Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rick Hoyt's New Autobiography: A Must Read!

Rick Hoyt ( ) has written his autobiography. You can purchase it through this link: . Rick has been a wonderful mentor to many people. Please take a look at this interview and remember that your students and staff should be reading these books.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Update to Free Symbol Project

Please see the Free Symbol Project Page. We now have an email account people can send suggestions, ideas or volunteer through.

Mrs. Riley It's In The Cards....

This is anther good resource if you need to develop communication supports, language systems or adapt materials. There is a cost to it but there is a lot you can do with this and it is pay as you go vs. a long term commitment. It was recommended by Brittany Tellier who is a talented new teacher we are lucky to have in the field. Mrs. Riley It's in the Cards...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Communication Resource

This website Tots N Tech has some great resources for  teachers and families. The one in particular that I like gives you examples of how to set-up language displays for a topic specific conversation using core words with contextual vocabulary. The various displays give a number of ideas on how to facilitate both conversation and language usage. Visual Displays

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paralympic Update

It is getting closer to the Paralympic London Games 8/29-9/9. Let's take a closer look at Team USA . This site highlights each athlete. They all have amazing stories. This reminds me of a suggestion  made in the Educator Ideas & Actions page. The mini autobiographies are perfect for our students to read and learn about. Please make sure you integrate them into the September curriculum. What a wonderful unit of study to start off the school year with! If you live in Massachusetts there are athletes competing such as Natick's Anjali Forber-Pratt . You may also want to read about: Michael Prout, and Dorian Weber .  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Core Words & Phrases Lists

We have discussed throughout several posts the importance of core words. Core phrases are equally as important in supporting conversation and more meaningful and sustainable dialog. The combination of these two things will facilitate greater conversational independence across more communicative partners of the person's choosing. Vocabulary and phrases must work together in an efficient manner to minimize fatigue, frustration as well as time in phrase formation and actual conveyance of the message. The flow of the conversation must support a natural exchange with reduced time spacing due to the efficiency of the entire process. Here are some very helpful links. This link Core Words & Phrases has many vocabulary and phrase list you may find helpful. This link Generative Language & AAC,  provides an overview of language acquisition and applies it to AAC users. It has many helpful suggestions. Here is one last resource which includes many resources within it. It is put out by PRC: Developing Expressive Language Through AAC.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

International Disability Rights

On May 9th & 10th 2012, there was a U.S. Leadership Conference on International Disability Rights. There continues to be very serious violations including what may be referred to as mercy killings of children with disabilities and infanticide. If you do a search you will find a number of articles on both sides of this. The Conference and others are supporting the Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which addresses this issue and many others. I have included some video from the conference. We must all be a part of these discussions and make sure those with disabilities are always included. How can you tell at birth what types of contributions someone will be making? I cannot tell you how many of the families I have known throughout the years were told to place their children in institutions, or that they will never walk, talk, think etc. Each time the medical professional was wrong and sometimes significantly wrong. Some of these children graduated from college. Some only see difference and limitation. We need to put the person first and help others do the same.

OneNote for Lesson Planning

Irene Macdonald, an incredibly talented teacher at the South Shore Educational Collaborative in Hingham, MA has developed a wonderful system for classroom/lesson planning which also allows you to share with other teachers. She uses Microsoft OneNote to organize her curriculum as well as to document meetings. Take a look at what she has done. This is incredibly easy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Special Child & Teen

Please take a look at this informational site. It has a range of activities, trainings etc. to support people with disabilities. Special Child & Teen  You can subscribe to their newsletter.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Study shows voters with disabilities face access barriers

USA Today reported on a study which looked at accessibly issues and barriers for voters who have a disability. This is of serious concern given it is 2012 and The Rehabilitation Act has been in effect for 39 years and the Americans with Disabilities Act for 22 years. Another area of concern is how much time we actually spend educating people with more significant disabilities who may be under some type of guardianship on the voting process, their rights and freedoms and the democratic process overall. As citizens, people with disabilities must have access to full participation in our democratic society. Anything less is inexcusable. We have to work harder at noticing these barriers when we see them and becoming much more proactive. It should not take a Presidential election to address these barriers.    

