Month: October 2015

How to Make a Switch Adapted Toy

Lauren and I work with some pretty amazing students.  And our students love to play!  Unfortunately, some of them are unable to play with toys in a conventional way due to their physical disabilities.  We’ve ordered switch adapted toys online to incorporate into our play based activities, however, they are EXPENSIVE!!  If you search for switch adapted toys online you will see that they range in price from around $40- $200+ even though the non-adapted toy costs significantly less!  The stereo cable that makes the toy switch accessible usually only costs about one dollar.  That doesn’t seem right…

We’ve discovered that the best way to get our students MORE toys is to switch adapt them ourselves.  This weekend we recruited an SLP, OT, and tech-savvy friend to help us adapt some toys!  After a couple of botched attempts, we got the hang of it and were able to adapt 5 toys!  We’ll be posting soon about how we are going to use these toys in therapy, giving them a purpose!  You can check out our final products here.

We filmed the last toy we switch adapted so you can see how we did it!  You can watch the video on our YouTube Channel.

Read on for step by step instructions on switch adapting a toy!

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Adapting Don’t Wake Daddy

Adapting a Board Game

Board games can provide opportunities for literacy, numeracy, communication, and social skills instruction. In order for students with special needs to access these games, we have to adapt the materials.

When Amanda told me that she bought 2 Don’t Wake Daddy game boards, I was excited to see how they could be adapted for our students. Unfortunately, the theme song from the 90’s TV commercial was stuck in my head the entire time.

Continue reading to see how we adapted Don’t Wake Daddy. This posts contains a free PowerPoint download and ideas for communication opportunities while playing the game.

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Converting YouTube Videos for Classroom Activities

Converting YouTube Videos

A YouTube video can be an excellent addition to a lesson. When used at the beginning of a lesson, videos can grab student interest and provide context for what the students will be learning about. Videos can also be used to enhance the meaning of text, maintain lesson momentum, and provide additional opportunities for communication.

Many schools prevent users from accessing video websites. In order to circumvent this problem, you can convert the video to a file format that can be saved and embedded in programs such as PowerPoint, Boardmaker, and Classroom Suite. There are hundreds of websites that have this capability but my personal preference is Online Video Converter.

Continue reading to learn how to convert YouTube videos for classroom activities.

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The Magic of Battery Interrupters

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I don’t know how I went for so long without knowing about these little beauties. Any toy with a single function operated by AA or AAA batteries (you can get these for other batteries as well) can be adapted by sliding the disk in between where the battery meets the metal on the side of the compartment or in between 2 batteries. Voila! You have a switch adapted toy. 

When possible, I suggest permanently switch adapting the toy using stereo plugs (this with definitely be in a future post), but a battery interrupter gets the job done quickly. 

Purchase on Amazon.com 

I used one with this traffic light when teaching about transportation. Students created maps of their community and added street signs and traffic lights to direct a remote controlled car through the streets.


*Remember, the switch is not the activity. Make sure that swith adapted toy serves a purpose in the larger activity.

Story Bots!

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Have you tried Story Bots yet?  You MUST!  This website has a collection of storybooks and videos that you can personalize with pictures of your child!  There is a great collection of “learning videos” featuring the ABCs, numbers, colors, animals, professions, body parts, etc.  But, the best part of this website is having your child’s photo and name in the stories.  Though it lacks audio text (parents, educators, or students must read the story aloud), the children I have used it with have loved it!  They get so excited to see their face in the story.  It’s a great way to engage your child’s interest in reading.  The clever animations and text in the stories lend themselves to making predictions about what will happen next and other higher order questions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 8.23.24 PMYou can sign up for free; however, you will have limited access to the stories and videos. In order to have access to the full library (over 200 books!) and videos, you can sign up for a membership.  The membership cost per year is $36 ($3/month) or you can sign up for a monthly membership for $5/ month.  Once you have a membership, you can add characters by uploading a picture and name.

Free Membership – What’s Included?   vs. Paid Membership

Story Bots also has 10 apps that can be downloaded on your iPad for free. You can also use a limited number of features on the app and upload pictures of your child.  If you have a paid membership with the website, that transfers to the apps and allows you to access the unlimited features of the app (i.e. more books, more videos, more characters).

iPad Apps

I purchased the membership myself last month and have used it countless times already!  I love it, the children I work with love it, and I think you will too!

 

The Communication Matrix

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At my first IEP meeting as an AT Specialist, a colleague asked me if I was going to be monitoring the student’s progress with her new Tobii Eye Gaze device with the Communication Matrix.  I had never heard of it, but she insisted, so I agreed and quickly looked it up after the meeting!  It has since become one of my favorite assessment tools for students with complex communication needs.

The Communication Matrix looks at communication from pre-intentional behaviors (i.e. crying because you are in pain) to language (i.e. phrases to sentences). For my students with limited or no verbal speech, it can sometimes be challenging to determine what and how they are communicating.  This tool is fantastic because it helps our team pinpoint exactly which behaviors a child uses to communicate for different communicative functions.  Let’s look at this sample student.

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The graph shows us how the student consistently communicates (blue for “mastered”) and how the student is beginning to communicate (yellow for “emerging”).  In addition, we can look at specific skills list to more clearly see how the student communicates for different language functions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 3.33.30 PMTo protest, the student uses unconventional communication such as body movements, facial expressions, early sounds, and simple gestures and is emerging in his ability to use more conventional communication such as giving items back to you or shaking his head “no.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 3.37.27 PM   To request attention, the student uses unconventional communication such as early sounds, facial expressions, visual cues, and simple gestures; however, he’s not yet using more conventional means to communicate for this language function.

How do I use the data from the assessment?

It’s a great tool for monitoring student progress when implementing a new AAC system.  We update the matrix yearly and can see gains in communication that the student has made.  Bonus – parents really enjoy seeing a colorful graph that clearly demonstrates the progress their child has made in communication.  It’s also nice for determining areas to work on.  It often helps us realize that our students need to work on MORE than requesting!

You can get started using the Communication Matrix as an assessment tool by following this link and signing up for a FREE account.  http://www.communicationmatrix.org

Rowland, C. (2009). Communication Matrix. Retrieved [Oct 11, 2015] from www.communicationmatrix.org

Choosing an AAC Device – Mind Map

AAC device

“How do you know that’s the device we should try?”

There are so many things to consider when conducting an AAC evaluation. And I don’t have a set protocol that I follow when evaluating a student for an AAC device. Sometimes I walk into a classroom, observe a student during a lesson, and go back to their SLP and say, “what do you think about trying xyz?” Other times, a team member identifies that a student needs an AAC system, I observe the student, and we meet to discuss different options. In other instances I may try a variety of devices with the student to get a feel for how they communicate on different systems. There are so many other scenarios, but I think you get the point! But, no matter the scenario, when I make a recommendation, I am often asked, “How do you know that’s the device we should try?”

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SoundBible.com- Enhancing Lessons with Sound

soundbibleWhen creating interactive activities in programs such as Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro, PowerPoint, and Classroom Suite, including sounds can:

  • capture student interest
  • provide access to the content for students with visual impairments
  • support the meaning of text
  • embed feedback for correct answers
  • provide opportunities for communication (e.g. commenting and directing actions)

SoundBible.com is an excellent source for free sound files. Continue reading to find out how to use SoundBible.com files in your lessons.

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