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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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Free online switch games for the Festive Season

By Sally Millar on Friday 2nd November, 2012 at 3:18pm

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Now that Halloween is over, it's time to think ahead....

Fireworks Night - free online switch/space bar/ games to set off fireworks (and many other cheery activities, such as laying eggs, firing at pirate ships, popping ballons, zooming shapes etc.

also singing sheep leads us to the next stage.....the big Chr...m..s word....

Some free simple online switch (or touch, or spacebar) games here, to get in the mood for Christmas, from SpecialBites. Mostly cause and effect level, perhaps most suitable for older kids with complex additional support needs. Also - if your school will allow access - some fun YouTube videos to activate with a switch or spacebar.

 

 

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iOS 6 - Guided Access

By Sally Millar on Monday 15th October, 2012 at 10:47am

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Have you updated your iPad to iOS 6 yet?  It only takes about 5 minutes and so far we haven't heard of any problems (apart from the widely reported Apple Maps fiasco)

One of the features that we have all - in the ASN field - been waiting for enthusiastically, is the new 'Guided Access' feature, otherwise known as 'Kid Mode'. (Settings, General, Accessibility, Learning).  See here more detailed instructions for setting up Guided Access / Enabling Kid Mode 

This new feature means that you can 'lock' a user into a single App (the one you want them to be using), rather than leaving them free to distract themselves by flicking around all over the iPad and not focusing on anything. As we know, the delights of the iPad are so great that children will often prefer to interact with the iPad itself, rather than to use it as tool to interact with a learning task, or to communicate with others.   

If you've set it up right, you just need to triple click the Home Button and enter your chosen Passcode to exit this mode and unlock the device. But apparently there have been a few problems with people getting stuck and becoming completely 'locked in' to Guided Access mode, and unable to get out again! There is a wee fix here to tell you how to escape from that situation, if it occurs.

 

 

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Parents Information Day at CALL, Focus on iPads

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th October, 2012 at 6:38pm

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Calling all parents of children with additional support needs!

Interested in maybe using the iPad with your son /daughter? 

This course will provide you with a pile of iPad Top Tips and useful information about how to pick good Apps and iPad accessories, and how the iPad can be managed at home and at school.

 

Do come to the CALL Scotland Parent Information Day on Saturday 24 November in Edinburgh, from 10am - 2pm

The course is free of charge and refreshments and a light lunch will be provided. The course is ONLY open to parents.

For more information, download a programme and booking form here, or contact CALL (rebecca.gow@ed.ac.uk).

Numbers are limited due to lack of space, and we need to know numbers for catering, so this is not a 'drop-in' day. Please book in here as soon as possible to be sure of getting a place. 

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Spotlight on Speech, Language and Communication Needs

By Sally Millar on Thursday 16th August, 2012 at 2:08pm

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Linguist and language specialist Gordon Wells wrote "Almost every educational skill presupposes the use of language."

ICAN highlights an interesting new statistic from the Department of Education (England and Wales) showing that speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is the most commonly reported special educational need amongst primary school children - more prevalent than autism and dyslexia. SLCN is also a feature of other additional support needs arising from, for example,  hearing impairment and learning difficulties.  Unidentified language/communication difficulties could be at the heart of the challenges faced /presented by children with behavioural problems, or those who are reluctant to engage or who make slow progress.  

All of this highlights the need for more training for all education staff on how to identify SLCN (as early as possible) and how to develop children's communication skills. 

Another recent article calls SLCN "the most common childhood disability"  and discusses the link between language & communication difficulties, school exclusion and youth offending, 

The Talking Point website provides an excellent resource of information to help you identify typical and atypical language development.

You can also evaluate your own (or group) skills and knowledge by completing the online Speech, Language and Communication Framework (SLCF) .

Find out more on the ICAN web site, including the Talk Boost programme that can raise childrens' language skills in 18 weeks. 

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Sounding Board App is now free

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 31st July, 2012 at 4:55pm

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CALL is not endorsing this particular App over and above other similar Apps, but just to alert you to a price change - 

Version 3.1.1 of AbleNet's simple photo-based communication App Sounding Board, which used to cost 35, is now available as a free download  on the iTunes App Store (possibly for a limited time only). You can then make your own communication boards and/or purchase pre-made boards, in-App

For a review see here

For a video introduction / tutorial, see here

Switch access , with auditory scanning, using the RJ Cooper Blue2 switch (from Therapy Box) , or the APPlicator /Switch4Apps switch interface (from Inclusive Technology or Therapy Box) is available for more details of switch/scanning,, see here

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Sign Language Training available

By Sally Millar on Monday 30th July, 2012 at 12:05pm

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There are interesting evening courses running this autumn at Donaldsons School in Linlithgow on British Sign Language, lip-reading, and deaf awareness. The sign language courses in particular may be of interest to those who use sign with children with complex communication support needs (who may not be deaf) and wish to become more confident and fluent signers themselves and/or who find that the reduced vocabulary available through Signalong or Makaton needs supplementing in order to meet children's immediate communication needs and to build linguistic skills. Accredited Introductory, Level 1 and Level 2 BSL courses available (these courses are few and far between and can be hard to get a place on, so book early!) and are approved by ILA Scotland (for possible funding support).

