Wednesday, November 26, 2008


"What are some other assistive technology access methods for keyboarding other than the virtual keyboard/scanning or a Big Keys Keyboard?" I was asked yesterday. The occupational therapist asking me is a tech wiz and we have had fun collaborating on several adaptations.
"Let me show you what I mean," he said as he pulled out his iPhone. He showed me a mobile application he downloaded for his phone which is "ShapeWriter" a unique virtual touch keyboard. It utilizes the touch screen on the iPhone to type in entries. Instead of tapping with an up and down movement, you drag your finger starting at the first letter and then on over to the second and then so on. As you do this, you get a blue line that connects the keys in a sort of web you are spinning. As you drag, the letters begin to spell your words up above in the document.
The OT began to explain, "Something like this on a computer would be great for a student I am thinking of who can't do the fine motor of typing with the vertical up and down key action or tapping, but she can drag a finger around in lateral movements. I started to research and see if it was available in another format other than mobile phone, but haven't had time."
Well, thanks to that prompting, I was intrigued. Here is what I found: There is a WritePad article that tells about the ShapeWriter. It is a free download apps for mobile phones and come in several versions for different phones - yes, there is a Windows mobile version, but remember, it can only be used on the new touch screen style mobile phones made popular with the iPhone. You can see a demo of how it works here.
There was not a PC or Mac application available that I could see. I would think that this new keyboard would be a hit on tablet PC's. If we had this on a tablet with a large monitor surface area, imagine how a person might be able to write by a drag of a finger and no tapping.
If you have a student that has a touch phone and could use this form of support, check into downloading it and giving it a try. Let us all know what you think.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I will be taking the day off, but I will have an exciting piece of BIG and exciting news on a special guest coming up next week on No Limits 2 Learning Live - Can't WAIT!! Check back if you have a spare moment in the next few days and I will be sharing a special Thanksgiving post and announcing my special guest who I AM truly thankful for having the opportunity to interview.

Until then, Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving for all our U.S. readers.

All the best to you!
Lon
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!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Assistive Technology Gift Ideas: Talking Photo Frames


Using Recordable Picture Frames:
I have been using the Go Talk One recordable photo frames for an inexpensive AAC tool over the last 3 or 4 years. You can re-record them quickly and slip new pictures in and out. They are also pretty durable, thin and compact.
I like to use them in sets where we put 4 together and have choices or activities on them. They allow the student to handle choices and language in a manipulative way. They are great for sequencing life skills and events. The auditory cues within the recording can simulate and encourage speech. Linda Burkhart has a tutorial on how to design and use them here. Hers is an older Radio Shack frame that has a hinge and folds over. the new ones don't appear to do that anymore, but there are some good tips there.
The Go Talk Ones by Attainment Company are around $12, and the Radio Shack variety with a clear arcrylic frame are $9.99. They make a great gift or stocking stuffer to have around the house with food or activity choices, selecting a feeling, colors, numbers, etc.
Leave one out Christmas Eve for Santa to record a message!

All the best to you!

Lon

I have been receiving a few ideas via email for AT gifts. If you have one you would like to share, send it to me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com

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!

