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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 (

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:  (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

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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Places still available on CALL’s Switching to Excellence course, 8th March, with Ian Bean

By Sally Millar on Monday 27th February, 2012 at 1:09pm

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There is no real shortage of switch accessible software for those children with complex additional support needs - whether due to physical difficulties or learning difficulties – who are unable to use a traditional keyboard and mouse. But do we choose, introduce, teach and use the right software in the right way, at the right time, to suit each highly individual child, and to help them develop their skills and progress towards their full potential?

Maybe not. Sadly, we can still often see a child sitting in school, year–in-year-out with the same software, “practising his switch”.  If it hasn’t ’worked’ by now, we should be looking at how WE have set up the task, not blaming it all on the child! What are we missing? How could we do things differently?

These days, more and more software at the early years and complex learning difficulty level is designed only for mouse and/ or touch screen use. But many learners cannot use this effectively either. We see children in school batting ineffectually with their hands at a screen. On assessment, they often have ‘cause and effect’ understanding long established but have not been able to move on from single hit software, because of access & control issues. Switch access might reduce the physical demand and let the child move on to tasks more suited to his / her cognitive abilities.

This CALL course on 8th March 2012 aims to unpick these issues and will provide insights and, ideas, tools and resources to help us to do a better job with these learners.  We are very lucky to have secured the time of the famous Ian Bean to lead this course, in CALL. Ian is the author of the much-loved ‘Priory Woods’ switch music videos, and is now working as an independent consultant.  Ian is not  a product salesman but an experienced teacher of children with profound & multiple / or severe and complex  additional support needs. He is the author of the Switch Progression Roadmap,  and a highly recommended trainer. CALL provides laptops so that everyone can have plenty hands-on, with expert support if needed.

Lastly, there are iPads. Everyone seems to want to use them, in spite of their high ‘distractability factor’, and regardless of whether particular children can control them effectively or not!  There are many low-cost fun Apps for learners at a sensory / cause and effect level. There are a very few scanning (Bluetooth) switch operated communication Apps. We will look at these on the course (though not in huge detail as this is not the CALL course on iPads, that’s later in the year).

Do please take the time to look up the full ‘blurb about this course. There are still places available and you will get a lovely lunch and a goody-bag of resources put together by both Ian Bean and CALL. Phone 0131 651 6236 or book online here.


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Why, if and when to move to BoardMaker Studio...???

By Sally Millar on Friday 17th February, 2012 at 1:46pm

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Here's a 'changing over to the new Boardmaker Studio?' discussion that I imagine quite a few establishments will be having over the next wee while.


Original Enquiry

I have a bit of a predicament and would really appreciate your help! In this city, we are about to refresh all our current computers...There are bound to be issues at refresh with new software and resources being required. The biggest issue for us is Boardmaker. In this special school, we are (I think!) advanced users of Boardmaker Plus!, using it to its fullest potential with lots of interactive activities and creating individualised resources for our children. We even make our communication passports using Boardmaker. However, we are using Mac versions and we need to move over to PC versions come refresh. The burning question is - Boardmaker 6 Plus! for PC or Boardmaker Studio? I have been trialling Boardmaker Studio, and I'm finding it hard to change the mindset of starting from scratch every time, to now using templates and adapting someone else's work / idea. Some of the interactive things I do currently can't be done without actual programming, or importing from the current version. I know you noted some reservations in your blog, and I was wondering if you had  any further thoughts about this?

Boardmaker is a wonderful resource, I could not teach without it, but I don't want to move to a version which is going to be a source of frustration at a time when there are lots of other changes happening.

Thanks in anticipation!

Kind regards

Principal Teacher, Special School


Answer from Sally at CALL

Yes this is a big dilemma for you, I understand.  There is no 'right answer' of course, as you already realise - it's a judgement call. And your school is perhaps a bit of a special case, as an 'advanced symbol-using special school'.

If you and your colleagues are finding that you can do everything you want to already with BM Plus, I think on balance I'd advise you to stick with it. Especially if you have cracked the whole interactive speaking, draggable IWB classroom resources bit (which is the sticking point for many others, who still only use BM for printable materials).  And also especially if, as you say, there are going to be lots of other difficult changes to cope with at the same time, concerning the refresh.

