Monday, 2 February 2015

I Can - share my stuff with you!

Is January really over already? In our busy lives, the days fly by too quickly and leave us little time to get to everything on our "to do" list. We have great ideas about resources that we want to develop, communication boards we want to make, visual schedules that could be helpful. We all too frequently hear ourselves saying "When am I going to get that done?". With February being the shortest month of the year, we could all use a little help. The good news is that there are lots of resources out there that may work for our students. The trick is knowing where to find them. 

Here are just a few places to start: some you may know,
others may be a new "find". If you have a favourite "go-to" for ready made activities and resources, please let us know. We can share it with everyone in a later blog.

Host a "show and share"
If you belong to a parent group or have regular staff meetings at school, take a little time to share your ideas or to demonstrate what you have developed. Often getting your hands on what someone else has created will spark an idea. Hearing about what has worked well may provide some inspiration to try something different. For example, trying to describe how an encoded eye gaze system works is very different to seeing it in action. 

Plan a "make it and take it" day / morning / hour!
Take turns with colleagues or friends to organize a time when you can come together to create resources. Find a time that you can meet, with all the items that you are going to need (e.g. Boardmaker software, printer, cardstock, scissors, laminator...) and share those great ideas for creating items for a student or a whole class. If you need help, contact your Communicative Disorders Assistant, Speech Language Pathologist or Occupational Therapist to see if he or she can join the group. Sometimes having a scheduled time set aside can make these things happen. 

I Can Share My Time
Wish you could spend more with your students who use AAC, showing them where their new messages are located? 
Wish you could give them lots of chances to use their messages over and over again (practice makes perfect)? 
Wish you had more time to make individualized activities?
Wish you could get those news messages recorded everyday? 
If you have buddies who like to come down to the classroom and spend time with your students, make the most of their time and show them how to do some of the things that you wish you had more time to do!!! They will get value out of the opportunity to help and make a difference, your load will be lightened, and your student who uses AAC will be further ahead too!

Find the communication board that you need for that upcoming activity:
These days it is so much easier to create personalized communication boards for our students to use during classroom activities. But creating boards still takes time. There are lots of places on the internet where people now share their boards, and many are related to common classroom activities. Check out some of the following:

Praactical AAC shared some great ideas this week for making language visible and available to everyone. Simply stated: "To teach AAC, be a speaker of AAC".

Sharing on the Smart Board:
Need a core board that everyone in the classroom can share? A resource developed by a teacher and occupational therapist specifically for group interaction on the Smartboard will soon be available on Boardmaker Share. They developed a 30 and a 50 location board, to be used in the classroom to allow staff to model language throughout the day. Students are highly motivated to come up and use the symbols on the Smartboard. What a great opportunity for everyone to be communicating the same way!

Speaking of Speech - an interactive online forum for speech language pathologists and teachers who are interested in helping students improve their communication skills. The site has a wonderful Materials Exchange section, where free materials are available, organized by topic. Here you will find communication displays for singing about Itsy Bitsy Spider,  printable Yes/No cards, Topic Setting Boards and much, much more. And that's just in the AAC section! Lots of boards, all ready to use. 

Boardmaker Share
Create an account (free!) to get started, then browse through the thousands of activities that are available for downloading. For example, searching for "The Gingerbread Man" brings up 34 results including device overlays, sequencing activities, cooking themes, counting charts, vocabulary pages... Chances are, if your class is reading this book, there will be something you can use here. Boardmaker Online has a variety of plans that include Community (free), Personal, Professional and District.  Check out the site for details on the plans and the costs.
If you have created something in Boardmaker that has worked well for your student, someone else might find it helpful too. Consider uploading your activity to one or both of these sites so that others will benefit from your efforts. 

SET-BC logoSET-BC boards - this link has visual supports and communication displays for a variety of categories. Print out a PDF board that will work for you, or browse the topics to get some ideas for your own boards. The SET-BC site also offers a CurriculumSET which has a searchable database where you can find, download and further customize technology-based content.  It also has a collection of free, teacher created Accessible Books in a variety of formats such as Clicker 6, Powerpoint and Boardmaker Plus. 

IntelliToolsClassroom Suite Activity Exchange offers educators, therapists, and others access to hundreds of pre-made activities for immediate use with IntelliTools Classroom Suite. Use this time-saving resource to find and share activities specifically made for Classroom Suite, many including accompanying overlays for IntelliKeys and other AAC devices. Join the Classroom Suite community today to:
  • Share your activities with a strong community of educators
  • Post reviews and comments to guide colleagues
  • Receive regular updates via email with links to view and download new activities
  • Find top rated activities
  • Search to find activities by skill level, accessibility features, creator, key words and more

Looking for a classroom activity that will be fun for your students who use AAC strategies? Check out the Wiz on the Ablenet website. 

