Sunday, March 24, 2013

Receptive Communication

Receptive communication is the individuals understanding of language.  When a language learning disorder exists, below are some characteristics that someone may see in an individual with difficulties in receptive communication:

Pragmatics: difficulty answering questions or requesting clarification.
Semantics: Figurative language, and dual definition problem, conjunction confusion (and, but, so...)
Syntax/ Morphology:  Difficulty with negative and passive constructions (don't, isn't, do not), article confusion ( A, or, on)
Comprehension: WH question confusion, confusion of letter that look similar and words that sound similar.

Visual Daily Schedule
These schedules assist students in their daily routine.  Individuals with ASD function well when there is a structured routine in place, having the schedule clearly posted in the classroom or on their desk will help them prepare for the day and know what is expected, with little to no surprises.

NO Symbol (visual)
This visual card can be placed in a variety of places, most useful would be on an individuals desk to help them answer a question.  Another place this can be used in the classroom is in areas that students should not be accessing or touching.  In some life skills classes there is a stove, and the NO symbol can be placed on there.   These are a variety of symbols all meaning No, the teacher needs to choose one symbol and be consistent, it is important that the students know what the symbol means and respond to it appropriately.

Mini Schedules/ Specific Activity Schedules
These short activity schedules keep students focused on what needs to be completed at that specific time.  One schedule that I constructed for a student who had difficulty with finishing morning procedures, it provided what needed to be completed each morning, and this schedule was placed on her desk so she was able to see it everyday.

Change Symbol
It is important when to acknowledge something different is going to happen in the daily schedule, like a speaker, assembly or field trip.  Below is an example I constructed in word to show what the schedule could look like with the change.

Sequential Step Directions
Sequential step directions help students complete a single task or goal.  They can be placed at the sink in the classroom for hand washing, morning procedures, and at home for brushing teeth, washing dishes, doing laundry.  This can help students gain independence to complete a task it also allows the teacher time to do something else, instead of after each task telling them what to do next, the students can work at their own pace and always know what they should be doing.

Activity Termination Symbols

When a student is completed a task it allows them to use a card, symbol or object to let the teacher know instead of yelling out or disrupting other students. Students can easily keep them on the side of the desk, front or on the top and can be changed when needed.


Owens, R. (2010). Language disorders: A functional approach to assessment and intervention. (5 ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
National Consortium on Deaf and Blindness

Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Expressive Communication

 Expressive communication refers to the language that is communicated thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants.  When a language learning disorder exists, below are some characteristics that someone may see in an individual with difficulties in expressive communication:

Pragmatics: difficulty initiating or maintaining a conversation.
Semantics: word finding and definition problems
Syntax/Morphology: difficulty with negative and passive constructions, relative clauses, contractions, and adjectival forms.
Phonology: Inconsistent sound production, especially as complexity increases.
Comprehension: WH question confusion, confusion of letters that look similar and words that sound similar.

There are many strategies that a teacher can incorporate into the classroom to help individuals with expressive communication difficulties, some of those strategies include break cards, choice cards and past event templates.  Some other strategies include the use of Picture Exchange Communication Systems, Speech Generated Systems, and All Done/Finished cards.  When choosing a strategy for your student make sure you take into their needs but also their strengths.  Each student is an individual and choosing the best strategy for them will be based on their individual strengths and needs.

Break Cards:
Break cards are important for individuals with difficulties in expressive communication, to help control frustration levels when they are unable to communicate effectively.  This teaches students to realize when they are reaching levels of frustration, and also it teaches them strategies to cope with frustration.  Some pictures below provide examples of break cards that can be used.  It is important to understand each and every students as an individual because what one student successfully uses as a break card, may not work for other students, so take each students needs, frustration levels and coping strategies into consideration when choosing the appropriate break cards.

Choice Cards:
Choice cards are not only important for individuals with autism, but can be very useful for all students in the classroom.  Choice cards can be very simple, such as choosing the banana or pretzel for snack and can be used in other areas such as music, to help choose and instrument.  Choice cards are not something that can and should only be used in school, parents at home can incorporate choice cards for their children by making chores for them to complete such as doing the dishes, setting the table, feeding the dog, or cleaning up toys.  This is something that can be used universal and allows individuals with expressive communication difficulties a choice, instead of someone else choosing for them.  