CALL has just heard from a PT at another Special School who says that they are sticking with BM 6 Plus! - no plans to change to Studio. Maybe partly money and partly a positive choice.  Indeed, there seem to be people here and in the USA that still use the decades-old original or very early versions of BM  (Mac and PC) quite happily, so there is no obvious need to rush to change to the newest version.

The only thing I can see that you'd lose out on with BM Plus! rather than Studio, is the possibility that more and more of the shared resources available on BoardMaker Share may start to be in Studio not Plus (and the complicated interactive ones are not usually 'backwards compatible') but to be honest I think it will be a long time before that starts to happen, and maybe your school materials are so specialised anyway that that wouldn't affect you unduly anyway. Interestingly, the new add-on 'Pre-Made Activities' (pretty cheap) coming out, see   - and these may well increase as time goes on - apparently run on their own, and don' t need BM Plus or BM Studio to run.

However, this is really a whole school / authority strategy issue, not just a choice for you as an individual teacher (or do you have designated responsibility for ICT, overall)?

I think Mayer Johnson's plan is to market BM Studio into schools that have never used symbols before, including Secondary schools, and to push the 'inclusive classroom/school' concept. I believe BM Studio was designed to make things easier for new users (especially teachers wanting interactive materials for IWB use). If a school or a member of staff is just starting out and thinking of using symbols for the first time, I am starting to point them to BM Studio, and they seem to recognise it as being 'like PowerPoint' or 'like Clicker' - and can also see that it could actually replace both of those as well, to streamline down to one single package (which might make it more likely to be used well than staff trying to use three or more packages).

For you, relevant considerations are perhaps (1) the 'user demographic' (sorry!) in the school . Do ALL the staff know and use BM Plus as well as you do? Is there training in it at this 'advanced' level for new staff coming in? Or are there just you / one or two 'experts' and all the others leave you to make all the material for the school?  And if the latter - what happens if/when you and your 'advanced' colleagues leave the school?  You should perhaps consider also what support other than from Mayer-Johnson you and other staff currently use / need / benefit from.  If you share materials with other schools and or have materials made for you by external specialists, then you might want to also consult them on this issue (probably you already have) and think about agreeing an overall strategy rather than potentially going off in separate directions.

And (2) the other software used in the school - and how widely and how well this other software is used?  If the school already has whizzo advanced expert users of Clicker and  Powerpoint then maybe there is no need for another package that does this kind of thing (with symbols inbuilt) but if these are under-used and you you think that some of these functions might enhance teaching and learning opportunities then BMStudio might have something to offer.


Finally there are always compromise solutions. I know it sounds a bit mad, but there might be a case to be made for buying a copy  (or some licences) of EACH version, so that different staff who might be at different points of expertise and experience, and might have pupils who are very different, could use the one that suits them best, and also have the opportunity to plan and build a kind of 'Boardmaker Transition Strategy' for the school / authority (for I fear that BM 6 Plus! may be set to disappear completely in a few years time….)


Sorry it's so complicated but hope this helps.

Best wishes, Sally



Response from Enquirer

Thank you so much for taking the time to give such a detailed response! I am happy for you to publish this on your blog or elsewhere, as it is a problem others will be facing.

I have a dual role in this is as ICT co-ordinator for my own school, but also as the special schools "champion" (unnecessarily grand title!) on the refresh team. There are 3 of us across the city trialling Boardmaker Studio over the next 6 months, and Mayer Johnson are keen to get some kind of package in place for refresh.

I would say that most staff have a good grounding in Boardmaker, and all classes are using interactive resources. There's probably an "expert" in each class, either teacher or member of support staff.

We don't use Clicker perhaps as much as we should, and are moving towards using Boardmaker for most things, including presentations.

I think your suggestion of using both versions to allow a period of transition is probably the best way forward.

Thanks again for your time and your support.

Principal Teacher, Special School


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Stand Up comedian with iPad communication aid

By Sally Millar on Friday 17th February, 2012 at 1:07pm

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 Here's a first! Lee Ridley is a young chap with CP and severe motor speech impairment using an iPad as an AAC system, to deliver his stand-up comedy routine.

Brilliant, good luck to him!


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