Friday, 30 September 2016

I can...say Goodbye

The I Can Newsletter was first published in May 2007, with an issue related to playing board games. This was in response to a request for ideas to be used in a classroom. Since then, we have covered dozens of topics, including going on a road trip, using social media, talking about math and using switches. We have tried to include resources that we've found helpful in our own practice. In the early days, I Can was sent out via email blast and evolved over time to the blog you see today. Along the way, we've learned lots about blogging and have had fun exploring topics that we think might interest our clients, their families and their school teams. We have now decided that the blog has run its course and that this will be the final I Can post. 

We hope that you will still look back through the archived issues of the blog, to find answers to some of your questions, websites of interest and just to get some ideas for using AAC in everyday activities.The Blog Archive sits along the left side of the blog and has a search function at the very top so you can look up blogs on a specific topic quite easily! 

We will leave you with some of our favourite websites, blogs and resources that we go back to time and again.  Thank you for following our blog and remember, You a difference-maker for your children who use AAC!

Image result Something to watch out for!
"Speechless" is the new TV comedy about Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver), a mother who is willing to do anything for her family. Her son, JJ (Micah Fowler) has cerebral palsy and uses augmentative strategies for communication. Maya will fight for justice in order to give her son what he deserves. It's on at 8:30 on Wednesday nights on ABC. 

Something fun to do!
HomeStorybots!  Free unlimited access for teachers... Subscription access for everyone else...StoryBots lets you put your students right into the videos. Invite parents to upload photographs so that their child can star in the videos and story books available. Highly motivating and a great activity that encourages students to comment, make choices, requests etc.  You can also download StoryBots apps onto your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV to use hundreds of educational books, videos, games, activity sheets and more. 

Tar Heel Reader is a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple access methods including touch screens, an IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches. You may write your own books using pictures from the huge collection at Flickr or pictures you upload and you can publish to the Tar Heel Reader site once they're finished so that others can enjoy your book!!!

Some new ideas every day!

Praactical AAC never fails to deliver on sharing information that is truly practical and helpful for families, educators and clinicians.  

Jane Farrell is a leader in the field of AAC and has lots of experience to pull from.  She also has an amazing blog where she shares her ideas and suggestions for supporting literacy, AAC and other Assistive Technology

Uncommon Sense is Dana Nieder's honest and humorous blog where she talks about her family's journey with communication, AAC and different things they've tried with their daughter Maya who uses AAC.  It's always a great read and has LOTS of great resources!

And you can't forget SET BC! 
SET BC maintains searchable databases of resources that are created and updated by dedicated professionals working with students who use assistive technology in British Columbia, Canada.  
CurriculumSET is a searchable database where you can find, download, and customize activities, templates and public domain accessible books based on the curriculum as set out by the British Columbia Ministry of Education.  
PictureSET is a collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students for both receptive and expressive communication in the classroom, at home, and in the community.  It allows you to find a wide range of visual supports for curriculum areas, activities, and events. 

AAC Intervention
Here you'll find years and years worth of "Tips of the Month'' with free practical suggestions for teaching & learning AAC strategies, writing using alternative tools, literacy development, participation and the list goes on and on!!!  They also have resources that you can purchase for more in depth information.  The Links section takes you to lots of other fabulous expert resources that are great to have in your communication toolbox!  

VocaliD - be a voice donor!!!

Over ten million people rely on text-to-speech devices that use synthesized speech to express themselves. There is a limited pool of voices available, so whether they are young or old, male or female, shy or outgoing — they all speak with similar voices. VocaliD is a voice company that is using voice blending technology to create unique vocal persona for any device that turns text into speech. 14,000 speakers from over 110 countries have already contributed over 6 million sentences to their growing spoken repository but in order to continue to create these unique voices, they need more!!! Please, visit the VocaliD site to learn more about how you can add to this voice bank from the comfort of your own home!

Something to inspire!  
Watch "Talk to me" -  a short video where Pheobe helps to raise awareness of living with a disability and using AAC.   

Upcoming Education Sessions for TVCC client families:

How to Choose Powerful Words  
Date: Tuesday October 4, 2016 Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Register: online at 

With the space limitations of most low tech augmentative communication systems, 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.