Past Event Cards:
Individuals with ASD have difficulty relating past events.  One way for a teacher or parent to help students make the connections it to construct a template for students to either fill in or circle the option.  Below is an example of a template for a student, but individuals needs must be taken int consideration when constructing the template.  This template would be useful at the end of the school day to recap the day.  In one case a student must circle their response, and in another case a student must fill in the blank space.  

Today I ate _________________( peanut butter & jelly, ham & cheese, turkey & cheese) for lunch.  
The book I read today was ________________________. 
I went to _______________(gym, art, music) today.  

The resources listed are not from the information on this post, but resources for professionals and parents to read for additional information.  
Owens, R. (2010). Language disorders: A functional approach to assessment and intervention. (5 ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
PECS USA How-To-Templates Break Cards
ASD: Home and School, Anxiety, Breaks
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness
Assistive Technology Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, March 14, 2013

IEP Considerations and Assistive Technology

Part of IDEA 2004 requires that during the IEP and goal writing process assistive technology needs to always be considered for the student.  Assistive technology can be low tech and simple such as a pencil grip to high tech such as an iPad, it always needs to be considered even if this student is currently not using one.  In some cases additional training and instruction on the use of the assistive technology may be required for the student and teachers involved.  Since the IEP writing process is a team effort, multiple individuals and professionals have the opportunity to weigh in on the student and their strengths and needs in different environments and situations.
When writing and/or reading IEPs present levels and constructing annual goals we need to be aware of the components that need to be in every IEP goal. View the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities website for additional information.  The components that need to be included in the goal when considering the use of assistive technology are (1) Area of need (2) Direction of Change (3) Level of Attainment (4) Functional Task child needs to complete (5) if additional training may be required.

This post will provide five examples of IEPs including their present levels and the annual goal.  Each IEP goal leaves room to add assistive technology, I will identify the best technology device/software for each goal.

1. Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Steven is a four-year-old boy diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder. His placement is in an Early Childhood classroom. He is able to understand and comprehend when spoken to, but does not communicate his needs consistently. When choices are simplified and broken into steps, Steven will try to communicate wants and needs. Peer interactions are limited.

Annual goal: Steven will use a picture board or voice output device to express wants and needs  adults and peers in both home and school at least four times each day.

2. Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Jeff likes to interact with his family. He enjoys eating and being involved in meal time and other functional activities in the home. He has not been able to participate in cooking or cleaning except to look toward the item that is needed next, or make a sound when his mother purposely “forgets” something.

Annual Goal: Jeff will use a single switch to activate adapted utensils and appliances to assist family members in targeted functional household tasks during three out of four opportunities.

3. Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Brandon communicates by using unintelligible vocalizations. He will physically obtain desired items independently and indicates refusal by pushing objects/people away. Brandon currently understands cause/effect relationships and will activate a switch with voice output to obtain a desired activity. It is questionable whether he understands the specific meaning of the utterance he has produced or if he simply knows that pressing the switch earns him an activity.

Annual Goal: Brandon will select activities and interact with peers/adults within those activities four out of five times when provided with voice output devices.

4. Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Eric participates in regular education programs for his academic subjects. His hand strength is limited and he fatigues quickly when doing any handwriting task. Civics and English homework are a particular problem because of lengthy assignments and reports that need to be completed.
Annual Goal: Eric will use a computer or portable word processor to complete 100% of his assignments in 10th grade English and Civics classes.


5. Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance: Kelly is in the third grade classroom for most of his day. He has a full time paraprofessional who assists him. He is unable to use a standard keyboard because of his physical limitations. Additionally, his speech is frequently unintelligible. He currently uses single message and multiple message voice output devices, eye gaze, and limited direct selection to complete his academic work. Kelly is functioning at about the second grade level in most curricular areas.

Annual Goal: Kelly will use an adapted keyboard with custom overlays and a computer with talking word processing to complete all academic work.



All IEPS, present levels and annual goals were written by the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Autism Communication Disorders

There are a variety of videos shown below that support the use of technology (specifically iPads) to increase the communication of individuals with disabilities.  Some of the videos are excellent resources on the applications out there to access.  

