Tweet and greet video from the 2012 ASHA Conference

At the 2012 ASHA Conference, I participated in a “Tweet and Greet” hosted by Pediastaff and the #slpeeps. The “Tweet and Greet” involved a brief interview that was caught on video. I thought I would share my video, since it was recently posted by Heidi from Pediastaff.


Disneyland materials

blogEntryThumbnailYesterday, I went to Disneyland with staff, parents, and students for a class field trip. During the trip, I distributed materials (for communication and learning) to the adults and I also used the materials with students. One adult asked me if the materials would be available somehow after the trip, in case she wanted them for future use. I said I could put them on my blog so that anybody involved in the trip (or anybody else interested) could have access.

The main item I used for augmentative communication at Disneyland was this communication board created in Proloquo2Go. I created the communication board for use on my iPad during the field trip, and to print it for everyone else to use it as a paper communication board. Since it was raining on the field trip, I provided sheet protectors to keep the paper boards dry.


I also used a couple apps for Disneyland. One of the apps is called Disneyland Maps Free, which we used for determining our location in the park and deciding which direction to go for given rides. We also used it to talk about what rides we previously rode. The other app called Disneyland Explorer also helped us with navigating directions at the park, but it additionally had activities to interact with while we waited for things such as lunch. Among the activities, our favorite was the Haunted Mansion game, which required us to play a sequence of organ keys previously played by an invisible ghoul.

All in all, I think the materials were helpful in facilitating learning and communication for our students with disabilities. And I hope that anybody interested in using the materials for a future trip to Disneyland will also find them helpful.

*Disneyland photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee on flickr

CUE Live 2012

I was honored to recently present at the CUE Conference as a spotlight speaker. During the conference on Friday, March 16th, I was asked to participate in a CUE Live interview with Mark Hammons. The video interview above includes a memorable experience using Proloquo2Go with one of my students, and my favorite apps for special needs with a mention of my app, ArtikPix. Check it out!

Lasered Pics keyguards

blogEntryThumbnailLasered Pics is a company that specializes in creating keyguards for iPad AAC apps. The keyguards can be especially helpful for individuals with physical disabilities who demonstrate unintentional mis-hits during augmentative communication. Lasered Pics offers keyguards for several iPad AAC apps including Proloquo2Go, TouchChat, Tap Speak Choice, Sono Flex, Assistive Chat, Grace - Picture Exchange, MyTalk Tools Mobile, My First AAC, and many others. A majority of the keyguards are made of clear acrylic, and they have suction cups to attach to the iPad screen for given apps.

Lasered Pics provided me with a Proloquo2Go keyguard (retail price: $19.95) for the medium item size in landscape orientation. I’m intentionally mentioning the specifications because customers choose the item size, landscape orientation and other options when ordering on the Lasered Pics website. The company states that it’s important to choose the appropriate options when ordering a keyguard, otherwise there will be a delay in the ordering process. I’d like to add that choosing the appropriate options is also important for the user’s experience. If the keyguard specifications aren’t appropriate, physical access to the AAC app can be hindered rather than facilitated.

I personally tested the Lasered Pics keyguard designed for the latest 1.7 version of Proloquo2Go. Using the default factory settings in the app, I attached the keyguard to align with the medium sized buttons in landscape orientation. It was easy to achieve a firm suction to the device via the four suction cups. Plus, I liked how the home button on the device was covered by the keyguard, which is especially helpful to keep users from “accidentally” exiting the app. When accessing the items, I was easily able to tap them via the cutouts in addition to scrolling pages when necessary. I was also able to rest my hand on the keyguard and then touch an item, similar to the access manner of many users with physical disabilities. One thing I realized during testing was that it’s very important to accurately align the keyguard with the app’s buttons. At first I didn’t, so it made access much more difficult.

All in all, I liked the Lasered Pics keyguard because it’s a well made product and it’s very intuitive to use. There’s really no instructions necessary to use the keyguard. As I mentioned before, it’s just important to have an accurate alignment between the cutouts and the app button. If you want to learn more about the Lasered Pics keyguards, please visit the website.

New AssistiveWare webinar for Proloquo2Go is now available on iTunes

blogEntryThumbnailAssistiveWare announced their webinar for What’s New in Proloquo2Go 1.7 is now available on iTunes as a free video podcast. Click here or go to iTunes and search for “assistiveware webinars.” You will also be able to view the previous webinars from the July-August series.

Please subscribe to the AssistiveWare Webinar Series on iTunes to stay updated and join in the webinar discussions at the Webinar Forum.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I’m the presenter for this Proloquo2Go webinar series.

My path to working from home - Part 2: Apptastic therapy - “When we ask for something, we say ‘please’”

blogEntryThumbnailWorking with Proloquo2Go was the first experience I had that showed me the power of using apps. Although there weren't any other special needs apps on the market for iOS devices, there were reading, music, writing and math apps that my students with special needs could use. I was amazed to see how engaged my students were by the apps. They learned much more because the fun involved with these apps encouraged more learning. I could see that that the apps were going to completely change the way that education was delivered to students with special needs. The iOS touchscreen had incredible sensitivity in such a low cost device. It was head and shoulders above anything else available on the market for special needs. I could see that the field of special education was going to change forever.

