Compass Back-to-School Mini Boot Camp

We hope you enjoyed our Compass boot camp and were able to grab some help tips n tricks from each webcast. For even more webcasts, and even more tips n’ tricks, we’ve created a document for you so you’ll always have them in one place! Check it out below…

Tobii Dynavox Compass AAC Best Practices Webinar List

And, as a bonus, we’ve also included a great document on 20 Ways to Increase Classroom Participation!

20 Ways to Increase Classroom Participation

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AAC Needs Assessment Resource

Hey everyone, Holly here! Today I have a really great resource to share with all of you – the AAC Needs Assessment Resource.

 

aacneedsassessment

What is it?

  • A simple questionnaire that can be filled out by the family, therapist, and potential AAC user.

Why use it?

  • Provides a thorough overview of an individual’s communication needs across environments.
  • Can be used for the initial AAC evaluation and/or as an ongoing assessment tool after AAC strategies and tools have been implemented.
  • Use this tool to gather information about a client/student’s ability regarding conversational topics as well as communication skills, environments and partners.
  • The information can be used to document needs on the evaluation report.

Download this resource here!

This and many other supporting resources can be found on myTobiiDynavox.com!

 

Until next time!

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Introducing…Monday FunDay!

Happy Monday FunDay !

Hello, Holly here! I’m a member of the Tobii Dynavox Training Team and I’m excited to kick off a new series of bi-weekly posts that will feature helpful resources and links to upcoming or recorded trainings. Today, we have two Communicator 5 needs assessment resources to share along with a new recorded webinar!

 

Likes and Dislikes – The Emergent Communicator

A checklist can be helpful when searching for initial likes and dislikes for an individual with “emerging” communication skills. To use this list, interview familiar partners or conduct some trials with the items. After each section, we have provided some ideas of page sets that exist in the Emerging User.

 

Communicator 5 AAC Needs Assessment – The Symbol Communicator

This AAC needs assessment can be completed as part of an initial AAC evaluation or as part of on-going assessment after AAC strategies and tools have been implemented. Examples of page sets that already exist in Communicator 5 are noted.

This and many other supporting resources can be found on myTobiiDynavox.com!

 

New Recorded Webinars:           

  • (ASHA .1 CEU) Strategic Competency in AAC: Watch it here.

 

Until next time!

-Holly

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Eye-gaze communication “best decision ever” for Illinois teen

By Patti Murphy

Kylie Bryant (“Kye” to her friends) would probably shout from a mountaintop how she loves her new voice. Just a year ago, she had no idea she would feel that kind of enthusiasm for an augmentative and alternative communication device she worked simply by moving her eyes. The 19-year-old from Bolingbrook, IL had been using AAC technology since kindergarten and felt totally comfortable with the device access method she used all along—pressing one switch on her wheelchair headrest to scan and choose her words, then a second switch to speak them.

With her whatever-it-takes spirit, Kylie did well in school. Today she is a kind and assertive young woman who knows herself well. The future looks bright.

After graduating from Bolingbrook High School with the Class of 2013, Kylie entered Valley View School District 365U’s Secondary Transition Experience Program and will complete it soon. She is eagerly awaiting the culinary classes she begins at Joliet Junior College this fall.

Coinciding with this important time in Kylie’s life is her acquisition of the Tobii Dynavox I-15 that is her primary means of communication and is proving to be a real game changer for her. Though cerebral palsy compromises Kylie’s ability to speak and do physical tasks, she is sure of what she needs and wants, and able to express it articulately. She does so a lot faster and more fully with the new device. Yet for Kylie, communication goes way beyond talking. It is something more vital—and more empowering.

The possibility of an eye-gaze AAC system came up when Kylie needed a device with Bluetooth and wireless capabilities compatible with the electronic controls on her new wheelchair. But when it came to exploring a new communication access method, Yvette Baker-Bryant recalled that her daughter wouldn’t budge.

“Kylie fought us tooth and nail,” she said.  “She had been a two-step scanner all of her life and was real resistant to change.”

