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Something about sums

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 1st October, 2014 at 5:51pm

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One common challenge facing many learners with additional support needs is that of writing down mathematical and arithmetic working. This can be a real difficulty for learners with handwriting problems, dyspraxia, low muscle tone, dyslexia and dyspraxia, and learners on the autistic spectrum. So the question is - how can a learner use a computer, iPad or other device to easily and quickly type out arithmetic?

We've experimented with different techniques and one that seems to work well is to set up tables in Microsoft Word. 

These are pretty simple to use: type each digit into a separate table cell and hit the arrow keys on the keyboard to move from cell to cell, or click with the mouse on the cell.

The carry or borrow rows are set to be a smaller font and shown in red so that they stand out.

To strike out a number when subtracting, select the digit and then click the ‘strikethrough’ button on the Home ribbon. 

I've created a set of 14 different Word templates for addition, subtraction and multiplication, for starters. You can download a zip file with the templates, plus a 'How to Use' guide, from the Books for All web site. If you unzip the files to a folder on your computer and then open the How to Use guide you will see thumbnails of what each template looks like, plus a link to open the template directly.

I'd welcome any feedback, comments or suggestions for improvements on these files. I've also created some PDF versions that aren't quite finished, and I'll make some OneNote templates in a similar format.

Here's how a few of them look:

Maths Grid 2


Multiplication TU


Division 1 digit 


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October is AAC Awareness month

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 1st October, 2014 at 10:52am

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Are you aware of AAC?  So what is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

If you would like to know more about supporting children and adults that cannot speak well enough to make themselves understood - or you would like your colleagues or students to - why not try CALL's new Online Learning Modules (commissioned by NES as part of Scotland's Right to Speak initiative).

For daily ideas, hints and tips for SLTS, teachers, AAC professionals, try Carole Zangari's inspiring site PrAACtical AAC

For an insightful and also practically useful day by day, blow by blow account of life as an AAC family, try the fantastic Nieder family blog and their FB page 'Uncommon Sense Blog'.





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Activity Choice boards for Keep Talking Book

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 24th September, 2014 at 5:09pm

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As well as now being able to download individual activities from CALL's Keep Talking book, there are now 'communication game choice boards' available to download for each section. These are made up from the symbols assigned to each activity within the book and can be found underneath the downloadable activities for each section.

The symbol boards can be used to enable AAC users to choose the game they want to play or select their favourite game either individually or as part of a 'communication group.'

You could also laminate them, cut up the symbols, stick some velcro on the back and put them up on the classroom wall as part of a 'communication group' display. Or use them to do a 'Talking Mat' about which games they like or don't like or find easy or hard.

Or, pop the cut up symbols into a hat to make a 'lucky dip' game selection!

So, have fun and Keep Talking!


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New TeeJay Maths books in action!

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 24th September, 2014 at 12:40pm

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I was in a school yesterday assessing a pupil. He is working on book 1A from the TeeJay Maths scheme. His hand writing is poor and liable to get worse with time and as the amount of writing he has to tackle increases throughout Secondary.

I showed his teacher the Books For All database and she logged in with her Glow Username and password (impressively, she knew this off the top of her head!)

We searched for TeeJay book 1A and it appeared, ready for download, along with several more of the TeeJay titles.

Within minutes, he was typing his answers into the text boxes independently and with ease and said to me at the end of the session 'I like it.' He went off to his next class happy and confident.

By the end of the day, there were several requests by other teachers for digital TeeJay titles to use with their print disabled pupils.

A great example of Books for All at its best and of real life 'Active Maths!'

A good day.



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Keep Talking Activities-On the Go!

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 24th September, 2014 at 10:34am

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In a recent blog post, Gillian mentioned using PCS within the GoTalk Now app to create two communication activities 'Scavenger Hunt' and 'I went to the shops and I bought.'

These and many more communication games can be found in CALL's 'Keep Talking' Book, available for FREE download from our website.