SymbolWorld is a customizable symbol-based website (Widgit symbols only) created for symbol users. It has material for all ages and includes news, personal contributions, stories and learning materials. If you create an account (free) you can print out a PDF of the symbol articles.

Take advantage of what others have shared to get things started for one of your students.  Check out these websites for some ready made page sets for high tech devices:

  • Page Set Central is an exchange site for Communicator and SymbolMate page sets 
  • At the Dynavox Download Centre you'll find users and packages of pages to help you get your Dynavox device set up the way you want it 

Simplified Technolgy - Linda Burkhart shares years' worth of her expertise in her dozens of posted 'directions and workshop handouts'. Here you'll find tons of practical ideas that include no-tech, light-tech and high tech setups.

The wonderful world of PVC!!!  Polyvinyl chloride is a fabulous material for making inexpensive mounts and stands so that we don't need 3 sets of hands to get the job done! There are so many things that you can use PVC for and some creative minds have put them all together in Practical, Versatile, Cheap Assistive Technology Supports. This booklet includes a suggested 'toolkit' of different tools and PVC parts that are useful to have on hand for your creations, instructions on how to work with the material, and designs/templates for many different setups. 

Many Children's Treatment Centres and other organizations have their own links to helpful resources. Check the website and look at the information listed for each AAC department. A great example is the KidsAbility Centre for Child Development in Ontario. Their Augmentative Communication Service has a link to resources which are well worth checking out.

Upcoming Events:

Will you be DOIN' it in April?
Still time to train for the upcoming Forest City Road Races! Buddy up with a friend or challenge your co-workers. Bring the kids, bring your neighbours. Let's make this year the best ever! Next registration price increase is March 1st, so get that form filled in today!

Getting Ready for Summer Camp - for parents/caregivers of children with disabilities
A no-cost opportunity for families of children and youth with disabilities to meet with a TVCC Recreation Therapist to begin the explorations and conversations about choosing the right summer camp. Information will be available about day camps, overnight camps, and other opportunities to help families make informed decisions about their choices. During each session families will be able to gather the information, registration forms, and other important materials they will need to choose the right community-based and/or TVCC summer camp. 
  • Wednesday February 18 (45 min apts., 3 – 6 p.m.) Carling Thames Family Centre, 355 Belfield St, London Online registration: 
  • Thursday March 12th, 2015 (45 min apts., 3 – 6 p.m.) White Oaks Family Centre, 565 Bradley Ave London Online registration: 
Registration/Questions:  Please register online through the links above or call Carrie at 519-685-8700, ext 53367. If you have any questions about the program, please contact Karen Faragher, TVCC Recreation Therapist at 519-685-8700 ext 53374 or 

Augmentative Communication Service (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. Click on the links below to find Registration information or you may 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. 

Every August, in a not-so-quiet corner of the Covent Garden Market in downtown London, a remarkable group of kids get together at the Spriet Family Theatre to perform 6 short plays during Setting the Stage and On With the Show. What makes these kids, the Spriet Family Players, remarkable is that they are using speech-generating devices to participate in these theatre camps and to say their play lines. This year the camps are happening  between August 24-28, 2015 with the final performance being on Friday August 28th.  Watch for registration and more performance details to come. 

Bridges Live!
Bridges LIVE! An exciting interactive day that gives participants a unique hand-on opportunity to explore software, special needs curricula and adaptive devices to meet the need of students with special needs.

Participants will explore with hands-on activities:
  • Low-cost eye gaze systems with skill building learning software
  • Math, literacy and communication curricula for teaching students with profound intellectual, communication and physical challenges
  • Cloud-based, low-cost symbol materials everywhere
  • Alternative access tools for the iPad
  • Subscription based early learning and skill building apps
Whether your school district has congregated specialized classrooms or an integrated environment, this day is for anyone who supports students with cerebral palsy, Rett's syndrome, Down syndrome, on the autism spectrum or with any other profound and complex intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities. 

Locations & Dates:
February, 6, 2015 - at Bridges, 6523A Mississauga Rd, Mississauga, Ont, $35
Feb 26, 2015 - in Kitchener Ont, location TBA, $50 

Register now for Mississauga on February 6th and Kitchener February 26th