Wow!  A great crowd here so late in the day for our session on eye gaze control at the ATIA 2016 Conference.  The sun did come out in Orlando after all, yet the room was filled with superachievers who wanted to know how to help their kids with significant needs.  Unfortunately, the handout link provided by the organizers was incorrect, so I am posting the resources here for those looking for them. Thanks to all who attended and please contact me with any questions you may have! Although my session Powerpoint titled "Preparing the Significantly Challenged Students for Eye Gaze" is posted here, it does not contain all of the video material shown at the conference (per parental request).  Also posted here is my Considerations Checklist for Eye Gaze Participation.  This form will provide guidance and help gather details and data on student preferences, responses, and needs when introducing or using eye gaze activities.

The call for papers is open until October 1st to present a session for TAAT 2015.  For more information visit:  www.taat.org/conference/.  And remember...  Conference Presenters attend the rest of the conference for FREE!!!  Click on the link below to view the Session Proposal Form: Session proposal form button  

Google Apps iconI love my iPad as much as any tech specialist, but there's also much to love about Chrome and the supports found in Google Classroom! It hasn't been that long since districts were forced to choose between using Windows or Apple operating systems, but not today. Many of my schools employ both platforms for different programs or projects, making Google tools even more useful. In this post, I just want to share some links and resources for learning more about this incredible classroom support. In her popular blog TeacherTech, Alice Keeler provides handy tutorials, guides, and tip sheets for teachers wanting to learn how to use Google tools.  Her resources are designed to support the not-so-tech-savvy teacher, as well as the more skilled user. Better yet, she offers practical ideas and examples for incorporating them into the curriculum. Our friends at Te@chThought have created a terrific list of ideas for using Google tools in the classroom:  60 Smarter Ways to Use Google Classroom.  The Google Apps Classroom Team has created their own lists, one of which I found especially helpful when getting started.  It's called 32 Ways to Use Google Apps and downloads (appropriately enough!) in a Google Doc format.  

Geneva Centre for Autism logo

      We had a great time last week with Ms. Mo Buti, learning more about how to best serve the needs of our students with Autism. She shared some great resources that I plan to pass along to all of you here over the course of the next week.. If you're looking for awesome professional development opportunities online, this is a great place to start!  The Geneva Centre for Autism (located in Ontario) provides free printable visual supports and downloadable resources, as well as online PD options.  Although created for use by Canadian teachers, the site is open for public access by creating a (free) account. Free courses related to the education and treatment of students with Autism include:    Characteristics of Autism What is Applied Behavior Analysis? Using Reinforcement Functions of Behavior Communication Strengths and Challenges Understanding Sensory Needs Understanding Social Challenges in Children and Adolescents Learning Styles Using Visual Supports Understanding Stress and ASD Paying Attention to Transitions and Transition Planning Promoting Independence for Community Inclusion Certificate: Introduction to Autism: Free Online Series for Educators  

Mo Buti and our session attendees have been sharing some amazing suggestions for teaching communication skills to non-verbal students who also have visual impairments. Here are a few of those ideas and resources! Tactile Connections Kit TACTILE CONNECTIONS KIT: SYMBOLS FOR COMMUNICATION   This kit helps teachers create a tactile card system that is individualized for visually impaired and blind learners who have additional disabilities and/or lack a formal means of communication or literacy. The tactile symbols are created when part of an object is mounted on a hand-sized card representing core vocabulary categories (e.g. people, places, actions, objects, etc.). This kit provides some of the essential components that assist in a system's construction and application. The PERKINS site offers some great resources for teaching communication to visually impaired students. Tactile books are used to teach literacy, so why not pair them with separate cards containing the same key words, characters, etc. found in the books to reinforce language learning? Pinterest (everybody's favorite collecting site) offers a wealth of ideas for CREATING TACTILE BOOKS that can be paired with tactile communication supports. Here is another link to MORE TACTILE BOOKS FOR LANGUAGE AND LITERACY.  

Our educational cooperative hosts workshops across the state for teachers and clinicians working with the special needs population in our schools and I have to say that this has been one of my personal favorites.  Our speaker, Ms. Mo Buti, has been a special education teacher, administrator, and Coordinator for Autism services for Chicago Public Schools for more than 24 years. This incredible session offers a wealth of ideas for modifying the classroom and curriculum to meet the special learning needs of students with Autism. It was a hit in the east Tennessee region last fall, so we brought her back for staff in the central and western regions.   For those attending these sessions, there was a previous posting of Mo's PowerPoint presentation, but it was only available online for a short period of time (to avoid excessive downloads, plagiarism,etc.)  If you attended and would like a copy of the presentation, please send an email to: jreese@taat.org with your name and the day that you attended.

Special World I love Inclusive Technology!  This outstanding company creates some of the best software, apps, and accessibility products for children with special needs.  Although based in Great Britain, all materials are available through their US partner, Inclusive TLC.  Now they've gone even further toward offering support to teachers and therapists using assistive technologies in the school setting. In September, 2014, they launched a quarterly online magazine called Special World and they've just released the 3rd edition.  The articles and information are well written and informative, offering practical application ideas for supporting the use of AT in the educational process.  There are very few resources out there that specifically address the use of AT with children, making this an invaluable resource. All editions are archived, so download a copy today!

HelpKidzLearn logo It's hard to find time to get away from the classroom for training, so webinars make it easy to keep up with what's new.  HelpKidzLearn is an excellent resource created by Inclusive Technology and they have some wonderful online sessions coming up this week.  Sessions are 60 minutes long, interactive, and (best of all) free!  Register even if you can't attend the live session...you'll be sent a link to the archives so you can catch it later when you have time. Beginning Tuesday, April 21, topics include:
  • iPad Access for Physical Disabilities
  • Creating Personalized Eye Gaze Activities with Chooseit! Maker 3
  • Using Technology to Support Reading
  • Using Technology to Support Writing.

  LessonPix  logo A speech therapist friend recently introduced me to this amazing new resource and I have been smitten! I love my traditional picture-library programs as much as the next therapist, but it is frustrating when I can't create needed supports because the software CDs are back in the office. This site eliminates the need to carry software and install on multiple systems and makes it easy to create instantly from any location!  This is especially helpful when I visit a classroom and want to provide ideas and examples of curriculum or communication supports for specific activities right then! LessonPix is an easy-to-use online resource that allows users to create customized learning materials using a database of more than 25,000 visual symbols on their site.  They provide access anytime, anywhere and offer outstanding articles with ideas for integrating visual supports.  Creations are stored online in your account for future use and a Sharing Center allows users to share their creations or find new inspiration from materials made by others, arranged by topic and subject!  The site requires a subscription of $36/year and is worth every penny!

Most teachers and clinicians will tell you that, while they understand the 'what and why' for teaching students with Autism, they have very little time (if any!) and are often at a loss for the 'how' ideas.  Let me introduce you to an amazing resource ... The Autism Helper! This site is operated by Sasha Halligan, a dynamic, skilled teacher with extensive experience in curriculum modification for students on the Autism Spectrum.  She routinely offers freebie materials  and Sasha's TeachersPayTeachers site is full of other resources on myriad topics, all aligned to core standards.  Just reading her daily posts and seeing her creative ideas for teaching and supporting picture-based communication is fun.  I love TAH and so will you! TAHelper logo