Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Exhibit Hall - Software

Ok I screwed up. I deleted my whole section on AAC. I will have to repost it tomorrow. I am sorry.

Slate Software, Inc. : Slater Software has upgraded their software Pixwriter and picture library. The library is roughly 9000 high – resolution Literacy Support Pictures They has also created additional science and health curriculum materials out. If you haven't checked out what Slate Software is doing you really need to have over to their site. The curriculum materials are very well constructed and developed. The most exciting thing is that the teachers do not have to spend their time create the materials and they can focus on the important things, teaching, interacting and enjoying their students. Slate software also has free materials on their website. Check their site and see the other products that they offer.

Stages software has developed a new Math program. Stages software has been around for a long time but this is the first time that they have moved from language/literacy to math. I had the pleasure of sitting through a workshop about this specific piece of software because it is an area in general that is lacking for our students. The author of this program has made sense of the research on math. The activities are well organized in an attractive package, easy to follow and it collects meaningful data. The software can be used with all students in your classroom. The software has screens that are about the task that the student is working on. The screens are clean and none distractible backgrounds. The software is not drill and skill software. It allows the student to demonstrate competency of what they know and don't know so you can focus on the skills they need based on the data collected.

More tomorrow …. Tired, sorry.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Workshop Sessions

8:00AM - How to assess, teach and use the Head as an Access site for AT: Given by Karen Kangas and Lisa Rotelli. If you get a chance, please take a class with Karen Kangas.  Karen's background is in seating and positioning. All I can say is WOW! She had me sitting up straight in my chair wide eyed and ready to learn at 8 am.


Here are the highlights of the presentation:


1. Get over the myth that the head isn't the place to start. Follow the development of the human body. The head develops before the trunk or limbs.

2. If you don't have proper position then you might as well start there without positioning then you can't have true control.

3.  Electronic switches vs. mechanical switch - the feedback isn't the click you hear but the success of participation.

4. Single switch access is the most difficult. Give two switch access to a student and you give a person independence.

5. Fatigue is cognitive not a physical fatigue.

6. Hands are the last extremity to develop. Control of the hands does not happen until puberty.

7. The Switch is not the activity. Do not make switch activation the activity. Making the switch the activity is similar to taking the pen cap off the pen and saying the student wrote a paragraph. Having the proper tool just makes the participating the activity.


Here is the task analysis of using a mechanical switch:


  1. Location
  2. Touch
  3. Press it
  4. Hold it
  5. Release it


It requires graded movement. Majority of individuals that are using switches do not have graded movement. It is all or nothing but we expect control.


10:00 AM Cliff Notes about Nimas


This may not be the most exciting conversation but it is important to understand how NIMAS and NIMAC affect accessible text.


  1. Students with a 504 are not eligible for NIMAS – NIMAC files.
  2. State and local educational agencies are responsible for having it in their contracts with textbook companies. This is not a special education issue as much as it is the issue with the person who is ordering the textbooks. So that means we need to start with a conversation with the people that ORDER the books.
  3. NIMAC and NIMAS are for elementary and secondary because they are covered under IDEA.
  4. All states were required to be registered for NIMAS.
  5. Definition of PUBLSHED the OSEP defines it as AVALABLE for PURCHASE from July 19, 2006 that means not that to book was created in July, 2006 but that it is STILL FOR SALE.
  6. PRINT DISABILITY has not been defined by IDEA – it is defined in other laws so the OSEP hasn't at this time defined what it means.
  7. All digital material is not accessible.

Websites of Interest:


12:00 – Taking applications with you. This is a workshop that talked about using the USB or flash cards to store portable applications. I didn't get a handout because I arrived late. I am hoping to get one from the presenter. But the presentation is about the applications that I wrote about in Sept.


2:00 – Closing the Gap 2008 Presentation, Portfolios That Work by Mary Ann Lowe SLP. D., CCC-SLP and Samuel Sennott: Portfolio's are not a new concept to education but the way that these portfolios are being used. The electronic portfolios are being used as a living document that grows and changes with the individual. It is a documentary of a child's progression in skills as well as keeping track of all the materials for the team in ONE location. No two portfolios are alike because individuals are not alike. The content materials are systematically placed but what goes into the content of the portfolio is left up to the individual. For more information, you can check out the website:


4:00 – Helping teachers understand UDL and Differential Instruction

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Switch It Time - Jumps into Gaming

I putted around the exhibit hall today. I was trying to find something that was worth writing about. When I go through the exhibit hall I am on a hunt looking for something that two switch users or a switch user and a peer can do together. Switch In Time which is typically known for the music software for switch users has jumped into gaming for student that are switch users. Their newest piece of software is called Super Switch Hitter. There are many features that I like in Super Switch Hitter. It is Wii version of baseball for switch users. Baseball is the all American game that every child should get to play.

Switch modes: Single Switch, Multiple switches, Auto scanning, two step-scanning

  • The first is that realistic based graphics. The pitcher actually throws a ball; the batter actually hits the ball foul or into the field. The players in the field also play their part. You can have auto-fielding.
  • Another aspect is how customizable the software is to the students that may want to use it. The ball size varies from eraser size to roughly a quarter with a black frame.
  • The speed of the ball goes from crawling slow to flash speed. For me, I like the "hover ball" this is great for batting practice. It is errorless batting.
  • When you hit a home run --- the student gets to hear --- We Will Rock You.
  • You hear the ball hitting the bat.

If you are at Closing the Gap – make sure you check out SWITCH IN TIME booth. It is in the main hall directly across the Don Johnston.

