Friday, December 30, 2011

Getting Here From There

by Robin Parker & Carole Zangari

We wanted to take a break from our holiday wishes to reflect on the year and to offer up some words of appreciation. For us, 2011 started with our version of a retreat: a long walk in the sun, a half day of venting our frustrations and a half day of planning new projects interspersed with lunch at the beach. (There might have been a bottle of wine in there somewhere, too.)

We'd both been feeling more than a bit discouraged that the quality of AAC services is still so spotty. There are some fantastic SLPs and teachers, of course, but not enough to go around. The 'good ones' are too busy. And the not-so-good ones were doing too much damage. It seemed to us that too many folks with significant communication challenges weren't getting what they needed and that stressed us out to no end. Just when we had calmed down, we got yet another (!) call from a family with a 14 year old nonverbal kid who had never had any decent AAC. Really, people?! No one could have helped this kid in 14 years?!! Rant resumed.

We'd eventually settle down from that and then something else would happen. Maybe it was visiting a classroom or getting a referral from an SLP who doesn't 'do' SLP because she wants to work on speech. Grrr! The stomach acid would start churning all over again. 

You get the picture; It's nothing new to most of you. Anyway, we needed to do some serious venting before the creative juices could neutralize the stomach acid. The walk helped us burn off the aggravation and the wine helped us regain our sense of perspective (well, sort of).

By the end of the day we had resolved to do things differently. And so began a set schedule of collaborative exploration, learning new technologies, some new vocabulary (in social media and visual literacy), and lots more. Glued to the computer at all hours of the night. Texting each other when we struck gold. Knowing that all this was eventually going to lead to something but without much of an idea of what that 'something' was going to be.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

5 Quick Wishes for SGDs & Apps

Carole Zangari

With apologies to the SGD and app designers for making things more complicated for you, we offer up these wishes for the next generation of AAC devices and apps.

  1. Everything should have a readily accessible ‘un-do’ button. Seriously, folks. Are we the only ones who make mistakes?
  2. AAC devices/apps that let you pick the symbol set/system and organize the vocabulary accordingly. Variety is still the spice of life.
  3. A universal standard or convention across SGDs/apps for button shapes and color-coding, with option to customize, of course. (Isn’t it great to have your cake and be able to eat it, too?!)
  4. Built in core word libraries that make it easy to populate screens with the words we use most often
  5. ‘Smart’ templates that suggest vocabulary and organization options as you build the display.

How about you? What do you dream of in the next generation of AAC technology?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Myth Busting

Carole Zangari

It seems just plain wrong to wish for the death of something, but here goes. We’re ready for the quick demise of some damaging AAC myths. Mythology is defined, in part, as ‘an unproved or false collective belief.’ Myths can make for great for entertainment but using them to guide therapeutic practices? Not so much.

And so with the end of this year looming, we wish for an end to the myth that AAC impedes speech and language development.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hearing the Knock

Carole Zangari

Wishes are wonderful things, seducing us with their promise and possibility. And there is no better time to reflect on what we hope for than in the last week of the year. So our next wish is for another intangible, the big O: Opportunity.

As 2012 dawns, our AAC wish list is all about opportunities. Our parents and teachers tried to prepare us to recognize opportunity, and promised us that it would come knocking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

More Holiday Wishes

Today is Christmas, but the holidays continue and here is the next wish list item. This is a more tangible gift than those posted previously but no more expensive (Free for a limited time and unless an iPad is needed)
Gift:  iPad App-   Play School Art Maker.  
How we found it:  It was found on the Spectronics blog through Ian Bean's post on December 21, 2011.   
About the App:  Designed for children to  create picture scenes, animated movies and story slide shows using a variety of backgrounds and images.  It is  based on an Australian children's television show that encourages spontaneous and symbolic imaginative play.  Children choose a background and tap and drag images into the 'scene' to create a story.  A story can be created in a few ways.   It can be created using one picture slide and animating the items on the page to make the story.  The story can also be created by using up to 8 animated picture slides to create a clear sequence events for the story. All stories can be saved and shared.   The customized options include importing backgrounds from a photo library as well as on-going choices for image selection and animation.  
Learning Langage: There are many opportunities for  choice making, commenting, as well as story or narrative development.  Sentence building, sequencing, and even movie making can also be the goal depending upon how the language facilitator structures the activity.  Specific language learning best happens when modeling, visual supports for active participation, prompting, language expansions, and positive communication reinforcement is provided.  The app provides some level of prompting for participation through sound cues if choices for backgrounds or images are not made.  There is also positive reinforcement throughout completion of steps within the story making process.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ho Ho Ho

Carole Zangari

Our next wish is a big one. It’s something that just about everyone would love to have: Time. Specifically, more of it. As the British author Norman Douglas once said “Insert a wedge of time and nearly everything straightens itself out."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Holiday Wish List

From now until 2012, here is our holiday wish and present list.We will start philosophically moving to tangible gifts.  We will work hard on making sure we have them ALL by next year.  Here goes the beginning, we  would love these GIFTS...
  • WE would love to have ALL people understand that a comprehensive visual communication and language learning program is STANDARD OF CARE for individuals with significant communication challenges.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Awesome App on the Web and it's Free
We have been using  Diigo / Digest of Internet Information) ever since a great presentation by Speech Techie/Sean Sweeny.  I had tried it out about a year previously but obviously did not understand enough about web 2.0 yet.  Well, now I realize what I had been missing and I keep discovering more benefits.  So here are just some of the things we love
What I love Diigo:   
  • Love creating lists with categories and sub-categories of topics to organize the weblinks I find while searching.  Just 1 click and saved.
  • Love sharing a link with a colleague when they request information on a topic that I have talked about. There is no cutting and pasting several different URL's.  
  • Love designating some lists public while others are private. 
  • Love creating groups (which I just started doing). Now, I can share my Diigo PrAACtical AAC- Random Apps of Kindness to alert everyone when I hear about a discounted or free app. I can do this faster than uploading everything to blogger   
  • Love receiving immediate alerts when any changes are made to a group topic.
  • Love the suggested tags
  • Love the Extra's     
What does this have to do with PrAACtical AAC ?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Tis the Season

More good news about organizations offering giveaways. The iTaalk Autism Foundation will be giving away 7 iPads to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who live in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan. They are accepting applications until December 15th and will select winners randomly from the pool of eligible applicants.

TouchChat GiveAway

We’ve had a lot of fun playing with TouchChat, an AAC app that gives more than a casual nod to core vocabulary. We love the robust language and organizational system it uses, and the possibility of editing pages on the computer. The folks at Silver-Kite are giving away 5 copies of TouchChat HD between Dec 19-23. 

To be eligible, you must complete the entry form on the TouchChat Facebook page before Dec 15th.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Let's Get PrAACtical

It feels awfully strange being a newbie again. We’re certainly not new to AAC. And we’re not new to talking about it either, having worked with families, graduate students, and other professionals for more than two decades. But, somehow, this whole blogging thing and sharing our thoughts with the wider world in this way seems a bit daunting. Nevertheless, it’s time.