Then she had a two-week trial period with a Tobii Dynavox I-15. Within two days, Kylie knew she wanted one of her own. “She did not want to change and now I think it’s the best decision she ever made,” her mom said. “She does absolutely nothing without it.”

Most days, Kylie is at school from 7:20 AM to 12:30 PM taking vocational and life skills classes. The highlight is her job with the Dinner’s Ready food service. Kylie performs research and quality control duties, finding recipes and giving directions through her I-15 to peers who prepare and package dinners for the faculty and staff from 20 district schools who buy the take-home meals. The menu centers on a monthly theme such as healthy eating, Mexican or casseroles. Kylie said the best parts of the job are shopping at the grocery store and cooking. She is becoming a pro in the kitchen, where she operates a mixer and a chopper by touching a pad strapped to her leg. The appliances stop when she removes her hand from the pad.

After school, Mom meets Kylie at the bus and makes sure she is comfortable at home before going back to her job at a nearby insurance company. Cameras at the house allow Yvette to keep an eye on her daughter while at work. The environmental control capabilities of the I-15 similarly bring peace of mind. Kylie can be home alone for hours because she can make phone calls, work the lights, watch the Food Network and football games and play the music she likes without having to ask for help. It is easy for her to text, access social media and shop on the internet using the device.

Another reason—actually, two reasons—Kylie feels safe and sound are her protective dogs Mylie and Macie. Mylie is a Morkie (part Maltese, part Yorkshire terrier) and likes jumping onto Kylie’s lap. Macie is all Yorkie.

The youngest of four siblings, Kylie loves when her older brother and sisters come to visit with their children.  She also loves being out and about, with her I-15 beside her at favorite restaurants and just about wherever she goes.

One of Kylie’s long-term goals is to run her own assistive technology company. She has the perfect skill set for it, said Marissa Trueblood-Seifert, a STEP special education teacher and case manager. Kylie’s technical savvy is strong. So is her patience in dealing with different personalities and problem-solving. She’s been the go-to person at school when other students need a supportive troubleshooter or a mentor in their own experiences with AAC technology.

“She’s waiting for us to catch up.” Mrs. Trueblood-Seifert. “We just want to keep her around.”

Kylie, meanwhile, offers these words of wisdom on bringing an AAC device into your life.  “Choose the right one, the one that’s best for you.”

Use it all the time, she said. “Don’t get frustrated. Relax.”

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Providing access to books (Part 1)

 

Did you know that typically developing children from literate homes have heard their favorite stories 200 to 400 times (Adams, 1990)?  For some students with significant disabilities, access to books can be challenging.  Many students have difficulty manipulating books due to physical disabilities (ex., cerebral palsy) while others have difficulty accessing books due to sensory issues (ex., visual impairment).  Other students may not be able to read or process written text.  With advances in technology, many AAC users have access to electronic books (or eBooks) that can be loaded onto their voice output communication devices.  This allows them to have the same rich and repetitive literacy experiences as their typically developing peers. 

What are the benefits of using eBooks on a communication device?

  • Font size and type can be modified to meet the visual needs of the student.
  • Using the Symbolate feature, symbols can be added to words to provide symbol support for emergent readers.
  • There are over 2 million books (including many textbooks) available for download.
  • Students can have access to textbooks and leisure reading materials in a more accessible format.

Students can…

–       Independently “turn” pages

–       Create bookmarks

–       Speak and highlight each word as it is spoken

–       Independently choose and load their favorite books (i.e., self-selected reading)

In my next blog, I will provide four tips for using eBooks in the classroom to support instruction.

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Providing access to books (Part 2)

In my last blog, I introduced the idea of using eBooks to provide independent access to books for students with significant disabilities.  eBooks are an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or hand-held device designed specifically for this purpose (Oxford Dictionary of English). eBooks can also be read on dedicated hardware devices such as Tobii Dynavox T-Series, eBook readers, personal computers and some cell phones.  eBooks allow students with physical disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy) to independently turn pages.  eBooks can also be read out loud for students who are emergent readers.

While reading books is certainly a leisure activity that should be supported for students with special needs, there are many classroom applications as well. 