Assistive Technology Holiday Gift Idea: Mp3 Player Jump Drive


The RCA Pearl 1 GB Jump DriveMp3 under $30!
My Mp3 player jump drive goes with me everywhere. I bought it after attending a day workshop on print disability tools and converting text to audio Mp3 files. I found that I preferred it over my iPod (which I love too). The iPod has to work through iTunes which is proprietary so everything has to be loaded into it and then the player has to be synced to it to add new material. I wanted to be able to add files "on the fly" and skip that extra step.
With a jump drive player, you have a built in USB so you can plug it in, open it as an external memory device from "My Computer" in Windows and then open the music folder and literally drag your files in to store or out to throw away.
I go on websites that have archives of interviews for talk and radio shows that comment on the news, etc. I download new files almost everyday, listen and then dump when done and drag on new files. There is no putting it into a player software first - very easy. There are quite a few varieties of these jump drive USB players - I just found this one to be easily available and priced very reasonable.
If you are looking for a cheap and effective tool for your family member with print disability, processing or LD issues, think about this as a way to support literacy and learning by listening as well as seeing. Following the text while listening is very supportive and is used by such companies as Read Naturally. I have used the Premiere Literacy tools to convert pdf files into mp3 audio files as well and then put them on my player.
Where Do I Get the Free Books?
Gutenberg.org is one of many sites with public domain literature to download for free. Many of the titles have an audio file option to hear the book being read. Another is Free Classic Audio Books. The service, LibriVox uses volunteers who read, record and send in files of books so you get a large library of public domain texts by real voice readers - free.
The Pearl Mp3 has a built in radio and also a voice memo feature that allows a student to record directions from a teacher or voice notes from a class and download them as Mp3 files to a computer for future reference or playback on the player.
I have been showing folks how to use a free blog with the free odiogo service to convert a blog post to Mp3 like I do here on my blog. You can cut and paste or write anything, download it and play it on an Mp3 player. You can find my tutorials and notes on how to do this on my website, nolimits2learning.com under the resources section and the training section.
There is a new Pearl Mp3 version 2 out now with 2 GB and an optional mini sandisk slot to expand memory. It is still under $30 from Amazon on a special right now. I don't have this new version but it looks like they have just expanded and improved on the old one. I can't think of a bigger bang for your buck in a piece of technology that will support learning and be fun at the same time!
All the best to you!
Lon
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!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Building an AT Gift Idea List for the Holiday Season

How is your budget looking with the holidays coming up? I have been watching the Today and Good Morning America variety of shows and they are already giving us tips on how to cut holiday costs and do more family activities. Christmas, Hanukkah and other seasonal celebrations might look a little different this year. I was listening to an economic forecaster a month ago as he shared opinions on the free-fall economy and the path he thinks we are really headed. He said, "This Christmas will go down as the worst Christmas since the great depression."
Coming from my own personal level, I don't believe we can have a "worst" Christmas because Christmas to me has never been about how much money I do or don't have. There are many wonderful aspects to the holiday season that go way beyond the shopping statistics that have all our merchants worrying. As I shared yesterday, there are many families that have special needs and disabled members who could use some great ideas for low cost and effective assistive technology gifts that can make the season bright and be very useful at the same time.
What do you use or what have you adapted that has really meant a lot to you or could be a potential great find for someone else as a holiday gift this year? I am calling for submissions on the AT Blog Carnival, but I realize that many of our readers don't have a blog and therefore don't have anything to submit. So here's your opportunity!
Share Your AT Gift Ideas:
How about a post or an email? Just send me an item or a link or your explanation and I will add it to my idea list - "Santa's list" for folks to check into. Maybe we can get a great list going over the next 4 weeks. As ideas come in, I will start a list on my sidebar and put it on my website main page as well.
This seems like maybe it would take an extra minute - but it would really help me with some ideas and will benefit all of us to see what folks come up with. Who knows, maybe your idea or suggestion would be the gift that makes a difference for someone this year.
Send ideas to me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com or you can post a comment below. You can check my sidebar for the holiday gift idea list and see what grows there. If it is empty - maybe you need to put something there! Also, look for the AT Blog Carnival up on December 15th with Christmas ideas submitted from AT blog writers .
All the best to you!
Lon
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!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mayer Johnson Launches Adapted Learning Site

Mayer-Johnson, developer of innovative software products and symbols designed to help special needs students learn, announces the launch of AdaptedLearning.com (www.adaptedlearning.com). This free resource provides a place to find and share adapted curriculum created with the company’s popular Boardmakerรข Software Family products. It also provides online community functions as well as feature articles and expert tips that meet the needs of the spectrum of Boardmaker users. Developed to provide better symbol-enhanced learning tools and make it easier for special educators and parents to adapt curriculum to ensure accessibility for all students, the website provides resources and tools that allow students with special needs to learn more effectively and succeed academically.
Over 100,000 special education professionals and parents have come to rely upon the Boardmaker Software Family of products to help children challenged by significant speech, language and learning disabilities achieve academically and socially. AdaptedLearning.com stretches the reach of the products by creating an international community of Boardmaker enthusiasts.
The keystone of the free website is the searchable database of communication boards and other educational assets created using Boardmaker products and shared by therapists, teachers, and parents of students with special needs. Additional resources include:
An online community that allows educators and clinicians to connect and share ideas and information with other Boardmaker users, as well as create public and private areas for groups of colleagues and parents,
Feature articles highlighting implementation ideas and other resources, and
Training videos featuring application strategies to enhance student learning

- MORE -

and communication, and show how to create tools that make it easier for children with special needs to succeed.

