Friday, May 20, 2016


...In Case You Missed It!

In the past months I have continued writing columns for ASHA Leader. A few that have been published for the web version of the magazine:

Tech Your Message Out: Private practitioners can tap easy-to-use tools to better communicate with staff, clients and families.

It’s All About Your Client: Harness the Book Creator app to make treatment relevant to your clients’ lives.

Apps That Help Teach Social Perspective: Illustrative apps can augment established approaches to helping children on the spectrum understand the social world.

I have been happy to receive a lot of good feedback on this last one. I plan to break it down with some video tutorials in the next few posts.

These column links have been added to my column archive on my FIVES Criteria and Other Free Resources Page.

I have also continued to write for the Mindwing Concepts, Inc Blog, and a few of my recent posts may be of interest:

Tech Tuesday: Chapter books and stick writing, A complementary visual strategy

Tech Tie-Ins to Autism Awareness Month

Tech Tuesday: Using emoji in narrative analysis

Opening a new chapter: Tech strategies for getting/using the context of chapter books

When the characters are a whole classroom of students: Some high and low tech tips

Aligning SGM® with Zones of Regulation®, and Tech Tie-Ins

Have a great weekend!

Note: Author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc for provision of blog and training presentation content.

Friday, May 6, 2016

MarcoPolo Arctic

I have been meaning to write about this app for some time, but it is free today (5/6/16) and fairly priced at $2.99 anyway, so pick it up! Thank you to Smart Apps for Kids for always being a great resource. Do you follow their Friday posts detailing app sales and freebies? There is a "Free App Alert" you can subscribe to on the site. The website is also a wealth of information on interactive apps, with many features on apps from an educational and therapeutic point of view-- very FIVES Criteria-friendly!

MarcoPolo's apps, such as their previous wonderful Weather entry, are "sandbox" apps encouraging interactive exploration and play within a context, specifically geared toward STEM education. However, being quite language-neutral, the visuals provide a great avenue for talk, description of items and actions, and causal and conditional language. Overall the apps can be used for developing descriptive schema (perhaps with the use of the Expanding Expression Tool) or expository text structures as well (e.g. list, sequence, cause-effect, compare-contrast) as post-activities.

Arctic (please click through to download from Smart Apps for Kids and support them) provides an interactive land-sea environment allowing you to insert and name species in different categories and interact with them (e.g. feeding). Students can also observe their behaviors as they are placed in the arctic habitat. The app also features puzzles that provide brief auditory narrations (ask wh-questions or prompt students to summarize) focusing on categories such as land animals or birds, describe body parts and functions. The app can also be paired with many books as a post-book activity (e.g. Winston of Churchill or The Emperor's Egg).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Monkey Spot

Scavenger hunts make for great speech and language activities as they require students to work with categories, use descriptive language, problem solve (and therefore use critical language forms such as because, so, if/then) and work together. Monkey Spot is a unique app, using the iOS camera as the means to capture a number of items on themed lists (note that for now this is an iPhone app only, but it can be installed on iPads, so use the link or change your app store search filter to look for iPhone apps). The app contains 7 free hunts that include several that could be done in a school setting (additional hunts such as "Look in a Book" are worth purchasing for $.99 each). Each item on the list prompts the taking of a photo, and descriptive text can also be added. Once complete, the "hunt" is saved as a slideshow in the app. For a simpler spin on this type of activity, see Alien Assignment.

Monkey Spot provides a great structure for building language in a scavenger hunt context, but you can't make your own hunts in the app as of yet. Consider Google Slides for building your own hunts. Though Google Slides is meant for presentations, you also can basically make digital workbooks with the app, and now that inserting photos is possible, you can make the same type of activity as Monkey Spot offers. Just set up a series of slides with text indicating the items to be photographed (good for working on observational skills for students with social learning challenges) and you're all set. Be sure to make a copy of your Slides file before using it with students so you will still have a blank one for your next group. Having the completed work within your Google Apps for Education account opens possibilities for sharing with students and teachers or perhaps continuing a writing project.

Take a look at Monkey Spot and then see what you can create on your own!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Voice Typing in Google Docs

Oh, my, It's been a busy month! Just got back from presenting with the Hawaii Speech-Language Hearing Convention and New York's association the week before that. Thank you to both associations and membership groups for extremely warm welcomes!

A key strategy within assistive technology is using what one already has. Many of you "already have" access to Google Docs, being part of districts who have deployed Google Apps for Education. We can benefit greatly from this suite of tools, as can our students who struggle to organize materials, hand in assignments, and generally meet the productivity requirements of the classroom. Many districts are making Google Apps available (without email turned on) for even primary grades.