A: IPad Apps for Autistic and Nonverbal Children

This video is an excellent resource for anybody working in special education, education and even parents.  Lauren is a pediatric occupational therapist who works primarily with preschool age children and some of the applications she demonstrates are for that population of students but depending on the abilities and skills of students all these programs can be used for all ages.  One of the great things about the iPad is the immediate response that provides visual and auditory feedback to users.  This is great for students because they have the immediate response, and when kids have short attention spans this keeps them engaged for longer periods of time.  Lauren states that kids who do not engage with other toys or tools when introduced to the iPad they are immediately brought in and engaged and keeping their attention. 

 An example that Lauren uses was a student that is in middle school who uses a communication device that sits on her desk provides attention that she does not want or need, once she got the iPad she was the cool kid in school because everyone wanted and iPad so kids came to interact with her socially.  One of the areas that teachers and professionals need to be aware of is you do not just want to hand the iPad to the child, because you do not want to replace that social interaction, teachers need to talk about what is happening on the screen as well.  

The iPad may not work for everybody and is not recommended for everybody, you need to look at what skills you are trying to work on. Some of the uses are for reading, writing, math, communication, accessing motor skills, a motivator, and a reward.  Teachers should also be aware not to just hand the iPad to a student, because this piece of technology is fragile and expensive and we want to make sure that it is used with care.  The iPad should not be looked at replacing a way of doing something but adding another way for students to complete a task or access information.  One of the downsides to the iPad is you are unable to print from it unless you have a special printer, but you can email things to yourself and others to print elsewhere.  
Some application demonstrated in the video are listed below:

* Some books can be recorded in your own voice*
Toy Story: words are highlighted while being read out loud, to turn the page it requires a single swipe, each page is animated and can become coloring books
Green Eggs and Ham

Shapes:  reinforces shape concepts, if you do it wrong the app gives you feedback and self-correction.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: works on preschool concepts( biggest, smallest, numbers, letters, colors), the activities change quickly to keep students engaged.
Following Directions: similar to Simon Says
Memory Games
Angry Birds: use for older kids, works on angles, algebra, physics
 Puzzles: drag pieces into place, it will not let you know pieces incorrectly so you know you will have to move it.
Monster Maker with Elmo: teaches body parts, engaging with singing and dancing.
Connect the Dots: helps with number order, and practicing finger swiping, it will look like what is supposed to when finished so there is a feeling of success, if you do it wrong the iPad will complete it for you correctly.  

ASL Program: has a list of words, then a video of the sign for the word, helps when learning to sign. 
ProloqueToGo: Has hundreds of ways t communicate, very involved, in depth communication system, has optional voices.
SoNoFlex: light version is no programmable.  Able to set themes such as art class, the cafeteria/lunch, About Me, playground etc.
Yes/No: gives a way to say y/n throughout the day, simple and can be programmed, Stop/Go, Milk/Juice.  Pictures can also be placed with the words.  

*Works with students who are not interested in using tools and can later transfer the skills into writing with paper*
Little Sky Writers: Airplane traces around the letter, it forces you to make the letter it will not let you do it wrong, kids can be motivated by writing letters on the iPad. 
Doodle Buddy:  draw or write,free form.  

I have had many opportunities to work with students and individuals when using iPads as communication devices. I have been able to see the difference it makes and how they go from being dependent on an individual to make their choices for them or answer for them and when they have the opportunity to use the iPad even to answer yes or no, happy or sad it makes them independent.  I hope in my future classroom I am able to include the iPad for instructional purposes for all students and make use of the applications out there is help increase opportunities for students with disabilities.  One of the problems that we face is the cost of the iPad, not every family has the money to purchase one, and yes there are some grants and funding out there but not all individuals receive that.  I think the iPad works great wonders at increasing the life opportunities independence of individuals with disabilities, and I hope that I have the opportunity to work with this resources in my future classroom.  

