Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stop the Right Clicking

When you are working on the PC the most frustrating thing is trying to stop a student from right clicking. You give the student a visual cue or even a textured cue of which button to press and that right click happens. There is a software based solution that is free. Yes, I used that four letter word FREE.

The software is called BabyMouse. BabyMouse is an application that restricts several functions of the computer mouse. The right mouse can be deactivated, all buttons can be set to be a left click and the best mouse clicks can be restricted to a particular area of the screen. What this means that the teacher or parent can pick a specific spot on the screen and the child can only click in that specific spot.

A sister program to BabyMouse is BabyBoard Pro . BabyBoard Pro allows you to control the mouse scroll wheel as well as keyboard keys. Yes, you can block letters from being typed. So if you are working on a student typing their name you can block all letters that are not in their name.

The program works wonderful for little children learning mouse skills as well as students that struggle with the left and right click featurs of a PC mouse. Hands down you can't beat the price which again is FREE.

ChoiceWorks Visual Support System

I was preparing for a workshop on visual supports and I came across this visual support system that I am very impressed with the look of. I think it is something that just makes visual supports very handy and all contained in one place.

The visual support system was designed by a parent (some of the best tools come from parents). The visual support system uses a combination of visual symbols to support the student with their schedule, feelings and waiting and a choice area to motivate the child. Anyone that uses visual supports can attest that they increase a student’s independence in completing tasks and understanding expectations. The most important aspect of visual supports is that it helps students with and without disabilities work on self-control issues. Ideal for teaching routines and transitions for children ages 3-9.

What I like about this tool is that there is no laminating and Velcro needed. Everything is contained within the visual support system. No more worries that a student doesn’t have a symbol or the symbol is all tattered.

According to the website the BeeVisual's ChoiceWorks includes three situation boards, each accompanied by a short story to read with your child to introduce the system:

Schedule Board (blue): 40 visual symbol magnets can be sequenced to teach home routines and schedules: includes symbols for morning, evening and bathroom routines, getting ready for school, going to appointments, and more. Your child chooses his/her reward for successfully completing the tasks.

Feelings Board (green): Supports your child’s ability to gain self-control by providing clear alternatives and expectations.

Waiting Board (orange): Teaches your child the skills for waiting, turn taking and not interrupting. Includes a convenient timer!

To learn more or where to order

Preparing for an IEP Meeting

Like many people that read this blog or just visit by accident I struggle with the IEP process. I have been in the field of special education for 18 years and still I struggle with creating an appropriate document to help my nieces with their education. No matter how much your opinion is respected by the members of a community when you step into the lions den of the DISTRICT you lose all creditability. The district automatically has the attitude that it is you against them and they are the experts. The one district which I reside in actually wrote my brother and me a letter saying they are the experts on what is best of my niece. I am sure you all know how the response letter went. One day the district will learn that it is not the parents vs the district. It takes two to dance the tango and everyone has to pull their weight.

Even the best advocate for others often needs help advocating for their own child because of the emotions involved. Once you get past the emotions you can step up to the plate and battle for what is needed without being personal. I am lucky because I have wonderful friends that support me and keep me in check with taking things personally. I also am lucky because I have friends that know the right words to use when the district tries to pull the we know best routine.

The reason for this post is that I came across a wonderful website that actually helps you prepare for the IEP meeting. The tool walks you through the questions that you should answer prior to the meeting and outlines the areas that you need to work on. As an educator I have written IEP’s, I have attended many IEP meetings but as a person trying to help my siblings through the maze there are many things that I took for granted. This check list helped me explain to my siblings in plain English without the SPED jargon.

For the parents that are preparing for an IEP doesn’t miss the Child Portrait piece. For the younger children the parents write the portrait but as the child gets older and can take on the task, I typically allow the child to write their own. It is important that the child can pick out their strengths and weakness’ and explain how it impacts their learning. When I write it for the younger children, I will ask them questions about their likes and dislikes in school or what do they find easy and hard to do in school. I always find it important to make sure we include the child goal for life. Yes goals change as they grow but it is a great way to document that they have hopes and dreams.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Shake - Rattle Listen to Music

We all know MP3's are the hot item for children. As educator we know MP3's are a tool for learning. The biggest issues that we have are the durability, the size and cost. I am always on the search for tools that my students with physical disabilities can use without great frustration.

To change songs just give it a shake, hence the name Sansa Shaker. There are also controller bands to control volume and to move forward and back in the song library. The shake feature is used for random tracks. You have to shake up and down pretty hard for the feature to work. It is up and down. You will hear a shutter sound when the song changes.

The Shaker has a built-in speaker to listen without headphones or ear buds. One of the benefits to this device is that you can use SD cards loaded with stories or songs. The advantage of using the SD cards is that you can store and swap stories for the seasons or curriculum.

Included in the package is a 512MB SD flash card, USB cable, a few pre-loaded songs, and a colorful variety of stickers so that kids can customize their device.