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An Open Letter to the Parent of a Child with Speech Delays

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th April, 2013 at 3:54pm

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Once again, the piercingly true words of a parent - therapists and teachers take note!

Dana Nieder, parent of Maya, urging parents and professionals not to 'wait and see' but to plunge in, as soon as possible, to the world of full strength AAC .

There is no time to waste - and there is nowhere for professionals to hide, these days, when the internet can provide such vast resources of information.

It's great that a parent is writing this stuff, because maybe other parents  - and let's be honest, there are many who are frustratingly reluctant to consider any alternative to speech, and just don't 'get' the importance of developing underlying language, and interactive communication skills - will accept it better from another parent than from a professional.

We all want the best for the child, but communication and language are complex functions and skills and there is no quick and easy solution. Both parents and professionals are needed to put all this together. And it's not just about speech and language therapists, who may see the child for a few hours over several months, but for school staff who see him/her for several hours every weekday........

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Top Interactive Story App, and top book!

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st April, 2013 at 3:06pm

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Wow! just wanted to share info about the stunning interactive story App for iPad that I just stumbled across - The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.

To me, this is what an interactive story App should be like - all the best of both a short film and a story book , somehow brilliantly integrated.

You can just read and listen to the story - fabulous graphics, bit retro, plus music  - or each page has interactive features that you can explore  - when you do, they somehow make the page turn into an animated movie.

This multiple award-winning animation by William Joyce and filmmakers (some from Pixar  - who, let's face it -  know what they are doing!) - is a beautiful tale about the value of stories. It's not exactly a 'starter level' story, but it's very accessible and the interactivity enhances engagement.

It comes with 'extras' -  a short film and a 'Making of this App' and it somehow incorporates both the Wizard of Oz and hurricane Katrina & Sandy with resonances of Up! and other well-known tales and films.

You can change most of the settings re audio, text, music etc. but unfortunately there is no alternative to a 'swipe' for turning the page. 

Well worth 2.99 anyway. Take a peek! (Also available as a real book or for Kindle - dearer, of course)

AND......while we're at it - here is a must-buy book-type book.  Charming! A gem! Guaranteed to make you smile,  and also effective to help children think about the differences between books and other forms of story formats 'It's a Book' by Lane Smith published by MacMillan Childrens Books AND - ironically - it even comes with an animated video trailer!

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Useful resources

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 27th February, 2013 at 9:48am

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We've just caught up with the easy-to-read and helpful resources published by the National Children's Bureau. They will be very helpful for parents but also for school staff. Here are a few of the many titles;

Information about multi-sensory impairment

Information about multi-sensory impairment

Information about autism spectrum disorders

These are all part of the National Children's Bureau's 'Early Support' initiative.

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Health and Well Being App

By Sally Millar on Monday 25th February, 2013 at 11:57am

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Smiling mind (iPhone)  -  free App designed to support mental health and well-being. Or use web based version

Designed by psychologists for relaxation and 'mindfulness'. Aim is to "help you feel more clear, calm and content". You get a trial session then need to log in with an email address.For different age groups: 7-11; 12-15; 16-22; or adult. Material is presented orally - Very basic relaxation and 'meditation' sessions (lying on floor or seated) last about 7 minutes. Could be delivered to individual or to a small group or class. Requires the ability to stay still, quietly, and listen.

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AAC Do's and Don'ts

By Sally Millar on Thursday 21st February, 2013 at 11:57am

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Great resource from Lauren Enders  - a  freely downloadable one page poster to support AAC implementation.

This poster should be on every classroom, home and therapy room wall, for the benefit of all those learning to communicate using AAC.

Thanks to Lauren for generating such great stuff, and acknowledging collaboration of her BCIU colleagues Pat Mervine of Speaking of Speech.com, Melissa Skocypec, and Cathie VanALstine.

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New resources in Switch IT Maker

By Sally Millar on Friday 8th February, 2013 at 12:27pm

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Lots of people have the lovely easy-to-use switch accessible software from Inclusive Technology, like SwitchIT Maker 2 and ChooseIT Maker 2. But it is disappointing to see how few schools manage to find time to make their own resources, to create personalised exercises that individual children or groups can enjoy and use as valuable learning & practice, as part of curriculum topic or theme work.

To help you, from Ian Bean of SENICT, amongst other freely downloadable goodies here, there are two simple and easy-to-use help sheets, with step by step instructions for: -

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More 'Best Apps' for ASN: language and literacy

By Sally Millar on Monday 28th January, 2013 at 10:58am

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Another list of 'best Apps - this time from a US parents website, targeting Apps for language and literacy.

