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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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Smartbox Study Day: Edinburgh, 12th September 2012

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 10th July, 2012 at 9:30am

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This autumn Smartbox Assistive Technology will be touring the country to host FREE study days that will focus on some of the latest developments in the world of AAC and assistive technology.

  • Venue: CALL Scotland, Edinburgh
  • Date and time: 9:30am - 4:00pm, 12th September 2012

Each study day will include the following talks:

  • Eye gaze clinics - A closer look at the very latest eye gaze technology and techniques.
  • Accessing the curriculum – Level the playing field with our tips, tricks and resources for using The Grid 2 in the classroom.
  • Facebook, Skype, Twitter, YouTube - Safe, easy and accessible resources for the world’s most popular websites.
  • The Grid 2 communication pathway – A guided tour of the latest range of symbol communication resources - including a first look at PODD and Beeline.
  • New product launch – All will be revealed.
  • Grid Player for ios – How to use an iPad for AAC and the best Grid Player resources
  • Fast Talker 2 – A complete AAC and computer access solution for literate users.
  • Future of AAC – An exciting look at the very latest developments in the world of assistive technology, including a first look at brain control.

The events are all free to attend. Lunch and refreshments are included.

  • You must register if you wish to attend. There are limited places at each venue so bookings will be taken on a first come, first served basis.
  • All of the days start with registration at 9:30, before the first talk at 10am. The last talk will finish at 4pm.
  • The study days are suitable for speech and language therapists, teachers, and other professionals working with AAC or assistive technology.

SIGN UP NOW:

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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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Helping People who use AAC to attend ISAAC 2012

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 24th May, 2012 at 9:02am

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Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland, the network of AAC specialist centres in Scotland, have a small amount of money available to help people who use AAC in Scotland to attend the ISAAC 2012 conference in Pittsburgh, USA. The ISAAC conference is a great opportunity for people who use AAC to find out more about the latest technology and approaches that can be used to support their communication and provides opportunities to meet people in a similar situation from all over the world to compare experiences and develop friendships. The money available from Augmentative Communication in Practice is not enough to pay for any one person to attend, but could provide a useful boost for somebody who has already raised some money towards the cost of the trip.

The simple application form is available from the Augmentative Communication in Practice web site, but must be returned by 31st May.

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AAC: Can it ever be effective?

By Allan Wilson on Friday 11th May, 2012 at 11:48am

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The AAC Scotland Special Interest Group is meeting to discuss current topics in Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the Auchterderran Centre, Cardenden, Fife KY5 0NE on Wednesday 30th May.

Topics include:

"Can AAC ever be effective?" with Dr Joan Murphy

"Impact of the Scottish Government's AAC Report" with Janet Scott and Sally Millar

"Effective AAC for Transition" with Karen Kerr

Further information is available here.

If you have any questions, contact Jane Donnelly at FACCT. Tel. 08451 555555 Ext 441951, Email jane.donnelly@fife.gov.uk. 

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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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Looking forward to the Family Fun Day 2012!

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 22nd March, 2012 at 10:00am

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We're gearing up for the Family Fun Day which will be held here in CALL this Saturday March 24th. The Fun Day is a day of general mayhem where children and their families have a chance to try out lots of different technology and activities in an informal way. The day is staffed by CALL, FACCT, KeyComm, SCTCI, TASSCC and their friends, families, relatives, mates and anyone else who happens to be passing. There appear to be 184 children and young people and their families coming (eek!) to play with toys, switches, computers, video games, smart wheelchairs etc and to make art, music, cakes, and a most satisfying all round mess. Take a look at this video that Craig made last year to see the sort of thing that is going to be happening......

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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 http://www.mayer-johnson.co.uk/pre-made/   - 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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Free AAC Resources on Visual Systems

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 14th February, 2012 at 4:14pm

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We received an email today from Dolly Bhargava, a Specialist Speech Pathologist working in Australia, with information about some resources she has created in conjunction with School for Parents. The 'Getting Started' series currently consists of five downloadable books and video material, available via YouTube, illustrating different aspects of the use of Visual Systems to help parents develop their child's communication skills. The five titles are:

  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote communication
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote play
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote an understanding of cyber bullying
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to provide positive behaviour support
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to support the development of self-esteem

The first book describes different types of visual supports and visual systems and explains how the appropriate supports can be used by parents and teachers to encourage speech and language development. The other books in the series focus on their particular topic (play, cyber bullying. etc) and illustrate how the use of Visual Systems can make the material more relevant for children with communication difficulties.