Transition to Highschool  
Tuesday October 18, 2016, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. (registration and pizza start at 5 p.m.)
This evening workshop is designed for parents/caregivers and youth planning ahead for the transition to high school, access to support and goal planning. Parents/caregivers will hear from other parents and special education staff from the Thames Valley and London Catholic District School Boards and Thames Valley Children's Centre.  Youth will enjoy listening to peers who have been there and done that! They can also explore practical skills (like lockers), hear about clubs or just hang out with other future high school students.

How to Use Symbols so Your Child Will Too 
Tuesday November 8, 2016, 9:30 – 11:30 a.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   Tuesday December 6, 2016 
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 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.
Registration deadline: November 15, 2016.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

I Can...say thank you!

As the Dalai Lama XIV (and many other people of wisdom) once said, nobody is too small to make a difference!  As we look back on the school year that has passed, we'd like to acknowledge some of the small but mighty teams and individuals who make a difference in the lives of our students. 

It is the dedication and commitment of these families, educators, and community members that lays the foundation for successful AAC use. We asked TVCC ACS clinicians to share some of the success stories that they see every day (there are so many that could be shared!) and these are some that stood out for them!  If you want to share your own success stories, please reach out and contact us.

First, let's meet Kasey....   
Kasey received his device in the summer of 2015.  He has made some HUGE gains since then! Each time his ACS team members see Kasey, they are blown away at how well he's learned his complex communication system.

Kasey attends Senior Kindergarten at Caradoc Public School in Mount Brydges.  With the help of his school team and parents, Kasey continues to grow his vocabulary and learn how his words are organized.  He has had alot of change in terms of school staff who support him but this hasn't impeded his ability to learn how to communicate with his device!  His school supports have been encouraging Kasey to use his device throughout his day including during music class, carpet time, calendar and weather time, centre activities, snack, and gym time. Kasey even uses his device during the "before and after school" program to communicate while he's eating a snack, playing games, and participating in spelling activities. 

At home, Kasey's mom ensures that he has all the words that he needs by programming in relevant items, activities, places, and people.  She also created some new pages in his user that allow him to participate in literacy activities at school such as his Word Wall page and a book reading page.  Kasey uses his device with his parents at home during a variety of activities such as snack, games and reading.  His parents are great at modeling words on his device for him and encouraging Kasey to respond using his device.  It's wonderful to see school and home teams who are so dedicated!!! Keep up the great work!!

Lili Vilaysone and her daughter Ava
Ava received her communication device in the fall of 2013.  In addition to learning how to program her child's device Lili participated in a Partner Strategies in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) parent workshop to learn more about using the device to expand her daughter's communication in everyday situations.  Another goal from the group was to learn strategies to teach other communication partners how to integrate the device into their interactions with Ava. 

Lili has been an incredible advocate for her daughter and the world of AAC, leading presentations to Ava's class yearly to share the strategies she has learned and to answer questions students have about Ava's communication.  As part of Autism Awareness Month this past April, Lili gave 8 presentations to students at St Jude's Catholic School in Ingersoll from Kindergarten to Grade 8! She created a presentation to highlight what AAC is and how it relates to Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as to her daughter and other students who are non-verbal use symbols to communicate. As she presented from class to class, students of all ages were able to try using low-tech or high-tech communication systems to communicate without using their voices to see what it is like and to ask any questions they had.  She also shared how they can "be a great friend" - how to talk with and to support a student who uses AAC.  Through Lili's leadership, the community of St Jude's is leading the way in creating an inclusive environment where students who are non-verbal and their peers can support each other in their play, conversation and academics.  Way to go, Lili!!!

Introducing the stars on Matt's team!
Tracy Herman (classroom teacher), Jenn Wylie (ECE), Meghan McGrath (Educational Assistant), Tammy Keill (Educational Assistant) and Lisa Coville (Resource Teacher) are Matt's team at St Peter's and St Paul's Elementary School in Durham.  Matt is so lucky to work with a team that really understands the importance of communication in his life. They know that it takes time but it is worth the effort.   