B: Autistic Girl Expresses Profound Intelligence

While watching this video, it made be reassure myself about why I love working in special education.  As special education teachers we work very hard to help individuals with disabilities make even the smallest amount of progress in anything.  My hopes for my students are to help them in every way possible to be independent, a self-advocate and a great individual.  In some cases helping a student become independent is a struggle and in the case of Carly this is evident.  Having the caring family that Carly does I think was a big help that they never gave up on her no matter what.   I can see how hard it can be for individuals for years have been giving her what she wants, when she wants and pushing Carly to type and ask for things definitely helped increase her independence.  All students should have the opportunity and chance to be independent and have their own voice, and Carly is living example of how a piece of technology can make a huge difference in the life of many individuals.  If all nonverbal students were open to this opportunity would we have more people believing in these applications and understanding that even though someone can not speak they still have a voice that deserve to be heard.  

Below readers will find a collection of videos from various resources depicting viewpoints from parents, children and teachers.  

Video 1: Parent Perspective

This video is from the perspective of Donna (parent) concerning her daughter Autumn (child with autism).  I chose this video because it shows the care and concern that Donna has for her child including her determination to help her daughter.  Donna demonstrates her daughter using the iPad application to share her wants and feelings.  In this video Autumn heres a statement that she chose on the iPad and repeats one of the words from the statement.  This shows that Autumn is able to speak and using the iPad gives her a voice to talk to her mom and others.  This video does not provide information on the iPad apps but it shows how useful and engaging they are to individuals with autism.  Imagine how far Autumn will come if able to use the iPad all day everyday?

Video 2: Teacher Perspective
Apps for Autism

This video is from the perspective of many teachers working with students with autism.  Children have shown great interest in the iPad by its interface and easy use by students.  A group of teachers were involved in a study to see the impact of the iPad with their students.  The students are actively engaged with the iPad versus other toys or teaching tools.  This study showed the students interest in socializing and increase in their attention spans.  The teachers demonstrate the use of the iPads with some of their students. Some of these teachers were able to discover so much more about these students then they could have realized including their interests.  Some of the applications on the iPad were showing counting up by showing each number, this simple app kept a student actively engaged.  Another app was choosing the picture, this app can show us how much our students really know.  For example one student was able to pick out a saxophone, nobody may have ever knew that the student was aware of the instruments and was vey interested in them if before he was unable to fully communicate.  Using these simple applications shows teachers and parents that their children know so much more that we think they do.

Video 3: Child Perspective
autism, iPad & Ean
This video is from the perspective if Ean, a child with autism.  In this video Ean is shown a picture of an object, he the uses ASL to sign the object, then types what the object is in the iPad, after Ean types the word in the iPad it allows him to say the item back to him.  This allows Ean multiple means of representation, by showing a picture using ASL, typing it then hearing it spoken from the computer.  This shows me another example of an app that is useful to help students communicate.  It is important that students are able to type the words or phrases but also that the iPad is able to speak them back, it gives the child a voice and it allows them to be heard by someone instead of having to just have a person read their typing.

Video 4:
App gives autistic children a voice
I found this video helps to show how important it is to help children with autism have a voice, and the iPad gives children the opportunity.  I have learned about some of the apps that help students including Proloque contains thousands of images and symbols on the app.  When a child touches the image it speaks it out loud for them.  Kids are using the iPad to speak for the first time, and the apps use child voices which can help them normalize with other students.  The apps on the iPad can be used by many other individuals including those with cerebral palsy and down syndrome and even stroke victims.  This specific app is $190 to purchase, and allows multiple users which makes this app great for teachers to use in the classroom.  

Video 5: 
Jake 7-yr-old autistic boy uses iPad app iWriteWords
This video shows Jake, a 7 yr old boy with autism demonstrating writing using an iPad app.  This app allows the student to type letter by letter and the app repeats the letter out loud.  Once the student constructs a word the app repeats each letter and speaks the word.  The word is then followed up by a picture of the object.  This app is interesting because there are multiple things being accomplished such as working on fine motor skills to trace the letters with your fingers, letter recognition and letter writing.  It also helps it spelling words correctly and attaching meaning to them to provide a picture.  This app can be useful in many ways at home and school and can help students practice word and letter skills.  

Video 1: Parent Perspective
Video 2: Teacher Perspective
Video 3: Ean
Video 4
Video 5: Jake