You can now also download selected activities, rather than the whole book. This is handy for quick printing of the resources or for teachers and SLTs to download and store their favourite activities in the iBooks app on their iPad to use on the go!

Why not have a look and try some out for yourself? We hope that these examples will spark off lots more game ideas from you creative folk out there!

I'd suggest starting with the The 'Five minute standby' section. These games are great for filling in that 5 minutes before the bell with meaningful use of AAC devices and a good way to introduce AAC use into the classroom.

We hope these games will be useful for lots of children in school, not just the AAC users out there...  


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SoundingBoard webinar

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 18th September, 2014 at 5:13pm

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If you'd like to know more about the great FREE communication app SoundingBoard and how it can be used with pupils who have communication support needs, why not have a look at our recent webinar?

It covers simple editing, using digital images on buttons, sharing resources and switch access for those with physical difficulties.

Also make sure you download this FREE app onto your iPad so that you can use our app board symbolised resources which accompany the Scottish Children's Book Awards Bookbug category of shortlisted books!


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PCS Symbols available for GoTalk Now App for iPad!

By Gillian McNeill on Thursday 18th September, 2014 at 4:59pm

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Until now there have been few, if any options for those looking for a symbol-based communication app for iPad that uses PCS Symbols – Picture Communication Symbols. It has been a while coming, during which we have made much use of SymbolStix and Widgit symbols in particular, but yes PCS is now available for GoTalk Now.

So far, there’s not too much information either on the Attainment Company website or iTunes App store, but here’s information about the symbols available from within the GoTalk Now app, where they are available as an in-app purchase…

Symbols are

  • available in English (UK) Keywords for £39.99
  • additional languages can be purchased for 50% of the price (£20.99)
  • PCS Classic Style (as opposed to ThinLine or Persona)  
  • over 11,500 symbols, including Core and Classic 2000-2012 Addendums

So we went ahead at CALL Scotland with our purchase today, so that we could try the symbols out and now they are showing as available alongside the other image/symbol libraries within GoTalk Now. We like using the GoTalk Now app here, given the range of available options, including traditional grid with and without message bar, visual scene display/photo story options, touch and in-built scanning, integrated music and video playing, core vocabulary pop-up and keyboard layout. But we like it even more now with the new PCS Symbols option!

Here's a couple of screen shots of the pages I made earlier, one for a scavenger hunt activity and the other for a "I went to the shops and bought.." game.









Couple of things to note (hopefully they will be addressed by the developer in due course)…

  • there’s no browse/search by category and sub-category option (which is available for the other symbol libraries) eg: animals – birds, animals – fish, etc. Its keyword search only, I’m afraid.
  • I had an issue with selecting a few of my chosen symbols to insert into a button, they just wouldn’t go in, although sometimes they did after multiple tries! Maybe just something particular to my iPad, I’m not sure. (I’m using an iPad 2 with IOS7).

Anyway now that they are here, get set, ready and go with PCS symbols!


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More Hodder Gibson textbooks available from the Books for All Scotland Database

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 12th September, 2014 at 12:52pm

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New activities and having fun with HelpKidzLearn!

By Gillian McNeill on Thursday 11th September, 2014 at 2:14pm

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I noticed an e-newsletter from HelpKidzLearn sitting in my inbox today which mentioned the arrival of some new activities. I hadn’t visited this site for a while, so decided to investigate further…….

HelpKidzLearn really is a great online resource for teachers and parents of younger children and children with complex additional support needs, providing 80+ accessible learning games. It’s a paid for subscription based facility with a free user option allowing you to try out a sample before parting with any money!

So my email said that 10 new free activities were now available, although not new for subscribers, but rather newly available sample activities for you to try out. (This sample then seems to change from time to time to provide different activities for trying out). Having viewed the new activities, for me 2 of them stood out, although you may have a different view on this!