Information organized by subject area in the News & Views section of the site ensures that members quickly locate the resources they are seeking. New Boardmaker users will find the Getting Started articles helpful as they experience all that the software has to offer. The Classroom Implementation area provides application ideas so that members can apply newly acquired skills and discover new ways to use previously learned skills. A resource for parents, the Home Connection provides information to help families support the child’s education and communication journeys in the home and in community settings. Find success stories and case studies that provide information and inspiration in the Results area.

“AdaptedLearning.com comes in response to the requests of the many loyal Boardmaker users who were looking for a place to share their work and access new content,” said Jim Mills, DynaVox/Mayer-Johnson’s vice president of education products. “We’re please to be able to offer them a place to share that work and their great passion for the Boardmaker Software Family of products.”
To register for this new web resource, visit www.AdaptedLearning.com.

All the best to you!
Lon

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!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

AAC Activities for Early Special Needs Learners, Part Two

"Let's go over to the Reading Corner," I said. I was taking a Big Mack to one of our Early Learning Centers to play with some special needs kids and show staff ideas with the device. We sat down with "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" and I held down the record button and sang the first page.
The students took turns pressing the switch and listening to the first line of the song as worded on the page. We continued through the book and finished the book re-recording each page as we went. (By the way, a Step-by Step, also by Ablenet can record sequences and allow for responses as well - great for conversations, jokes, books, songs, etc.)
After I had modeled requesting with markers (See yesterday's post) and had gone through a book with a song, now I was ready to engage these eager learners in more literacy by having them "read" a book to me using the device. We chose a book and I did the first two pages like we had done the song. Now, on the third page I asked one of them to record what the words said. I held down the button and switch plate while the girl shared her interpretation of the words on the page.
"Shooga, ooga, up, up, up!" she said.
We listened back. She was ready for the next page. Her words were similar and always ended with "Up, up, up!" We would listen back.
The next page showed a mother holding her child. "That is me mama," the little girl shared. "Let's record that." I encouraged. "That is me mama" she said again. She pressed the switch and heard it play back.
One of the staff who was watching got excited. The student had not used that many words before in a situation like this. She was also getting the contextual information from the illustration on the page and combining language and real life situations in an interaction with the book. Wow.
The staff decided to start using the Big Mack as a fun way to share around circle time. They have each student share their name when they look at classroom jobs in the morning and share a word for the day, etc. One boy in particular, the one I really brought the device for, is non-verbal and he wasn't there the day I brought in the device. They would like him to be able to use the device to say his name when it comes around to his turn.
As I shared yesterday, by incorporating a device like this to support communication, and using it throughout the day and in many situations, students get comfortable and familiar with the device and the principles for using it. It sets them up for self-accommodation at an early age. What a gift to give all our special needs children.

All the best to you,
Lon

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!