OMG ! Lesson learned

If I didn't have bad luck I wouldn't have luck. This has nothing to do with my presentation that I attended. But you must here this story.

So I checked in on Monday to the Sheraton South in Bloomington, MN where CTG happens. I am told that I must leave a credit card on file with a $40 hold for any charge I may send to the room (food, drink, internet, movies). So I agree that I will leave the card just for the $40 but I do not want the hotel to hold my credit card for the hotel because a PO is being faxed to the hotel once the accounts receivables contacts me with the cost of the stay. The receipt I signed was for $40 on my ATM card. So tonight before heading down to dinner, I decided to check my bank card ... guess what the brain surgeons did... you got it charged my ATM for $1206 for my hotel stay. The most amusing piece of this is this - it isn't human error, it is the systems fault. yes, the systems is not the who checked me in. the system is not who swiped my card and had a conversation with. the system is not the one that checked my photo id. The system can't do anything unless the HUMAN helps it operate. They said the girl did everything correct according to procedure. Except that she did not uncheck the box that said charge to the card.

The kicker of all this is that the hotel received the PO for the cost of the stay today. They were paid in full. If I didn't check my account tonight, they would have been paid twice for the hotel stay.

So tomorrow, I have to go to the front desk again, they will take me to the "business office" so we can fix this. I am sure it is going to be a nightmare for the next few weeks until we can fix this nightmare.

Here is my lesson:

I will never again use my ATM or credit card for incidentals. I am going to go to purchase a Visa gift card for $50. They can charge the $40 to the gift card and if the "system" wants to charge the credit card more -- Good Luck.

I understand that errors happen. But when the "system" doesn't allow you to check past notes, what was received for the customers account and you can't fix the issue immediately there is a problem. All the manager on duty had to do is fax a letter to my bank to release the funds. Except she couldn't do that because " the system" doesn't allow her to do that. What she could do was given me dinner in the restaurant.

So there is my Lesson. I hope no one else has this issue. I will start to blog about the exhibit hall and workshops I attend tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Closing the Gap - Off to a Rocking Start - Preconference

Today was the first day of pre-conferences at Closing the Gap. I had mix emotions about attending the conference because of my back and family concerns. I knew once I arrived in Minnesota all those concerns would wash away. Ok the back is still an issue but they have great beds. So let me tell you about a great workshop that I attended.

The workshop was presented by Keri Huddleston, Teru Langsdale and Moria Soulia who are from the Washoe County School District in Reno, NV. It was called Making a difference with your consultative services. The presentation was straightforward, well throughout and very laid back. It was the perfect workshop for me. I needed a workshop that would ease me into Closing the Gap mode.

As an Assistive technology consultant, I am often viewed as the “hitman” coming to tell the “team” what they could do to improve their services to a specific student. So without all the nice jargon – what you are not doing that you should be doing. This presentation had you looking at your process of delivering services. The first thing is that you need to make sure you at the “teams” to serve them. You might be shaking your head but keep reading. I often think of an AT consultant as a bridge builder. It is important to listen to what everyone on the team thinks and validate what they believe or think. If you do not listen and understand their feeling, then you will get nowhere quick. That bridge just became a frail vine. The first step in the process is the information gathering. Decide on what information is important to you to do a good service and secondly make sure the process is not overwhelming. You have to make sure you can document your intake and information you are gathering.

The next piece would be the decision making process. Again, this is a meeting and it is important to DOCUMENT the meeting. The notes should be shared with everyone that are present and absent. No volunteering another member for something if they cannot or didn’t make the meeting. Make sure there is nothing that can be lost in transition. Always make sure that you give timelines, follow through with how something is or aren’t working.

This was the eye opener for me. We all can make a laundry list of the things the staff members need to do or could be doing for the student but really we need to be asking, what laundry list we can create to about the staff and their needs. What is making the individual or team not to buy into the technology for a student? What are they strong at and what skills are they lacking? This is what I walked about thinking. We need to really think about SETT framework in relation to the staff. If the staff does not feel supported, does not feel validated and does not feel their needs are being met then how can we expect the staff to support the student?

Documentation about training and support is a must. Document every move you make. As a consultant you need your paperwork to talk for you. It needs to outline what you have done or haven’t done. The process needs to be see-through to everyone on and off the team. A person walking in off the street should be able to read the information and just pick up where you left off.

I really liked the concept that the building principal should sign off that they know about the assistive technology services. I know this is something that is lacking in my referral process. The building principal is going to be the on-site person to help you get things done if things aren’t working the way it is planned.

I also walked away from this presentation with the feeling that we will always be in the process. It is a give and take. We need to treat AT consultation in the district as we would a business. Make the plan, create your mission, Outline how it will happen and make sure the procedures are in writing.

If you get a chance, I recommend seeing the presentation. I know I did not give the props it should have. Any questions, please feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I have arrived in Minn. for Closing the Gap

I have arrived at the hotel. I am all prepared for my first preconference session that starts at 8am.

Here is what I learned suitcases can't weight more than 50 lbs or you get charged an overweight fee. It isn't worth bring a second page because it will cost you .....

There is a $15 charge for each bag you carry. Crazy I know.

A taxi from the hotel cost $33 with tip. The hotel shuttle wasn't coming for another 2 hours. Sorry love the airport but didn't want to be like Tom Hanks sitting around for hours. Just wanted my bed at the hotel.

Being at CTG for 2008 -- priceless.

If anyone has a question please let me know. I will try my best to find the answer.