Thursday, September 11, 2008

Simplified Technology is a Gift From Linda Burkhart

80 people sat at tables, each fastening wire to a cookie sheet. Lines of would-be solderers were waiting to solder wires to a mini-plug that would complete a home-made cookie sheet switch with a large bolt on a wire. When the switch was plugged into a Powerlink latch/timer, and a radio (in our case) was plugged into the power, the contact of the metal bolt with the metal sheet created a circuit that made the radio play. We used open file folders trimmed to the size of the sheet as "stencils" to cut out tracing patterns for the kids to practice letters, mazes, any kind of fine motor and hand/eye coordination activities. The, a toy, or something that would be a response - as long as they stayed within the lines.
Even though I attended this workshop 2 years ago, I still use my cookie sheet switch. In fact, I demonstrated it to a group of early intervention and early childhood sped teachers last week and several were writing down the parts they needed to make one.
Attending one of Linda's workshops is an adventure in creating wonderful things out of everyday junk-drawer items. She uses sponges, pvc, cottage cheese containers, battery fans from the dollar store, foam place mats and velcro to create games and activities that really engage kids.
Linda has a long history as a therapist who integrated low tech and switch access to develop cause and effect games and activities. She has logged hours of video to show case histories and examples of her work with children and how she found the spark that triggered a reaction that gave a foothold for developing communication.
On "Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs", one of my favorite blogs, there was a post today on low tech eye gaze and mounting. There were some great resources there and it jogged my memory about Linda's workshop. We had built a pvc eye gaze stand that day as well, and I have it in my equipment closet. It is nice because it can break apart easily to tote with you for sessions with students and it is inexpensive to build. I will have to look for the plans or create my own from the stand so you can make one. We also made a pvc frame to wrap around a laptop base with a flat cover over the laptop so you can velcro switches to it and use them with cause and effect activites. The cover hides all the keys and buttons from children with wandering fingers.
I would go to see Linda's workshops again in a heartbeat. She has been a pioneer in switch access and has several software activities she designed in the Intellitools Classroom Suite package with overlays for the Intellikeys board. Check out her site, Simplified Technology, and look through the make it yourself and handouts area. It is full of free resources. You should also check through her books and resources for sale. I have a couple of CD's I bought that are absolutely packed with activities and guides to make and use them. Her wealth of knowledge, compassion for special needs kids and her resources online are a gift to us. If you haven 't discovered her services and resources, it is high-time you did!

All the best to you,

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

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