March 1 and Sunday March 2, 2014 from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Where:Woolwich Memorial Centre Community Room, 24 Snyder St S, Elmira, ON 
Cost: $350/participant
Get all the information at:  http://www.kateskause.com/podd-workshop-official-two-day-introductory-course.html

The Ontario Rett Syndrome Association (ORSA) Conference - registration is now open. The conference includes family activities, Communication Clinics, Exhibitor Fair and Resource Centre and a number of distinguished speakers.
When: April 25th - 27th
Where: Hamilton, Ontario
Cost: from $150 - see sign up for details

Gail Van Tatenhove will be presenting "Strategies for Implementing Core Vocabulary with Children who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems" right here in London. 
When: Tuesday April 1st, 2014
Where: Hellenic Community Centre, London
Cost: $43
Note: currently registration for this workshop is full, however names may be placed on a waiting list in case of cancellations.
Contact your TVCC ACS clinician for more information.

A little further afield...

"Literacy for Everyone! Assessment and AAC Intervention Strategies to Support Struggling Readers" presented by Carolyn Musselwhite
When:March 24th, 2014 9-4:30
Where: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Cost: $105.00 More info: http://aacgirls.blogspot.ca/2014/02/literacy-for-everyone-workshop-unc.html

And just a bit further ...

ISAAC Conference 
The 16th biennial conference of the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Conference. For those who have never attended an ISAAC conference, here is what you are missing: "The ISAAC Biennial Conference program offers something for everyone with an interest in AAC. Presentations feature leading edge research, and clinical and educational interventions and innovations. People who use AAC share their experiences and perspectives. Posters focus on a wide range of topics, and the Exhibition showcases new technologies or applications of technology, products and services".
When: July 19-24, 2014
Where: Lisboa Congress Centre, Lisbon, Portugal

Lace up your running shoes...
Soon the snow will be gone and it will be time to RUN! 
Come and join over 1200 runners who have already registered and will all be "DOIN' it" on April 27th 2014 in the Forest City Road Races   in London! Let's all run, walk or wheel....for the kids!

Summer's Coming!!
Looking for a summer camp that will be unique, maybe a little challenging, but most of all fun? If your child is a TVCC client who uses a speech generating device, you will want to check out "Setting the Stage" and "On With the Show"! If you are not sure whether these camps are right for your child, check with your ACS SLP.
This year the camps run the week of August 25th - 29th. Register now to secure a spot!
http://www.tvcc.on.ca/ click on "opportunities to participate" on left side of screen