Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Low Tech, Low Cost & Freebies

As budgets continue to be tight, here are some great resources to share and take a look at! Assistive technology does not have to cost a lot or be complicated to use!

National Public Website on Assistive Technology  offers a variety of resources including a list of AT exchanges  and other resources for individuals and families to access equipment.

Linda J. Burkhart continues to offer wonderful ideas, instructions and links to valuable resources on her  Simplified Technology website.

Tots-n-Tech offers a list of resources which include make it yourself ideas, low cost and low tech options.

Let’s Play Resources from the University of Buffalo has a number of free downloads which provide information on how to support infants using AT.

Instructables has a large variety of “how to” ideas with instructions on how to build various pieces of low to high tech.

SETBC:  This website has been shared before. If you have not already looked at it you should!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Proxtalker & ProxPad Choice Maker

The Proxtalker has been available for a while and has originally been marked as a voice output PECS (picture exchange communication system) system.  At a recent demonstration we discussed some additional uses which are quite valuable. Attaching tangible symbols which are then linked voice output opens up the availability of additional language information for students who require more concrete supports and representations. It allows you to string together sentences, phrases and more complex material for engagement.

ProxPad Choice Maker allows the student to engage with tangible symbols as well, but in a simpler format. Tangible symbols can be programmed to make choices, simple comments, as core words/vocabulary as well as using them for other communicative functions.

Tangible symbols have been used for decades. They are often a transition tool used to support the movement from concrete understanding to more abstract ones. One of the struggles which can be present at times, is that we do not have the same ways to provide immediate feedback when they are used by the student (unless everything is one to one). Having voice output available will now allow the teacher and student to engage in gradual distancing. Distancing involves the communication partner gradually moving back so that the student learns they are present but not immediately available while still supporting the initiation of communication at any time. Having voice output facilitates engagement at a distance and reinforces more abstract thinking about language, people, interactions and the environment. Having a better path and options to support language and communication is critical for student with more complex disabilities.


ProxPad with tactile symbols Video

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Communication and Civil Rights

Access to dynamic communication (language) systems is a matter of civil rights. Augmentative and Alternative Communication should not be seen as a service we provide, but rather as a duty in facilitating the civil rights of those who do not currently have the dominant voice in our culture.  The provision of such systems is a high priority in the field and supports the emancipation of those with limited voice, power, and independence who must function within a social structure that has been designed for the more typically abled.  There has been progress to become more inclusive and to recognize in full, alternatives to spoken language. Giving voice to those who may be limited by the dominant culture is an issue of social justice. Stop and think, is it possible to count all of the words in your mind? Could you even right them all down? Yes, you have access to an almost unlimited vocabulary that is always expanding but invisible to others until you convey your thoughts.  People who use AAC must have similar access to language. Think about if all you could communicate was printed on a series of pages in front of you.  Think about how it would feel if you were not allowed to have new words until you met criteria on the old ones; criteria that were set by other people and not necessarily measured in an effective manner.  We have to advocate strongly, relentlessly and without apology. Would it ever be acceptable to make a typically developing child wait to speak until a team decided they were ready to use certain words, or until there was enough money in the budget to provide the words? This is what we do all the time. It is time to change our policies and practices to reflect a more inclusive direction. Below is a video that was shared with me highlighting some of these points.

The text of the video is transcribed here: Henry Frost