Paralympic Games - London August 29th-September 9th

The London Olympics has been exciting to watch. Part of the Olympics is coming to an end but another important part is yet to begin. On August 29th, the Paralympics begin! Our students need to be watching! Many schools have included the Olympics as part of the summer curriculum. As we go into the fall, please consider spending equal time on the Paralympics. Our students need to know what is possible and that barriers can be broken down in some of the most amazing ways.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How's Your News.....More New Voices

How's Your News is a group of people with disabilities who met at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha's Vineyard. They decided to go on a road trip across country which was documented and made into a movie by HBO. They also had a series on MTV in 2009 for awhile where they interviewed many different people. I have embedded a video of their trip to the previous Republican National Convention in 2004. Here is a news article that was also done highlighting their reporting: Boston Herald.  They are planning on starting their activities again soon. Their voices have been heard by many, often respected and at other times barely tolerated. They are a close group of friends who have stood together to make a difference and show the world how to live your life regardless of different abilities. They are leaders and certainly a part of the New Voices we need to hear.

I am wondering if it is possible for them to go to one or both of the conventions this year? It would be great to have How's Your News there! Especially since one of the candidates is from Massachusetts!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Special Education Blogs

Found this website with a great list of special education blogs on it. Take a look and share it. 50 Must See Blogs For Special Education Teachers

What's FAIR?

FAIR (More New Voices):   Freedom – Access – Independence - Respect

This is a documentary about a self-advocacy movement in Washington State, USA.  As described by their blog which I have linked to through this post, they are a civil rights movement by people with disabilities. Their interviews, stories and videos need to be watched by professionals, mentors, family members and most of all others who have different abilities of all ages.  This is an example of the new voices  leading to show what has, can and must be done now to provide the freedom, access, independence and respect all citizens and people everywhere deserve but may be denied because we did not listen or just did not notice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mobility Experiences in the Community

This was another day where I learned a lot from the people I work with. One of the topics that came up which just made a lot of sense had to do with varied mobility options in the community. The staff talked about having the students who are able to walk with various pieces of equipment use them in the stores not as a part of traditional community based instruction, but as pure exploration through a different perspective. Many times we make the decision to use the student's wheelchair or stroller because the focus of the experience is on learning how to shop, make a choice, bank, apply for a job etc. Using the more supportive device allows the student to focus on different aspects of the experience. What we forget sometimes is we should flip this around. Why aren't we going to the stores for the sole purpose of exploration through a different form of mobility. The experience is so motivating for the student. This additional learning experience can only add to their understanding and knowledge of their world. It is a simple but incredibly important opportunity we should consider including on a regular basis.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Voices

It has been 16 years since Gunnar Dybwad & Hank Bersani published New Voices . This is a book (originally published in 1996) about the self-advocacy movement by people with disabilities. The New Voices provided much needed direction across many topics. Shouldn't the people who know best lead? For people to become leaders we have to begin developing these skills in our schools. It starts in preschool and has to take flight in high school, especially during the transition years. It does not matter if the person uses spoken language, graduates with a diploma and future degrees or is totally dependent on others to meet basic needs. I still hear how "they" really do not know what is best. I hear about how we spend too much money on people who do not contribute. These are of course falsehoods which are perpetuated by society. As teachers, mentors, professionals and family members we must push much harder at facilitating the development of skills to create ongoing generations of "New Voices". Leadership can be many things. What we need to remember is to never stand in front of anyone. We must stand beside those we serve, working tirelessly each day so that a new voice will be heard tomorrow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Did you notice?

We talk a lot about making things accessible. The Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act has helped with this tremendously in the United States. So what's to notice? Unless disability directly impacts us or someone we know, how many times do you go about your business each day never really noticing if someone with a disability might have trouble accessing with ease and efficiency the same things you do? How long do you have to wait for an are rooms set-up? Do you have to move furniture around when you know someone who uses a wheelchair is coming? Is the waiting or reception area accessible...that is, can you sit in a variety of places and access the same information? Is the small coffee shop(s) in your building easily accessible? What do you really notice when you walk around each day? What is access? Next time you are out and about, really look. What would the difference be if you could not see, hear, walk etc.? What little things can we do better regardless of being told we have to?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Symbol Word Walls & Dictionaries

In many of my posts I have talked about the need for core words. With this comes the need for additional classroom supports such as word walls and symbol friendly dictionaries. Every classroom should have a word wall of high frequency and content based core vocabulary. Without having access to and understanding of core vocabulary including content based, students are not able to access your instruction and related content. This also involves spending time teaching the core words (high frequency & content based) all the time. We know that project based learning can be very helpful when students struggle with communication and language based disabilities. This is also true of second language learners. Applied contextual based instruction in meaningful learning activities will help make the connections with the language. Here are some examples of word walls and symbol friendly dictionaries.  