Recently, Google added a speech-to-text function in Google Docs called Voice Typing. Now, speech-to-text works variably based on how students speak, but they can learn strategies to be more successful with dictation if it can be an assistive tool given their profiles. Keep in mind that this feature requires a microphone, Google Chrome Browser, and is only available on newer iPads currently.

Check out this video for a great demo of Voice Typing

See a clinically-minded overview of Voice Typing at OTs with Apps and view this list of commands to use in the feature- it does more than type, and can format text as well!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Resources for Insight and Strategic Thinking

Much of our work is about teaching strategies- a key element in generalization into situations across the day. However, we work with kids who, for a variety of reasons, may not be that "meta." As a result they can struggle to explain why they are even "at speech," let alone their exact goals or strategies to achieve them.

I recently read a very interesting article on infusing video game principles into therapy, "Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design" (Folkins, Brackenbury, Krause, and Haviland, 2016). The authors' focus was not on including actual video games in therapy but rather incorporating features of games such as "risky challenges" and "generalization" into therapy activities. The article describes how risk-taking in video games is similar to the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development and immersing oneself in "pleasant frustration," and that generalization from therapy can be promoted, as it is in video games, by using learned skills in different contexts. This article can be found on the ASHA website.

These ideas were on my mind when working with a client who a) could use a dose of engagement and b) needs support around the idea of using strategies in the classroom. An area we are working on is comprehension, including that of discourse, but also in following directions. I encountered a review of research on this by Nicole Allison (great summary, Nicole!) particularly supporting the use of a combined rehearsal and visualization strategy for following directions (Gill, Klecan-Aker, Roberts, & Fredenburg, 2003) and have been using these strategies in therapy. The authors define rehearsal as repeating/paraphrasing key elements of the direction and visualization as ‘seeing it happen,’’ or ‘‘imagining the task finished.’’ The authors indicated this strategy use was demonstrated as students repeated directions and looked at relevant objects as directions about them were given, though the visualization principle can be applied in other ways.

I don't often feature "dedicated" speech and language apps on this website, as the theme of the blog is the diverse range of contextual technologies that can be looked at "through a language lens," but a unique dedicated resource I have found helpful is School of Multistep Directions. This app has leveled contexts for students to listen to directions of varied length and complexity (many which are challenging even for me) and "follow" directions through various interactions on the screen--tapping, underlining, highlighting, etc. I especially like the contextual "Chemistry" class, which requires stirring, shaking, and addition of items to containers.

For this particular client, I have sought to build engagement and insight by including the "risky challenge" principle; I simply ask him to guess how many trials he can do accurately (and am glad he generally exceeds his guess).

Regarding the strategy use, I had initially emphasized rehearsal but the study on following directions helped me to tweak this. Though I had used a sketch (word balloons, etc) to demonstrate how rehearsal is done, I wanted to make the visualization element more clear. Enter apps. Two features of apps that make strategy use more explicit--visualizing the meta, so to speak-- are app-smashing (see the work of Greg Kulowiec) or combining apps, and use of word and thought balloons, available in any comic-making app.

So, I made this visual to support my client, who had already started to show use of the particular strategies:

It's pretty easy to app-smash and show strategic thinking in this way:
1. I screenshot one example from the School of Following Directions app.
2. I opened Doodle Buddy and made the screenshot image the background, quickly sketched the circles and arrows that represented the "visualizing", and saved that image to the photo library.
3. Then in Comics Head, I created the comic. This app has characters you can add to a single or multiple frame comic, and also allows you to add photos (I had also saved an image of an iPad so the context of following a direction in the app was clear), pinch to resize photos, layer photos, and put photos, along with text, in word and thought balloons.

Later, I will be able to duplicate and edit this comic to promote generalization to other levels in the app as well as, of course, more importantly, classroom contexts.

Folkins, J. W., Brackenbury, T., Krause, M., & Haviland, A. (2016). Enhancing the therapy experience using principles of video game design. American Journal Of Speech-Language Pathology, 25(1), 111-121. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-14-0059

Gill, C. B., Klecan-Aker, J., Roberts, T., & Fredenburg, K. A. (2003). Following directions: Rehearsal and visualization strategies for children with specific language impairment. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 19(1), 85.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Read Works Provides Access to Handy Text Passages

Expository text passages are handy for language intervention. There's a lot you can teach with a passage as a context!