Matt is using an iPad with LAMP communication software. Check out this video of one of Matt’s superstar team members helping him to read a book using his device! The team included Matt using his iPad as a goal on his IEP to ensure consistency in supporting his literacy and face to face communication. Learning and understanding LAMP is not a simple task but the team dedicated time and effort to learn the necessary skills to support Matt. None of this would have been possible without the support of the school administration that provides time for the team to meet with the ACS clinician to discuss progress and to receive training and consultation for next steps. 

Even Matt's peers are in on the action.....see one of them here, playing with Matt and helping him to use his iPad!  Thanks team for your dedication and for your great work!!

And here's Mac's team!!! Mac attends Hollands Chatsworth Central School in Chatsworth. She is a wonderful girl who works very hard to communicate with others using symbols, signs and an iPad mini with Proloquo2Go. She carries her device with her  everywhere and even though she cannot hear, she has learned to use her message window so well that she is able to correct the message as she needs to before delivering it.Ruth Turner is her EA and she goes above and beyond when working with Mac. Thank you Ruth, you rock!!!

Here you can check out a video of Mac in action at school!!!  She has come a long way with the extraordinary support of her school team. 

Now Leigha and her team!!!
Leigha attends Senior Kindergarten at McGregor Public School in Aylmer. She has been using a Flip 'n Talk at home and at school. Leigha's mom Shelley and Leigha's EA Jillian updated the vocabulary so that it's significant to Leigha. Their hard work and attention to detail has paid off - Leigha's Flip 'n Talk looks amazing!

At school, Jillian is taking lots of opportunities throughout the day to provide Leigha with Aided Language Stimulation or Modeling. This strategy has been shown to help children develop language and expand their vocabulary. Jillian is doing a fantastic job! She models relevant vocabulary during journal. She models core words and food items during snack and lunchtime. She models colours and clothing during play time. She models relevant vocabulary while Leigha plays on the iPad. She also models relevant vocabulary during circle time. Jillian even encourages Leigha's peers to model vocabulary during play time! Leigha's peers have been very interested in helping her use symbols since we completed our AAC Awareness Presentation. They're doing a great job supporting her in the classroom as well!  Way to go everyone! Keep up the great work!

Introducing Royce and his amazing team!!!
Royce attends Southwold Public School. He recently received a device and his school team has been dedicated to teaching him a complex vocabulary system. Royce is learning to use Minspeak which is a tricky AAC language to learn. Royce's EAs Michelle and Jen went above and beyond and created flashcards for core words and other commonly used words so that Royce could learn how they were represented within Minspeak. Each flashcard has a word written on one side and the sequence of symbols that need to be selected to say that word on the other. What a great way to support Royce's learning! Fantastic job!

Way to go - Jamie's team!!!!
We would like to thank Jamie’s team for all their commitment and hard work to be sure he learns to use his communication device. Jamie uses an iPad with Proloquo2Go and he has become very efficient with it. Jamie is not just able to let everybody knows his wants and needs, he can also answer questions and have a nice chat. Jamie is a very communicative young man with great sense of humor. Having a way to communicate is a key factor when we talk about integration. His team has the great ability to take the best of him and turn it into a very pleasant experience.

Jamie attends West Hill Secondary School in Owen Sound.
In this picture we can see his school team. From left to right in the back we have Sue Kitto, Peter Stewart, Liz Drimmie, Shelley McCollum and Jessica Umar. In the front are Jamie and Kaitlyn Crone.  Thank you to you all!!! You are AWESOME!!

A special thanks goes out to the TVCC ACS clinicians and the teams here for sharing their stories!!!


Setting the Stage and On With the Show - Registration now open and filling fast! August 29th - September 2nd! End your summer on a high note, with Setting the Stage and On With the Show. These half day theatre camps are a collaboration between TVCC and Original Kids for children and youth who use speech generating devices. This year the $100 registration fee has been generously paid by Children's Health Foundation for each participant! Check the website for more information or talk to your ACS clinician.