4 Tips for using eBooks in the classroom

  1. Load a dictionary and with the speak features of your device; you can create a “talking dictionary” for your students.
  2. Use eBooks during guided reading activities. This is one component of a four-block reading program, developed by Pat Cunningham and Dottie Hall.
  3. Download national or local newspapers to read about and discuss current events. 
  4. Provide visual and auditory feedback by using the Highlight as you Speak feature. This feature will speak the current eBook page and highlight each word as it is spoken.  This feature can be turned on by going into the Message Window tab in the Interface Features menu.
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Speaking of the Olympics

I initially wrote this blog post during the last winter Olympic games.  But I thought that I’d present it here because it still provides valuable advice on how to increase communication and communication opportunities using something unifying – like the 2012 Olympic games!

So many of us were riveted by the inspiring performances and dramatic contests taking place on the Olympic stage recently!   It was fun to watch the games and talk about the events with friends!

In a therapy session that took place while the Olympic games were in progress, I watched a clinician (Jenna) develop an entire language lesson and activity around the Olympic theme.  She asked her student (Brian) to share what he knows about the Olympics, and then provided a literacy activity that gave him a chance to read and learn even more than he already knew. As they talked through the various events and stars of the winter Olympics, I noticed how easily she breezed through content that was already on his AAC system and in some cases updated it to include vocabulary lists or common constructions relative to this conversation.  Brian was instantly exposed to and using content that was relative to this timely topic.

Instead of building a new page about the Olympics, Jenna encouraged Brian to use his games page and sports pages to talk about the sports. When talking about where the Olympics take place, they were able to access appropriate vocabulary in vocabulary lists.  By providing both a model via partner augmented input, as well as support in navigation and customization of these pages, Jenna empowered Brian to be able to go to school the next day and talk about just what his friends were talking about – the Olympics!

Write this way! Early literacy experiences for young children.

On any given day, how much time do you think you spend writing?  Whether it is a quick reminder, grocery list, or an article for a newsletter, our day is filled with many meaningful opportunities to write.  With advances in technology, the writing form has definitely changed.  We now use our computers, iPads and smart phones as “alternative” pencils when we need to jot something down.

When I think about early writing experiences for young children, I immediately think of scribbling.  Scribbling is one of the first writing experiences that children have.  Typically developing children begin to scribble at 12 to 13 months and I find this truly amazing.  These children not only have access to all sorts of writing tools, but they are provided with many opportunities to write.  Children also receive tons of positive reinforcement when “writing” occurs (e.g., praise, hanging things on the refrigerator, etc.) and learn the importance of writing from watching others use it in everyday situations.

So, how do we typically address writing with children with language delays and/or physical challenges?  Unfortunately, for these guys, writing opportunities are often very limited.  It definitely takes a little bit of creativity to ensure that children with special needs are given many opportunities to write.

The more literacy experiences your child can have, the stronger their foundation will be when they enter school.  Listed below are a few easy ways to provide writing opportunities for your child.

  • Use the keyboard on your child’s communication device to allow them to scribble.  Many AAC devices will also allow you to print and provide word prediction.

NOTE:  When communication devices are set up for young children, the keyboard is often removed.  Don’t allow this to happen!  All children should have access to letters at a very early age.  Literacy skills will not develop if children aren’t given the tools they need.

  • Fill your home with letters and words.  Magnetic letters, foam letters, block letters allow you and your child to talk about the different letters and letter sounds.  They also allow you to start building words.  If your child can’t manipulate these items, you can do it for them.  They will soak in the knowledge if given the opportunity.
  • Involve your child in the process.  Teach by example.  While you are writing lists or notes at home, speak each word as you write it.
  • Cut pictures out of magazines to write a story.
  • Help your child write letters to family members and send them in the mail – even if it is just scribbles on a postcard.
  • Writing should not be restricted to pencil and paper.   “Alternative” pencils such as keyboards and adapted letter stamps are all ways that your child can write more independently.

Resources:

Magnetic Word Wall

Literacy Lab

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