Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not always what it seems...

Today I was in a session with a student that is learning to use Intellipad (Name change coming). The teacher made a comment prior to my session that this student was doing a perseveration behavior with the text to speech in the word prediction and smiling at the teacher as the student was tapping the screen. I found this odd because the student had used text to speech in the past and also used the word prediction program in the past. Although odd, I figured to take the issue at face value. It needed to be investigated.

I decided on the following course of action:

First ask the student about the use of the product and how they felt it was going, any difficulties and was it helpful.

Second was an observation of the student using the device.

I sat away from the student so I wasn’t peering over their shoulder but close enough to see and hear what was going on. The student had to type a journal entry in response to questions written on the blackboard.

The student started to type and I heard the word prediction (list to the word) and then student selected the word (word speaks again). So far so good. This went on for about 5-10 minutes. Then I heard the same word repeated over and over. A word I knew the student could spell and type. I let it go 2,3,4,5 the student staring at me with a smile. OK time to get involved.

I asked the student, “why listening to the word so many times?” The response, “It isn’t typing word just saying the the the”. So I give it a try, 1,2,3,4 OK I think I can stop now.

Hmmmm. So what was perceived as this student having a perseveration behavior with the text to speech and smiling at the teacher really was not really what was happening at all. The student was having a problem with their device and app. The student wasn’t sure how to ask for help. So the student would turn and look and smile at the one person in the room that they hoped could help them. The student just wanted to get the teacher's attention without being disruptive to the other students.

The moral of this story is that before you assume a student is performing a behavior for attention, take a look at what is going on. There are times that it can be a behavior but even a behavior has aspects of communication. But there are times something is happening because of a malfunction of the tool and they don't know how to explain it.

Even with technology students need support and sometimes more support until they master the skill. Moving from an iPad from a computer was a huge jump for this student. The student had used a computer for 17 years. The iPad was a new tool that had only been used for recreation. This student was not using it as a learning tool means all new expectations and skills.

The solutions were simple ones:

  1. The student was given a stylus for using the word prediction. This way the student couldn't accidentally hit the speaker and word at the same time.
  2. If it repeats more than twice, just copy the word or type the word to the best of your ability.
  3. The student was given a help me card to indicate that help was needed. I made enough for the 10 other students in the classroom. They were shown if they need help, place the card in front of them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Access to the iPad

The past few weeks I have been working with three young children that have a form of MD. Not all the students are from NJ. Each has a different type of the same disability. All three are unique and amazing in different ways, what each have in common beyond a DX is their drive to be as independent as possible. All their hopes and dreams involve one form of technology or another.

The oldest student is in high school we will call him Bob. His personal goal is to be able to access the internet so he can Facebook with his friends and get on MySpace (yes it is still there). Bob loves music and wants to be able to create music writing, playing and producing music. He also knows he has to do school work not as motivating as the first two goals. Bob is currently attending school on a regular basis but that can change at any time. When it changes because of illness, he will receive home instruction 10 hours a week.

The middle school student we will call him John. His personal goal is to be able to play his games on Playstation, Wii and some computer based games. John is an avid reader and wants to be able to access books that are not assigned by the school. He knows he can listen to books but he wants to be able to READ not listen. John also enjoys school. However, he is on home instruction because of mobility issues. He has a wheelchair but also lives on the third floor of a high-rise building. The elevator has been broken for 5 months and no one knows when it will be repaired.

The youngest of the students we will call him Juan. His personal goal is to be able to enjoy time playing with his sibling and family. So many of the things he can do is hand over hand or isolation play. Juan has the most significant limitations of his movements but has the best head control. Juan enjoys using the computer to join his class for 30 minutes a day. Juan would also be able to listen to books (he is just learning to read). It is something he can share with his family or do by himself. There are games he can play also that if he played the typical way he would be a spectator. Juan at this time does not go to school but that could change with time. Juan enjoys school in short burst. He receives home instruction for a total of 10 hours a week.