Are you interested in getting connected to community-based camp, sport and recreation programs that are available for children and youth with disabilities? Consider a conversation with a TVCC Recreation Therapist to explore some of the different programs and opportunities that are available in your region. These one-on-one conversations are planned around you and your child’s specific camp, sport and recreation interests. Don’t know what you might be interested in? No problem! We will explore all the different possibilities, and come up with a plan for next steps.

Date: Wednesday June 29, 2016
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Location: Family Centre White Oaks, 565 Bradley Ave, London
Cost: Free
Register: Online at
Parking: Onsite

ISAAC 2016 Toronto - Bringing Us Together
The ISAAC 17th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, will be held at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto, Canada on August 6-13, 2016. Join us for keynotes, exhibits, workshops, social events, seminars, and the Research Symposium.

Also a part of this year's conference are AAC Camps that  offer a “day camp” experience for participants of all ages who use AAC. Campers and their families will have the opportunity to socialize during a variety of recreational activities leading up to the conference. Earlybird pricing available until May 20, 2016 so register soon!!!. Each camper under the age of 19 must at all times be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian in order to participate in AAC Camp activities. Space is limited so register early to reserve your spot. Additional family members are welcome to attend some of the camps at an extra cost per activity.

A Morning on Centre Island, Saturday August 6, 9:30–12:30

Ages 3 – 13, Cost $60 ($50 Early Bird Registration)
It’s a short trip on the accessible Toronto Island Ferry across Lake Ontario to Centre Island. Spend the morning exploring Far Enough Farm and Centreville Amusement Park. Campers will participate in games and activities guiding them around the area. Far Enough Farm is home to over 40 different species of farmyard animals and exotic birds.

Dealing with Stupid Situations, Saturday August 6, 9:30–12:30 
Ages 13 +, Cost $60 ($50 Early Bird Registration)
Do you ever come across someone who just does not understand how to communicate with you? They may yell, speak slowly, talk about you like you are not in the room, or just assume you do not understand. You are the best teacher when it comes to educating people about how to communicate with you. This camp will focus on sharing what has worked and not worked when communicating with people you do not know. You will participate in role playing some silly and serious scenarios that you or your peers may have experienced. We will also have time to talk about them and create a poster listing our best strategies to share with all conference participants. This workshop will take place at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

Explore the “Ark”, Saturday August 6, 2:00–5:00 
All ages, Cost $60 ($50 early bird registration)
Take a walk on the wild side and join us for this interactive animal adventure. Be greeted by your favourite animals from Madagascar, Africa, and Australia. Your camp experience will include a presentation about approximately 24 different animals and participants will have a chance to interact with the animals, take photos, and ask questions. This camp will take place at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

Engaging Possibilities Drama Workshops,  
Sunday August 7th 2016, 9:30–5:00
Ages 14+, Cost $180 ($160 early bird registration)
The Engaging Possibilities workshop is constructed as a journey. First we do exercises to help with relaxation, building comfort levels, and creating a sense of inclusion. Energy and visioning exercises will follow, to expand imagination and visualize worlds together. We will bring alive environments using fabric, and be part of creating and acting in a story as it emerges. This camp will take place at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. 

Ripley’s Aquarium, Sunday August 7, 9:30–12:30 
Aquarium of CanadaAll ages, Cost $60 ($50 early bird registration). Join us for a fun morning exploring one of Toronto’s newest attractions, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, featuring underwater creatures and habitats from across the globe, including a shark tank that you can view on the moving sidewalk. Campers will participate in a guided tour of the venue, pet a stingray, take part in our scavenger hunt, and explore the dangerous lagoon under glass. At the end each camper will receive a Ripley’s souvenir booklet. The aquarium has accessible washrooms, walk ways, and a cafeteria. Best of all, this venue is only one kilometre away (approx. 12 minute walk/wheel) by fairly smooth sidewalks from the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

Who Are Your Heroes? Sunday August 7, 2:00–5:00,   
Ages 13+, Cost $60 ($50 early bird registration)
Many great people in the world use AAC. Let’s spend some time celebrating them. Who do you look up to? Who makes you want to be a better person? Who is someone that makes a difference in your life? This camp will start with a presentation by a hero in our community. The rest of the camp will focus on sharing our heroes, who they are, why we love them, and how we can be more like them. This workshop will take place at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.