One of the first apps I used with my students (other than Proloquo2Go) was Wheels on the Bus. The app is a musical book which involves the bus in fun, interactive pages as the classic song is played. Just like a traditional book, I realized that I could use the app for language therapy. The first time I used Wheels on the Bus with my preschool and kindergarten groups, they were immediately engaged and more interested in the speech therapy I was delivering. Using the app, I could target the expansion of sentences, grammatical structures, social language, and more. For an example of social language, there is an instance in the app when a frog swipes a cupcake from the chef without asking. I used this as an opportunity to model social language by demonstrating how to ask politely when you want something: “When we ask for something, we say ‘please’.” I would follow up by asking my students, “What do we say when we want something?” in order to elicit the response “please.” Since many of the skills contained in my students’ IEP goals could be addressed in a fun, effective way with the use of apps, I saw great value in using them. It was amazing to see the difference this cutting edge technology was making for my students.

I began wondering if the delivery of intervention could entirely involve apps. I started using other apps for reading and writing and then Proloquo2Go was released in the spring of 2009. After that, many types of special needs apps followed. There were apps for organization including reward charts; apps for dictating speech to text; and several augmentative communication apps to follow Proloquo2Go. I learned about as many apps as I could and I used them with as many students that I could to meet their IEP goals.

One of the first special needs apps I used was iReward. iReward is a visual chart that reinforces positive behaviors using rewards. For example, a star chart could be configured in the app so the child receives a toy after performing a set of positive behaviors. One of the charts I created for a student with autism was a star chart for remaining seated. He took to the app immediately and it definitely motivated him to successfully remain seated without much prompting from me. Although he couldn’t use too many words to express himself, his fingers on the iPod touch and his eye gaze told me what I needed to know: he wanted to use the device to achieve his goal. I hadn’t seen that level of interest from him previously with a standard paper chart.

After trying different apps with my students, I noticed they were increasingly more attentive. As a result, they would practice more and I was able to see progress a lot faster. Taking into account their tremendous interest and progress, I began gravitating away from all of the traditional therapy materials including traditional flashcards, paperback books, games, etc. and really focused on exploring the possibility of app-based therapy.

As my knowledge base of apps grew, I began to seek out ways to share my experience and tips with other speech-language pathologists and professionals. It seemed people were interested in using apps, but didn’t quite know how to approach them. So, I started speaking about apps and my experiences using them in therapy, and this led me in an unexpected direction.

Click here to view part 1 of "My path to working from home"

My path to working from home - Part 1: Beta testing Proloquo2Go

blogEntryThumbnailPrior to working from home, I began constructing the groundwork a while ago. And I didn’t even know it at the time. Back in the winter of 2008, I got involved in testing Proloquo2Go (an augmentative communication app for iOS devices) before the app’s release. I became a beta tester along with one of my students who has augmentative communication needs.  Once my student started using Proloquo2Go on an iPod Touch, I began to think about how an app could completely change not only my student’s life, but also my life as a speech-language pathologist. I soon realized that I could use iOS apps to facilitate communication for my students.

When testing Proloquo2Go with my student, I saw that it was a very sophisticated, yet easy-to-use solution via a mobile device. It had a lot of features while the interface was very user friendly. Additionally, the mobility factor was very important for this particular student because he walks and needs to communicate wherever he goes. The AAC device he had at the time was bulky and thus limiting communication to a tabletop. Proloquo2Go with an iPod touch, on the other hand, could go with him anywhere, whether the device was in his pocket or attached to a lanyard around his neck.

I recall one day I wanted my student to use Proloquo2Go at recess with general education peers. I took him to the playground and he wanted to play soccer. Since he had an iPod touch with a protective case, I figured why not. If it would allow him to interact with students beyond his special education classroom, I was all for it.

During the soccer game, my student ran after the ball as his iPod touch with Proloquo2Go was attached to his neck with a lanyard. The general education students approached him with great interest. They wanted to know how it was possible to use the cool device to communicate. With some assistance from me, my student was able to show them by asking questions and making comments. The students were very patient in waiting for him to communicate. I was highly impressed to see the conversational exchange between them. Plus, it was amusing to see how many of the students became more interested in my student and his “talker” than in playing soccer. It was something I had never seen before and it gave me chills that ran up my spine.

This experience with Proloquo2Go was the catalyst for further exploration of apps to use with my students.  My life was about to take an exciting turn as I entered a new chapter in my career.

AssistiveWare's webinars for Proloquo2Go now available on iTunes

blogEntryThumbnailAssistiveWare recently announced their Proloquo2Go Webinar Series is now available on iTunes as a video podcast. Click here or go to iTunes and search for "assistiveware webinars." Part 1, Introduction to Proloquo2Go, was released first, with subsequent webinars scheduled for weekly release. Please subscribe to the AssistiveWare Webinar Series to stay updated and join in the webinar discussions at the Webinar Forum.

9.1.11 update: Part 6, iTunes and App Store, is now available here on iTunes.
8.31.11 update: Part 5, Advanced features (Word prediction and Grammar), is now available here on iTunes.
8.26.11 update: Part 4, Backups (Professionals) and Part 4, Tips and tricks (Users, Family, Caregivers) are now available here on iTunes.
8.20.11 update: Part 3, Vocabulary customizations, is now available here on iTunes.
8.15.11 update: Part 2, App customizations, is now available here on iTunes.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I'm the presenter for this Proloquo2Go webinar series.