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Terrific new 'AACknowledge' resource launches

By Sally Millar on Friday 18th January, 2013 at 11:07am

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A terrific new AAC resource has recently been launched, in the form of the AACknowledge website. This is an outcome of Communication Matter's AAC Evidence Base project.

The new website provides a wealth of useful information for both experienced AAC specialists, who get summaries and links to all published research, and beginners, who get basic AAC definitions and case stories, factsheets, FAQs and more.

It's a actually a well-researched - and much needed and eagerly anticipated - comprehensive database of research and publications in the field of AAC - but cleverly presented in an informative and easy to use way.

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For your Christmas photos - Pictello is going cheap until 1st January - or go even cheaper!

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 19th December, 2012 at 7:13pm

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From now until 1st January 2013, Pictello, the versatile photostory App for iPad is going cheap - at 8.99 instead of 13.99.  There's also a competition to enter - prizes available.

But don't worry if that's still too dear- there are lots of similar Apps for much less money

Go to the iTunes Store and check out

  • Fotobabble (iPhone version works fine on iPad) - free - talking postcards
  • My Story - 1.49 - you can write or draw on the photo
  • Book Creator (the absolute (Rolls Royce of photo story makers) - 1.49  - also plays video & sound files
  • My Pictures Talk - 2.99 -plays video as well as photos, super easy and quick to use

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Talking Glove

By Sally Millar on Friday 23rd November, 2012 at 10:12am

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A rather amazing new development by two engineering students - a glove that  'translates' a hand gesture into a spoken output. The glove can 'learn' a large number of differentiated gestures (but would different wearers, if physically impaired,  be able to make clearly differentiated gestures consistently?)

This is like signalling / simplified signing rather than 'traditional' use of voice output technology, or rather is an interesting kind of merger between the two.

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How (not) to teach AAC use

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 20th November, 2012 at 12:08pm

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Brilliant (and honest and funny) insights here from a parent of a young child learning to use a Talker. Every single Teacher, Additional Support Needs Assistant, therapist, parent - and everyone else -  needs to read this! It is a summary of the three most important things about teaching and learning AAC.

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New App, SimpleAAC

By Sally Millar on Thursday 8th November, 2012 at 8:08pm

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Well,  just one day after yesterday's very successful Using iPads in AAC Study Day, I've just discovered that yet another new AAC App. It's called SimpleAAC, produced by Tony Jones / Unliimiter, and marketed through Ability World.

Have to say, CALL is not endorsing this App as such,  just passing on the info. 

It's confusing - when you find it on the App Store, it says it's Free, but in fact you get a free 7 Day trial (so, time your download carefully) and then after that you have to buy the full App (124.99) or you are left with 5 non-editable demon screens.

Allowing for 1-20 location screens, the App seems to sit somewhere between the Go Talk Now app (which is top of the range of the simpler AAC Apps, costing 54.99 + 34.99 for a symbol library)) and the full scale symbol AAC Apps like Sonoflex, Touch Chat and P2Go etc. ( 69.99.99.99, 129.99 respectively)

Interestingly it has a nice English sounding CereProc voice (only if you buy through the UK App Store)  - so maybe we'll figure out how to get the Scottish Voices Heather and Stuart on to iPad some day (not possible right now).

There's an introductory video to view.

The App uses the Unlimiter symbols, which are maybe a bit 'cartoony' for some.

 

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Great wee video celebrating communication & AAC

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 6th November, 2012 at 10:57am

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Call Me Maybe

Take a few minutes to watch this uplifting wee video made by new graduates in speech and language therapy, Queen Margaret University College, as part of the RCSLT's Giving Voice campaign. Terrific enthusiasm, good for them!

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StandUp Comedian using AAC

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 6th November, 2012 at 10:02am

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Look out for comedy gigs by 'Lost Voice Guy' Lee Ridley, and do go and see him if you get the chance - he's FUNNY! Breaking down barriers as the first ever stand-up comedian who uses augmentative communication.

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Stuck in Guided Access (iOS 6) - again!

By Sally Millar on Saturday 3rd November, 2012 at 8:43pm

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Reports still coming in of people 'getting 'stuck' in Guided Access mode on iPad, in iOS6. eeek!

Here's a short but reassuring solution, thanks Katrina and Gregg at Spectronics.

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