Prentke Romich Company Language Apps

Prentke Romich Company (PRC ) has developed a number of language apps which you may find useful. Their newest one is called Directing Activities PRC Apps. There website has incredible resources as well. The more we can support access to core words across language systems, the greater success our students will have.

AbleNet - Equals Mathematics

We have had the opportunity to take a look at the Ablenet Equals Mathematics Curriculum. They offer a two week trial which we took advantage of. I was not sure what to expect. I was very impressed with the quality as well as the differentiation in complexity it offers students with more significant access and learning needs. The assessment tool which comes with it breaks the skills down into small incremental steps which allows for much more efficient tracking of individual, classroom and grade level progress. I would encourage any teacher, program, school or district who supports students with more complex disabilities to take a look at it. AbleNet - Equals Mathematics 

Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs: If I Were in Charge of Research and Development at an AAC Company...

Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs: If I Were in Charge of Research and Development at an AAC Company...  This is a great blog to get ideas from and to continue to advocate for free or reduced cost symbols and AAC devices. Please take a look at it. We all need to work together on this.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Low Cost Language Systems Using Core Words

Continuing in the conversation around free and reduced cost symbols and language systems, I was reminded today by our valued assistive technology specialist that we can use PowerPoint to create displays. This can be a timely process but I was able to locate some video on this by Michael Brian Reed who publishes a lot of his experiences on YouTube including his FaCE Project from a few years ago (Facilitating Communication Everywhere). He provides a powerful example of how to use PowerPoint. Take a look: ALL 4 ALL: All the Core Words for Everyone

Show Me The Data

So many times professionals struggle with designing the best data sheet to record progress in many different areas. Show Me The Data is an incredible resource! It is a book of sample data sheets with a CD which allows you to run them off or modify them. It is amazing!! What a needed resource. AAPC Publishing has many books and resources which look at ways of support students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I use there resources both professionally and personally as I have a child with Aspergers. Having a valid and reliable data sheet is necessary to increase the integrity and consistency of our data collection across observers and environments. We all know how important it is to do consistent inter-rater reliability checks with staff. With increased clarity in the data collection process, our reliability rates should increase. Let me know what you think.

AAC Resource

This is a newer text on AAC: AAC Strategies for Individuals With Moderate to Severe Disabilities by San S. Johnson, Joe Reichle, Kathleen M. Feeley & Emily A. Jones.  It has some great strategies, up to date information and a free assessment on the CD which comes with the book. I used it in one of my classes this summer and have found it to be a valuable personal resource. It is published by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. This publishing company has many helpful resources for supporting people of different abilities. .

Low Cost Royalty Free Symbols

One of our wonderful assistive technology staff found this resource Imagine Symbols . It is a low cost age appropriate symbol set from Attainment Company. It is royalty free which means you can use it as much as you need to. It looks like a great option for individuals and schools to take a look at. Please let me know if you have any experience with these and what your thoughts are. I think we are going to give them a try.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AAC Month - October 2012

The fifth annual AAC month will happen in October 2012. It is important for us to celebrate accomplishments, successes and progress. At the same time we need to be looking at what has to change for the future. Core words are key. Access to organized and individualized language systems and most of all access to symbols at minimal or no cost. Freedom of speech is held dear by each of us. When you do not have access to core words, and an organized language system that supports true engagement, you are not able to exercise your rights which have been guaranteed you. No one should be able to limit someones freedom of speech by taking away their words, access or charging them money to speak. Please share your thoughts on how to properly celebrate AAC month in October. We need to increase awareness and engage in planning for the future. What will we do differently and what can we do tomorrow to begin? Can anyone really wait to have a voice? isaac - International AAC Awareness Month . This is also a great link for some wonderful information and resources. Please share it.