The books were produced with funding received by School for Parents from the Non Government Centre Support for Non School Organisations of Western Australia. The books and videos can be downloaded FREE from the School for Parents web site.

Great Stuff!!!

 

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Orang utans and iPads

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 17th January, 2012 at 12:18pm

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Well - the iPad is truly everywhere these days. Watch these fascinating videos - turns out that orangutans also like iPads!

They like to watch videos, paint, play kids' Apps, watch other orang utans via Skype, ebooks etc.

I have always been very interested in primate language studies and I'm now intrigued by how the situation has evolved. It started with  having the primate brought up as child in a psychologist's home with the careful teaching of sign language over many years - with interminable Behaviourist teaching & analysis of language 'performance'.  Now people are just using technology as a day to day tool for stimulation  - and the animals don't get ANY 'rewards', just the pleasure of intercting and playing with the device (take that, Skinner!)

And for communication, now just sticking photos on an iPad under its nose and saying "show me the 'x' "(hang on to the end to see iPad use).

Not too sure what to make of it all, though. Next step, it seems,  may be social networking?...(I can only fantasise about orang utans themselves signing up to Avaaz and all the online petitions against habitat-grabbing for palm oil plantations!)

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New text-based communication aid from Toby Churchill

By Sally Millar on Monday 28th November, 2011 at 1:45pm

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Toby Churchill Ltd. are preparing to launch a new communication aid, the Lightwriter Swift  - a pocket sized dedicated text-to-speech communication device - reportedly the smallest device of its type in the world.

You can see the new device on it's UK Launch Tour, in Edinburgh, at the Corn Exchange on 7th February 2012. Get the date in your diary now.

Sign up ASAP for a free morning, afternoon or evening (6pm) seminar - or just drop in to the 'Swift Cafe' between 10 am and 8 pm.

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iPads and specialised communication aids

By Sally Millar on Thursday 17th November, 2011 at 11:06am

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Words of wisdom from the wonderful Jane Farrall, SLT at Spectronics in Oz. Everyone needs to read this. Keep reading into the second half of this short article. In summary, the iPad is fabulous but it is NOT necessarily the miracle answer to every aspect of all children's communication needs. Thanks Jane!

Jane's words reflects my own experience. It's really not an 'either / or' scenario. These days I often find myself recommending a complex specialised communication aid for school and as the 'main' resource for developing language and communication AND - yes!, why not? - a lovely iPod / iPad  (which often parents have already bought or are happy to buy themselves) for use at home/ for fun / in social situations/ out and about / when travelling etc.

But I get scared and angry when I hear about someone who has apparently recently 'advised' Scottish Government and local authorities that nobody needs an expensive communication aid any more, because an iPad and free or cheap Apps can do it all. This is an over-simplified and dangerously misleading approach that is not in the best interest of vulnerable children and adults who cannot easily speak up for themselves. People with complex communication support needs require the most appropriate and the best solution(s), not just the cheapest / most fashionable.

 

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Tarheel Reader Books on iPad

By Sally Millar on Thursday 17th November, 2011 at 10:32am

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Jane Farrall in Melbourne Australia has just published on her blog a really useful step by step instructions for how to get a free book from the Tarheel Reader site into an iPad. Good way to make appropriate materials available without having to make them yourself. (You could also run the book online, which would be even quicker and easier, but downloading it as a powerpoint into iBooks means it can be always available and stay there for the child to enjoy again and again.

If you don't know about the TarheelReader site, go and have a look. There are many short and very simple stories there, freely useable and downloadable, made in Powerpoint, all with picture and speech support, one line of text, ideal for our emergent readers and learners with complex additional support needs. For example , see here, 'my cat is fat' (choose a voice on top left and off you go). (The quality can be a bit variable, so you do need to check before you select a book for a pupil. Some are a bit too 'American- mind you, there's nothing to stop us uploading our own books to the site, good idea!)

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