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'Tricky Moments' - new publication about challenging behaviour

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 3rd July, 2012 at 5:34pm

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This looks like a useful new publication to help families and professionals understand and manage challenging behaviour in children with learning difficulties or ASD. Copies can be downloaded free from the ENABLE website  or ordered (price 3, or 2 each for more than 20 copies) by telephone (0300 200 101) or using the order form here.

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Proloquo2Go v.2 is released, and new British English child voices available

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 20th June, 2012 at 10:51am

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The Proloquo2Go app for iPad, iPod and iPhone must be the most hyped communication aid ever. Seriously over-hyped, in my view, with the danger that parental expectations could be unrealistically raised, and potentially more suitable alternative AAC solutions ignored.

But moving on - the good news is that Proloquo2Go v.2 which is just released (free upgrade, if you already had P2Go) is MUCH MUCH better than the original version. It is a thorough redesign, not just a few new 'tweaks'.  AssistiveWare have obviously listened to what users and experts have been telling them, and have copied features from other AAC systems: the new application looks to be extremely attractive, functional and useful.  Check it out on AssistiveWare's website and try it for yourself.

If you already have a personalised vocabulary in the first version of the programme, you will be able to transfer it, but be very careful - before you do anything else after upgrade, follow the procedure here

Instead of the over-large alphabetically organised vocabulary that was difficult to customise, P2Go2 now comes with two pre-stored vocabularies, both based on linguistic research: Basic Communication and Core Words (for fast sentence building) Another change that is particularly valuable for an assessment centre and Loan Service such as CALL, but also for schools and speech and language therapy services, is the fact the P2Go v.2 now offers multi-user support, making it easier to switch between different separate vocabularies/users and to support multiple users on one device. Parents and users will be more interested perhaps in the new freedom to order the layout of buttons in any way you like (not just alphabetically, but in a customised layout, including leaving empty spaces, if desired).

New Voices

At the same time, Acapela have released two new British English children's voices, available for use with P2Go v.2, Harry and Rosie. These seem to be excellent quality voices and a huge improvement over the whiny American kids Nelly and Kenny.  Info here, plus an interesting video about the making of the voices.

To use these new voices in your P2Go v.2, first update your P2G, then go to Options/Speech/Voice Download Manager- you can follow the instructions in the manual, given here 

Sadly, there is no Scottish voice option for P2Go. And Harry and Rosie, lovely though they are, are VERY 'English-English' rather than more 'neutral' British English.  

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New Deal for Augmentative Communication in Scotland

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 13th June, 2012 at 10:38am

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Scottish Government yesterday announced publication of a new report, 'The Right to Speak: supporting individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication' (report downloadable here) which provides Guidelines for the improvement of services to children and adults in Scotland who need to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

The Guidelines are accompanied by government funding of 4 million spread across the next three financial years. From this, funding will be provided to Health Boards to help them buy AAC equipment, and a proportion will go to NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to develop an infrastructure to ensure efficient implementation of the report's recomendations, including commissioning of research, and development of quality standards, education and training for NHS staff.

At the launch yesterday at Corseford School, the Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson met a number of people who use AAC. Presentations were given by school leaver Steven Sweeney and Dumfries and Galloway resident Rachael Monk, using their voice output communication aids, explaining how important it is for all those who cannot speak, to have rapid access to the equipment they need, and also, very importantly, access to skilled specialist support and training, on an ongoing basis.

The group Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland which includes SCTCI, CALL Scotland, FACCT, KeyComm, TASSC and AAC Ayrshire & Arran, were key members of the AAC Campaign back in 2008/2009 that originally stimulated a review of AAC services.

The launch photos below show the minister between Steven and Rachael, representatives of Capability Scotland and Kim Hartley of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists who co-hosted the launch, Janet Scott of SCTCI, and Alison Gray who authored the report.

It is wonderful that AAC is at last 'on the map' publicly and nationally, and that the government has not only recognised the needs of people who use AAC and those professionals and families who support them, but has also provided funding.

The job of the next few years is to ensure that this new initiative is implemented in a way that doesn't just fill cupboards with equipment that could quickly go out of date, but genuinely builds sustainable and quality AAC services equitably across Scotland-not only in Health but also in Education and Sooial Work .

