Sunday, February 24, 2013

RocketKeys New AAC APP

MyVoice has just launched RocketKeys a new AAC application which allows the user to develop their own unique keyboard. It includes many of the common features in typing programs including word prediction. They analyzed phrases and words used on twitter to make this app more user friendly. It has a number of other unique features as well and supports up to 7 different users on the iPad. I was not able to see if their was a lite edition to try it out. This would be important as it starts at a hefty price of $159 which is similar to the price of TouchChat but still lower than other AAC applications.

Take a look at their website for more information: RocketKeys/MyVoice

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Is providing assistive technology and unfair advantage?

Assistive technology is not a new concept. It came to the forefront in our primary federal special education law - IDEA as well as the civil rights statute - the Rehabilitation Act (section 504). Later came the Tech Act which reinforced all of this. In spite of all of the legislative support for the use of assistive technologies (low and high tech), there remains a culture which views these types of support as an unfair advantage. 

IDEA 2004 defines assistive technology as:
Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. 

When used correctly, it provides the necessary access to those activities each of us takes for granted. It does not always have to cost a lot but at times does. Having the right access changes our quality of life. Our freedom of movement, engagement and ability to access our education should not be challenge in a way which diminishes our rights and compartmentalizes what we are able to do. This video addresses the need for assistive technology. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Strategies to Support AAC users

AAC users (augmentative & alternative communication) require individualized supports which allow for enough flexibility to respond and engage in a variety of situations. This involves the early use and introduction of core vocabulary along with some simple strategies. Children are never too young for this to be implemented. Symbols and AAC user strategies must be introduced as soon as we suspect a communication & language concern. For a typically developing child we would read to them from the moment they were born and reinforce all attempts at communication. The same must be done for children with more complex disabilities. This includes the introduction of developmentally appropriate core words and phrases which are used in collaboration with texts and interactions. The sooner this is started, the better. Remember to make your environment symbol friendly as well and to never just include labels. Areas in the environment should allow for spontaneous communication and therefore must have the symbols available to support that. Example: When a child is playing with trucks or cars you could have the following vocabulary available:

associated colors with the play items

The child does not have to know all of these words. They do need to be exposed to them repeatedly and provided with facilitator support to make meaning out of them. Prepositions and other grammatical structures can be added as well. Here is a wonderful resource which provides instructions, ideas and other sites you can refer to for additional information. TASH 2011