Monday, November 17, 2008

AAC Single Message Activities for Early Special Needs Learners, Part One

When it comes to working with Early Learners in pre-school who are low or non-communicators, a Big Mack single message device is great for encouraging speech and words through simple games and activities. Whether it is at the art table, the book center, with manipulatives or circle time, try some of the activities in this series to get your students engaged and talking. The Big Mack has a bright colored 5 inch target switch plate for making choices, requests and hearing all kinds information you want to record.
Along with this, you can begin to encourage self-accommodation even among these little ones by having communication devices and switch accessible games, books and activities in places for easy access and play. By doing this, you are encouraging a UDL approach to access in the classroom. You will find that students with disbailities that need these tools will gravitate to them and use them if they have played with them, are comfortable with them and know they are available.
We received a grant from a local casino/gaming foundation to purchase assistive equipment, which included one Big Mack and one Cheap Talk 6 level communication device for all of our Early Learning Centers. I took a Big Mack to one of our Early Learning centers last week to begin to demonstrate some things that can be done with it. I spent time with several students at the art table and at the reading center, where the students were intrigued and eager to use the switch. I will be going around to all our centers to play with the students using this device and modeling ideas for staff.
Choice and requesting activity:
I set the switch out on the art table and immediately the students wanted to know what it was and how it worked. I asked them what color they liked out of the marker tub and one of the children pulled out a blue. I pressed the top and side record button and said, "Blue please." I then pressed the switch and it said, "Blue please." They grinned ear to ear.
" You try it." I handed the switch to the little girl that picked out the blue. She hit the switch and when it asked for the blue, I handed her the marker. She made the connection and grabbed another pen, pink this time.
"Pink Please" I said into the device.
"Here you go" I said as I handed her the device.
"Pink Please" she said, using the device as her voice.
I handed her the pink.
This started a whole session of picking pen colors, recording and requestng by the three children at the art table. I would use this for students to pick chalk colors at the chalkboard, plastic animals, pots and pans and food in the kitchen play area, numbers of unifix cubes, etc. The sky is the limit and students really get the idea of associating the use of the device for various activities and tasks in their day.
Tomorrow I will share on some literacy activities from the book corner and circle time ideas.

All the best to you!

Lon

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!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free E-Book "Building Wings" by Don Johnston, Supports Self-Accommodation and Advocacy

I spent some time this Veteran's Day reading Don Johnston's Story, "Building Wings: How I Made it Through School." I have had an autographed copy for several years with good intentions to read it and it has sat on my shelf waiting for me to pick it up.
We had friends visit over the weekend who have a daughter that could really get a lot out of reading Don's book. She is a middle schooler that struggles with comprehension and needs others to read aloud to her. She gets terribly embrassed and wants to hide her disability. I shared some tools for accommodating print disabilities and in light of their situation, decided it was time for me to read Don's book. I am going to share it with our friends too.

The book is large print and set at a 3-5 grade reading level, so it was easy reading for me but the concepts and issues were laid out to cause anyone reading the book to stop and think. I had to look at my own practice as an educator and reflect on how I support students and their learning. Do I challenge them to reach for higher achievement or do I allow them to settle for the easiest plateau? Don's story caused me to reflect on my own learning in elementary school, first impressions of school, my desire to learn and how that changed over time. I even decided to read it to my first grade son.We sat down last night and I read the first 3 chapters to him where Don shares his kindergarten and first grade years.
My son was glued to the story and had lots of questions. He wanted me to read more but it was time for bed. We talked about his coming to me when he can't learn something and not being frustrated, but rather let the teacher and me help him find the WAY he can learn it.
Don Johnston has a Building Wing's Reader's Theatre Contest that I will share about tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out the book and read it here: http://www.donjohnston.com/offers/buildingwings_online/one/index.htmlIf you work with children and you have never read it - you owe yourself and your students a good read of this one!

All the best!
Lon

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!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Virginia Special Education Students Receive Digital Access with Read:OutLoud

Don Johnston Read Out Loud Chosen at State Level as Reader of AIM:I received this press release yesterday and thought you might be interested in the way the State of Virginia is providing accessible instructional materials in their schools under IDEA. Read about it and post a comment telling us what you think. I think it is a step in the right direction for schools that are overwhelmed about making decisions about what text reader to use and how to get it implemented. Here, the choices have been made for them. I am sure the hope is to streamline the process and get materials in the student's hands in a more timely manner.