Here they are: 

Card Maker Lite – this could be a fun way of making cards for any birthday or even Halloween next month! 

“Create your own cards. Add the recipient's name and click the mouse, touch the screen or press a switch (Spacebar or Enter) to choose a colourful design for Christmas, birthdays, Easter or Halloween. Choose the colour of the card and the writing and decorate the card before printing it out.”


Mandy’s House – great for developing traditional grid based switch scanning skills!

“Use one or two switches (Spacebar and Enter) to explore the house. Go to a room with a light on and see what happens there. Can you find the gym, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, TV room, chill out room, games room and music room?”


If you would rather have access to the full set of activities, a year’s subscriptions starts at £49 for a single user, with other options for multiple users and site licences.


Brand new games are added every month, and most recently:

More Crazy Cats – an early years activity involving brightly coloured cats popping out of dustbins and heavy rock music – cool! Great for encouraging watching, waiting and timed selection.


If you would like to view more from the HelpKidzLearn resource, we have an archived CALL webinar to view; it’s approximately 20 minutes long and provides a useful overview.

The HelpKidzLearn activities can be played using different access options including keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, eye gaze, joystick and switches. I’ve been checking out the HelpKidzLearn EasySwitch bundle (2 switches and 1 USB dongle) which looks like a cost effective switch option and is described as easy to set up. (I haven’t laid hands on them yet to try out, although I’m hoping to do this soon!).

The switch looks similar to the small Smoothie type (75mm), so this would need to be a suitable size and type for your child. Also, to stop your switch from sliding around, you might want to look into using it with a non-slip mat or attaching Velcro on the back and using mounts such as the Maxess Mounting System or Flexzi Switch Mount from Inclusive Technology.

And finally for information on running the HelpKidzLearn resource on your iPad visit Sally’s blog. You CAN run your favourite websites on iPad

Hope this provides you with hours of fun and learning!






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New TeeJay National 4 and 5 books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 10th September, 2014 at 1:07pm

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Our grateful thanks to Tom Strang and colleagues at TeeJay for providing us with PDFs of their new National 4 and 5 maths textbooks. The CfE Books N4-1, N4-2, N4+ and N5 are now available from the Books for All Scotland Database.

The books are PDF files and we have added bookmarks to aid navigation, and reader-extended them so that learners can use the comment, markup and drawing tools to type answers and complete some of the exercises on screen.

(We've not added answer boxes to these books because: there are few questions that can be answered with plain text answer boxes (the maths is more advanced); in many cases there isn't space on the page to insert the answer boxes; and we're still working on the earlier levels.)   

These books are for learners who cannot read or access the paper copies, and we've had feedback that they are helpful for learners with visual impairment, physical disability, dyslexia and ASD. 


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Who says men can't multi-task?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 10th September, 2014 at 9:56am

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"Six-screen Stuart" testing some new adapted Teejay Maths books on a variety of devices (from left to right: PC laptop, iPad, PC desktop, iPhone, Mac (off picture to the right). The white heat pace of technology continues....


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Doran Review - Perth Event Thursday 23rd October 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 9th September, 2014 at 12:00pm

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Find out more about and contribute to the discussions on Doran review of services to provide better outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs. The Perth Doran Review event gives people a chance to hear about the work of the Doran Board, what joint Strategic Commissioning is and  how commissioning intends to improve services for children and young people with complex ASN. This, the fourth and final Learning and Communication event planned, will give plenty of scope for discussion and to have your questions answered.

The three events so far have been attended by staff from education authorities, social work, health, grant aided special schools, independent special schools, and voluntary organisations. A report on these events is available. If you do intend to go it is worth reading the report in advance as it will help frame your questions (it isn't necessary to do so).


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Scottish Children's Book Awards Bookbug Symbol Pack

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 3rd September, 2014 at 11:05am

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The shortlisted titles for this year's Scottish Children's Book Awards were announced on August 28th by the Scottish Book Trust. The Bookbug books are Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray, Robot Rumpus by Sean Taylor and Ross Collins and Lost for Words by Natalie Russell.