                

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What Parents need

By Sally Millar on Monday 21st May, 2012 at 10:23am

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In the latest Newsletter of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, parents spell out how they need professionals to behave

Additional Support Needs: Supporting children, young people and their families A Plea from Parents

In the spirit of sincere partnership, we ask that you:
  • Make us feel comfortable and ensure that we know the team around our child, in name and in person
  • Look at the whole situation and the family around the child. Many different things will affect how we and our child cope with learning e.g. transport, housing, respite, other family circumstances
  • Share all the information you have about our child, in a format and in a way that we can understand, in good time for meetings or telephone discussions. Please check that we have understood it or been able to read it
  • Are clear with us about whom we should contact when we seek information, wish to raise a concern or share information about our child, and how we should do this to not cause unnecessary inconvenience
  • Allow enough time for meetings or phone calls
  • Ask us what range of times/dates would be possible for us for meetings we may have childcare to organize, or several other appointments relating to our child
  • Are specific about the topics of discussion at meetings in advance, and ask us if we have anything we would like to talk about
  • Let us know who will be at meetings, in advance, and describe what their role is in relation to our child
  • Ask us if we would like to bring someone to support us to meetings
  • Arrange meeting rooms so that they are as informal and welcoming as possible. A row of professionals can be really scary
  • Try to understand our situation if we become upset or angry and make provision for us to have a bit of space/time/privacy. Remember it is because we want the best for our child that we may get emotional! It’s not personal!
  • Are kind and understanding of our situation it takes us many years to come to terms with, and to understand, our child’s learning difficulties and the challenges in their lives
  • Understand that our lives change, our child’s needs change and our expectations have to be continually readjusted. Plans have to be reviewed and changed to allow for this
  • A cup of tea and a box of hankies would be really, really nice!

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Come to CALL and learn about Proloquo2Go Version 2.0, FREE training session 24 May

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 8th May, 2012 at 12:53pm

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You are invited to come to a FREE training day in CALL on Thursday 24 May, to learn more about the widely publicised App for communication, for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone -  Proloquo2Go (the new Version 2.0)

This is a brilliant chance to learn more about this widely publicised and award-winning AAC App. The training will be done byAnne Verhulp of AssistiveWare.

Morning session - 10.30 - 12.30 is an introduction and overview of Proloquo2Go V2.00, plus a look at Pictello, and is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Afternoon session - 1.15- 3.30 is a hands-on session (numbers limited to 12 - priority to ACiP:S and ICTSLS colleagues) for AAC specialists who are likely to be training and supporting others in their use of P2Go.

To book your place, please contact CALL as soon as possible:  Rebecca.Gow@ed.ac.uk  (0131 651 6235) stating clearly if you want to come morning only, afternoon only, or all day. Please be understanding that there may not be places for the afternoon session for all that request them.

We are grateful to the developers, AssistiveWare and to Logan Technologies, the new UK distributor of P2Go, for making this training available, free of charge.

Refreshments will be provided by CALL. Lunch for all-day attendees will be provided by Logan Technologies.

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Practise Mouse Skills with minimouse.us

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 3rd April, 2012 at 12:56pm

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I've just discovered a really useful and fun web site that has lots of free games to help kids practise their mouse skills  - basic eye-hand coordination, and timing skills. It is not for 'first beginner level' users  but great for kids who are mastering the basics of moving and clicking. There are very simple games to enjoy that are just about cursor control and clicking (simple painting, popping balloons etc.), but the site also offers quite testing games bringing in very simple off-screen scrolling, challenges of speed /reaction time, and click and drag skills, and cognitive skills like planning, basic spatial reasoning, judging height and distance, estimating trajectory etc., as well as consolidating basic counting andshape/colour matching.

A comprehensive free and fun playground and training ground for the mini gameplayer, in fact. (doesn't work on iPads, though)

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Calling all Parents! Be sure to have your say!

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 13th March, 2012 at 5:26pm

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There are just a few days left before the Consultation of the Doran Review closes (Friday 16th March).  Please - Scotland only - all parents of children with complex additional support needs, and all professionals who work with such children  -   send in a response to have your say! 

Your input could have a huge effect on the kind of changes to be made to educational provision for children with complex additional support needs in Scotland, for the future.

There is a form to fill in here or you can send in your own letter or email, with your answers and comments on the 4 key questions:

* How satisfied you are with the processes to identify your child’s care, health and learning needs.* How well informed you feel about schools and services that could help their child.* How well nurseries or schools and other services such as Health and Social Work are meeting your child's needs.* How well supported you and your child feel when he or she is preparing to leave and settling into a new school, or leaving school to go on to adult services.

Children and young people with complex additional support needs face multiple barriers to their learning and development.  These factors may relate to the learning environment, family circumstances, disability or health needs or a combination of these.  To make progress and achieve their potential, the children and young people with complex additional support needs require assistance from specialist professionals in addition to parents/carers and staff in schools and education authorities.

The Doran Review is currently looking at how best to provide for the needs of Scottish children and young people with the most complex learning needs.  Children and young people with additional support needs may attend a mainstream nursery or school in their local education authority or a specialist nursery, day or residential school, within or outside their home area.  Children and young people with complex additional support needs require individualised programmes of support from educational services and other services such as health, social work and voluntary organisations.  The Review will consider how well the assessment, support, funding and decision making processes that already exist locally and nationally are working. The Review Group will use their findings to make recommendations to the Scottish Government by Summer 2012 as to how these aspects could be improved or changed.  

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