Press Release:
The Virginia Accessible Instructional Materials Center (AIM-VA), part of the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities (KIHd) at George Mason University, (GMU) has entered into a two-year statewide license agreement with Don Johnston Incorporated to use its Read:OutLoud® accessible text reader in support of students with special needs. The Read:OutLoud software will enable eligible students with IEPs to access new electronic textbooks and other instructional materials as required by federal law.
The AIM-VA program will ensure that students who are eligible will receive timely access to
digital textbook formats and educational materials as required by the IDEA 2004 Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act. Through the AIM-VA website, http://kihd.gmu.edu/aim,
Superintendents and Digital Rights Managers can sign up to receive the Read:OutLoud text reader and training at no cost. Students can use the text reader at school and at home to take advantage of several reading comprehension strategies and support tools.
John Eisenberg, M. Ed at the Virginia Department of Education Office of Special Education Instructional Services Severe Disabilities/Assistive Technology Specialist, said, "AIM-VA will be the Department of Education's response to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA) to ensure that students with print disabilities receive high quality accessible formats of instructional materials in a timely manner. In partnership with GMU, we are excited about improving access to accessible materials through the use of Don Johnston's Read:OutLoud text reader. Accessible instructional materials used in conjunction with assistive technology will help students with disabilities make significant progress toward improving their educational outcomes."
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than 90%
of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) read below proficient levels, yet only an estimated 1-3% has access to technologies that will help them overcome reading barriers. Read:OutLoud is known for its supportive reading guide templates designed to leverage strategies recommended by the National Reading Panel and Reading Next. In this initiative it will serve an estimated 170,000 students in more than 1,900 Virginia public schools.

Read:OutLoud will open and read all common accessible file formats, including the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), PDF, DAISY, Text Files (txt), Rich Text Format (rtf), HTML, XML, and Bookshare.org. The program includes a web browser to access the Internet with speech-enabled audio, an eHighlighter to improve study skills, the Franklin Talking Dictionary with over 32,000 word definitions to build vocabulary and a bibliographer to help students accurately cite research.
Michael Behrmann, GMU Professor of Special Education and Director of KIHd, is an advocate for assistive technologies and the visionary behind the project. His team specializes in working with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to design innovative programs in support of persons with disabilities in K-12 and higher education. He said, "AIM-VA was designed to be a 'central library model' where materials and services are provided at no cost to support the
needs of its citizens. The VDOE has put us in charge to be a one-stop solution to provide schools with accessible and appropriate reading materials in a timely fashion. We want to ensure that they can comply with this law and are relieved of the burden of coordinating the logistics to access the digital materials, convert the files, purchase the technology and then support our students who need access to become successful learners."

Watch a product demonstration to learn more about Read:OutLoud 'Whole School' License Options - http://www.donjohnston.com/readoutloud

All the best to you!

Lon

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!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Access and Ability by Ron Graham: Transitions for Students With Disabilities into Higher Education

"I am a man who happens to be blind, not a blind man." Ron Graham, author of Accessability Blog is my latest guest on No Limits 2 Learning Live.
Ron was in a car accident and suffered brain injuries that caused a loss of his sight at the age of 31. He went on to earn his associates, bachelors and masters degrees after the incident. He is an active advocate and resource for accessibility for all, and his positive attitude shines through.
Ron has a unique story that includes his belief that you must be a self-advocate. "If you can't speak up and believe in yourself, who else will?" Ron says. His experience as a director of disability student services at the college level combined with his own disability establish him as a unique expert in transition and higher education for folks with disabilities.
Our discussion led us to the topic of accessibility issues within the college campus and access to textbooks, etc. Ron shared that pre-planning is a huge piece in the process of being successful in college. You need to know what tools you need, how to ask for them and be organized with the strategy to learn.
Listen to the interview: Access and Accessibility Ron Graham's Wayhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/nolimits2learninglive/2008/11/05/Access-and-Ability-Accessibility-Ron-Grahams-Way
You can also access it on the Blog Talk Radio player to the right on my No Limits to Learning blog sidebar.

All the best to you!
Lon

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!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Merging AT and General Ed: FCTD Showcases No Limits to Learning

When Worlds Merge: AT and Instructional Technology in the General Ed Classroom
I was honored last month to be asked by The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) to be interviewed and showcased for the November Issue. I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with the writer from New York. We had a semi-formal interview until it came out that I had been the recipient of a torn right vetebral artery and continue to spend time with an "invisible disability". Come to find out, the writer has had his own processing and learning disability his entire life. Once we established that common ground, we had all sorts of things to talk about.
The editor sent me the rough draft to edit and return. I made a few corrections, but I am amazed at how smart they made me sound! Really, I guess we all just do what we do and don't really think anyone would want to dedicate an entire issue of a newsletter just on what makes up our profession, beliefs, committments and discipline - but that is what they did and there are some good nuggets in there if I may say so myself.
They have an awesome staff, writer, and editor - thanks to them, you will find the information presented with some interesting ideas to chew on. They have included some nice links from my blog posts and interviews as well as mentioning the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival and the Blog Talk Radio -No Limits 2 Learning Live talk show, (Which by the way will have my good friend Ron Graham on today at 10 a.m. Pacific, who is blind and is a blogger (Access Ability) and advocate for UDL and equal access as well as a former director for student accessibility in higher ed. - now retired and donating time to work in public school work with children and vision impairments. His story is AMAZING. Check it out!)