CALL Scotland has produced accessible versions of the shortlisted books to allow children with print disabilities (which make it hard for them to access a standard book) to take part in the scheme.

The Bookbug books are available as Adobe PDFs, PowerPoint files and as Keynote files for iPad. You will need to have PowerPoint 97-2003 installed (or FREE PowerPoint Viewer) to play the PowerPoint stories and have Keynote installed on your iPad to play the Keynote files (£6.99 from the App Store).  Note that there are also commercial eBook versions of some of the books - if your pupil can use them, then you should go for this option.

This year CALL has also created a pack of symbolised resources to accompany the Bookbug category of short-listed books, which can be used with pupils with Additional Support Needs and those with communication difficulties. These include Go Talk 9+ overlays or printable symbol boards to go with each story, for general shared reading and for voting for the winner! There are also vocabulary sheets to go with each board to help with recording the messages.

We hope this pack will make the Book Awards into a fun and inclusive project for all your pupils to enjoy and really take part in!

As well as resources for reading the stories, we’ve provided a symbolised teaching activity and vocabulary sheet to go with each story book, adapted from the Scottish Book Trust’s Teacher Pack; Woolly Good Fun, Track Tapir down and Give Wash-bot a scare! So go on, get involved.

We’re sure that your creative minds can come up with your own activities in addition to those we’ve provided and we would LOVE to hear about what you’re doing to get your pupils involved this year!

Use them on your iPad too!

For those using iPads in the classroom or for pupils using an iPad as an AAC device, SoundingBoard app versions of the boards, using SymbolStix symbols (c) 2014 SymbolStix LLC, are also available for download. There are 5 boards in total, 1 for each story +shared reading+ voting, which all link together and are pre-recorded ready to go. So make sure your iPads have the FREE app SoundingBoard installed ready to join in the fun!

You can also watch videos of the authors reading the Bookbug books on the Scottish Book trust’s website. A nice ‘Golden Time’ activity for those darker Autumn afternoons!

Happy Reading! You must register to vote by 31st December 2014 and you have until 6th February 2015 to vote for your favourite. The winners will be announced on the 4th March 2015 at a special awards ceremony held by the Scottish Book Trust. You can register to vote here.


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New Project - the S'up Spoon for those with shaky hands

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 3rd September, 2014 at 10:46am

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Hey - an exciting new project by CALL Scotland friend and ex-Steering Group member Grant Douglas, with 4c Design


It’s the brilliantly designed S’up Spoon that allows people with cerebral palsy or unwanted hand/upper body movements from other causes, to load up with food that otherwise might be difficult or impossible to manage independently. What a boon!  Grant has been scoffing soup, sweet corn, peas and Chinese rice dishes with ease, and in public, for the first time ever (and there’s video material to prove it!)

The project needs funds to get the product to market, but if you donate now you can receive discount /spoons hopefully by Christmas, so it’s a kind of ‘pre-order’ set up.  Check out the Kickstarter website for more details, and to make a pledge. Read what Grant says about the challenge of creating a new solution to this frustrating barrier.


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Voice Dream Reader app for iPad Half-Price till 7th September 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 4:55pm

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To mark start-of-term (USA style!), the Voice Dream Reader app is available half price until 7th September 2014. 

Voice Dream Reader is one of our favourite text-to-speech apps. Although originally designed with blind and visually impaired people in mind it was quickly taken up by many people struggling with literacy because of dyslexia, Indeed, Winston Chen the developer, mentions the story of the mother of a 10-year old boy with dyslexia using the app. It's an interesting account because it draws attention to a few of the specific features of the app that enhance the experience of literacy. 

Incidentally, we've been in touch with the developer a couple of times to make a plea to include the Scottish Voices as options for user. No luck so far but we'll keep trying!


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