Now that you have the background of my three amazing young men there is something that all three could benefit from. I am going to say it, the iPad. Yes, I said. I know you are shocked. The key for these young men are about direct access. If we had to use a computer none of these students would have direct access. We would have to find an alternative method of access. Voice recognition, eye gaze, switches and more that may not be as efficient as direct access. Eye gaze is a form of direct access but since the students don’t need AAC private insurance or Medicaid would not pay for the devices so it would be up to the school district to purchase the devices. Since they are school based machines the question always is can a student do personal activities on the device. The answer there is it depends on the district. It depends on the type of software they will be using.

Each of them has different goals and different needs but all three have another thing in common. Limited movement of their fingers IF the students are physically supported. Each of their supports look different but offer the support the individual needs to access the device. The amount of touch that is needed is great because it is barely a touch. The quantity and quality of apps make it a device that individuals can have a diverse set of tools.

So what have we yes we because I don’t work in isolation, I work with the student team which includes the parent, OT, PT, IT staff and whoever else I can wrangle into the mix. Each of us has skill sets that are needed when working with complex needs.

For Bob, for computer access was voice recognition but he found that he couldn’t play music. He also couldn’t use the VR in the classroom. Access to the iPad we used a wedge to support his hand. We used a small platform built off the wedge to support the iPad. We also gave it a way to rotate by using hardware. We placed little suction cups on the edge so the student can rotate the iPad when needed.

Apps that he is using:

AKAI Pro SynthStation APP

Symphony Pro

Jump Desktop

Computer software:

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Write: Online from Crick : Bob uses the Jump Desktop software to use Write: Online

For John, computer access was using his PS3 Game controller. He is able to zip around the screen like you and I do with a standard mouse. He uses voice recognition for writing long assignments. John prefers the standard Windows 7 on-screen keyboard with word prediction for short assignments. Now because he spends the majority of his day in a supine position so we needed to find a mount that could let us get the iPad into his field of vision. Then the other issue was creating a way for him to access the iPad. We used a very basic thera-band sling. We used different colors depending on the speed he needs to tap. For games we use yellow and when he is working on something that needs stability we might head to red or even black. It comes down to his day. Then there are times we use cloth slings that his grandma made using lamb wool and satin.

Apps that he is using:

Jump Desktop to share the computer screen. It allows him to collaborate with peers and do activities that the teacher has created in MS Word, and Excel.

Dragon Go to research information on the internet

Go Go Gadget is a game he likes to play

Talking Calculator

Graphing Calculator

Recorder for recording reading, writing and questions he has for his teachers.

For reading he is using the Kindle App

Facetime to speak to his teachers at prep time for homework assignments

Computer Software:

Adobe Student and Teacher

Dragon Naturally Speaking

The youngest of the group, we are still working out with the things we will offer. Right now we are keeping it simple. For access, we are using a sling option that was purchased from SMA website. However, we will be changing this. We want to give him more movement than the sling offers.


The youngest of the group, we are still working out with the things we will offer. Right now we are keeping it simple. For access, we are using a sling option that was purchased from SMA website. However, we will be changing this. We want to give him more movement than the sling offers at this time. We may land up with a different sling system. Computer access at this time is not something we are working on however that will come later in the year. Right now the most important thing is to get him to access the iPad and some activities that he and his siblings can do.


Chutes and Ladders

Free Kids Counting Game



There are other apps that are being used. A total of 25 apps that align with the student's school curriculum.

Facetime to access his classroom for the morning meeting (calendar and schedule) and literacy circle (vocabulary and read aloud).

Access for these three overlap at some point but each is set up a little differently in the height and the support that is used. For adults you can find some sling pre-made equipment but when working with children and young teenagers, you pretty much have to make what you need.

I will do my best to get a picture of the alternative access that could be used.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year's and All that Jazz

Happy New Year!

So what will 2012 bring. Honestly, I don’t know. Sorry, I do not know what it will bring as I don't have a crystal ball and my psychic ability only plays in déjà vu mode. The déjà vu I am having at the moment is trying to figure out what my blog should and could be.

Should it be tutorial based? Should it be product demos? Should it be ……. You tell me.