I am very proud and honored to be one of the professionals that FCTD has chosen to include in their resources. You can read the issue at: http://www.fctd.info/resources/newsletters/displayNewsletter.php?newsletterID=10064

FCTD has also asked me to co-moderate a discussion thread on their newly re-vamped site next month (December 2008) on advocacy and school partnerships. I will be sharing the moderation with an expert parent advocate so I am excited about that. I will let you know details when I get the specifics. I hope you will join us.

No Limits 2 Learning .com
I also have my companion website up and going now. There are some interviews, archives, activities and pdf's for download there from my trainings as well as a section I am building on links to free resources. I am constantly adding and building there so check in often: http://www.nolimits2learning.com/
I refer in my FCTD interview to an Action Steps for Advocacy Report that will be available. It is done, but I want to give you a subscription to a newsletter where I will periodically share news like the above with you and share free resources, reminders and links to upcoming interviews, etc. So I am working on a page to have you sign up to get the free report as a download AND the newsletter. I am trying to get that link done and ready on both this blog and the website. I will try and get it done ASAP. Also, your email address will stay exclusively with No Limits 2 Learning and will NEVER be sold or given away to others.

I guess that's all the news for now - there are all kinds of interesting folks we are planning to interview in the near future and projects getting launched. I hope they are of value and interest to you - they sure are fun and enriching for me. I am honored to be able to do this. Thanks so much for your support in reading and listening.

All the best to you!

Lon

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!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Eye Max Field Tested in Our Region Last Week


I had the opportunity to put the Eye Max by Dynavox to work in a field test last week. Our field consultant from Portland drove one out to set up with a VMax for Halloween Day. We callibrated it with a high school boy who has trialed many access methods with his laptop over the past two years. We had loaded Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro on his laptop and tried using his head array to access communication boards. I even set up Mp3 files of his songs to play on an Mp3 player board (that would make a fun tutorial here sometime) and we hoped for some extra motivation factor with that one.
We moved to a reflective dot on a cap with a head tracker and stabilized his head with neck support. We worked with a sip and puff but he couldn't get his mouth to curve and grip the straw without air leaking out...so, enter the EyeMax.
The Dynavox rep/field consultant placed the unit on a stand. The EyeMax snaps into the battery compartment of the VMax from the back and has a lens and 2 lights that stay on when it "sees" both your eyes - or one or the either corresponding to each individual eye. Once callibrated, the lens sees you and locks in on your head movement and by dwelling on a button, you can click and open it. When your gaze moves across the board, a blue frame show up on a button. If you dwell there, the frame gets thicker and begins to move inward to fill the button until it clicks to open the linked board or say the message, etc.
Our student had a rough time callibrating because of several things. One was that he has used a head array for years and he has a habit of moving his head instead of just his eyes. Getting him to keep a soft body and just work with his eyes will take him some practice.
Another issue is that he has some problems with holding his head still and we have him braced up every way we can think of short of a halo. Our PT and OT have done a great job of collaborating in a team setting wiith the SLP, myself and the case manager and mom to get this far.
He was able to callibrate it enough to get access started. He played a concentration game, opening and matching squares. He also used a simple yes and no button with large target size.
We have scheduled a loan in January to do a more extensive trial. The devices are being bought as soon as they are ready and the company can't keep them coming fast enough according to the rep. Needless to say, the wait list is long for the loans as well, so if you are interested, check with your regional Dynavox consultant to get a reservation set up.
We are going to be practicing the eye gaze technique in the meantime. I am encouraged by what I have seen.
I would encourage you to check it out if you have a student that has been unable to access a device through any other means. I don't have a price at this point. I know the team was talking about it and I just was busy working with the student and the device. You can find out by calling your Dynavox rep as well.


All the best to you!

Lon


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!