I attended (well, watched from an "overflow theater") a great presentation at ASHA Convention in Denver, Practical Strategies for Middle School and High School Language Learning Disorders (Wallach, Bartholomew & Charlton), that covered a number of strategies that can be practiced in the context of expository (or narrative) text:
-Recognizing and interpreting subordinate clauses
-Sentence Combining (see the work and resources of Killagon)
-Teaching Self-Monitoring and Metacognition (I've recently been putting the TWA Strategy on a Bookmark for students:

-Within the above, supporting comprehension and expression (summarizing) is analysis of text structure and use of graphic organizers; Mindwing's Thememaker® and the Thinking Maps programs are both approaches to understanding expository text structure.

So, where to get the contexts? I recently discovered ReadWorks- this website provides free access to reading passages and much more, with skill and strategy units on many topics in comprehension. The passages are searchable or organized by various categories--they are also Lexile-leveled. The website recently released a collection geared toward expository text structures as mentioned above.

Check out Readworks and sign up for a free account. The website is iPad-friendly, so you can activate Speak Screen while using a passage to have it read aloud, or download and "Open In..." an app such as Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to use highlighting and other annotation tools. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

EdCamp Access- Near to MA? Register!

I am happy to be helping to organize the EdCamp Access unconference this year. Hope to see some of you there. Information is below!

EdCampAccess, in the tradition of EdCamps that have taken place around the world, is an unconference devoted to K -12 educators who work with struggling learners. It is not limited to special educators, but anyone who wants to reach students who struggle with reading, writing, organization, behaviors, executive function skills, etc. It will start with a student panel and then evolve into a "collaborative conference" where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. As is the format for unconferences, we do not schedule any sessions; instead, we do so together as a group at the start of the day. Attendees may choose to facilitate a session, lead discussions or attend sessions of interest to further their professional learning.
Where: Marshall Simonds Middle School 114 Winn Street Burlington, MA
When: April 30, 2016
Registration begins at 8:30
App Smackdown and prizes at 2:30
Closing remarks - 3:15
Cost: FREE

Patric Barbieri - @PatricBarbieri
Karen Janowski - @karenjan
Beth Lloyd - @lloydcrew
Sean Sweeney - @speechtechie


Friday, March 4, 2016

A Simple Idea: Helping technology work for you, not against you

I recently started individual therapy with a little friend who I also see in a group. In this group, we have used social pictures to build situational awareness with strategies such as Ward & Jacobsen's STOP acronym (Space, Time, Objects, People). I continue to find my iPad very useful for this as one can find and save pictures easily, and when displaying from the Photos app, it also serves as an engagement tool.

However, kiddo has a cute little habit of sweeping the picture to the next or previous one when the group is discussing pictures. This seems to be hysterical for some reason, and it can result in a "Silly Tornado (per Social Thinking®) for the rest of the group, and a Yellow Zone for me.

In individual therapy, we are working on comprehension and starting out the Visualizing and Verbalizing® program, and I saved a simple kid-oriented picture of a child on a bike to work on introducing the structure words for describing a gestalt. The past behavior occurred to me and I wondered if Guided Access would allow me to disable sweeping to another picture. It does- simply toggle the Touch switch off at the bottom of the screen and, no sweeping!

I admit to a little self-satisfaction when there was in fact an attempt to "follow one's own plan" and sweep the picture, but it also allowed for a quick teachable moment about why that restriction needed to be put in place, and what to do in the future to earn more trust from others. And we focused on the activity with no power struggles.

For instructions on how to use Guided Access, click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Valentine to Doodle Buddy- Part 4

All you need is love and Doodle Buddy. Well, that's not true, but to complete my valentine to Doodle Buddy, here are a few final thoughts! Got more? Please let us know in the comments!

Comic Strip Conversations: Doodle Buddy is an easy place to implement Carol Gray's method of using sketching to indicate setting, people, scripts and perspectives (word/thought balloons) to preview or review a social situation.

Future Picture/Future Self in a Situation: Executive Function Specialists Sarah Ward and Kristin Jacobsen have developed great methods and vocabulary for executive functioning therapy. Making a "future picture" involves using photo or making a sketch of a task based on what it is going to look like when it is done. Doodle Buddy is of course a great sketching tool-see the above mini-golf hole that we planned to make from pool noodles and a Playmobil farmhouse as an obstacle, which greatly helped the kids to work together to construct the hole. You can also add a photo as a background and annotate it with circles to highlight features of the future picture, as well as text annotations. A group of mine has had a great deal of difficulty with transitioning within and out of sessions, so Doodle Buddy assisted in previewing situations and talking about our "future self." This helped the students focus on the relevant spaces for transitioning through the waiting room, for example, the coat rack and not the feelings calendar on the desk, and objects such as coats, among other discussion points. One beauty of Doodle Buddy is that you can then change the background and talk about how the situation would be "same but different" in a different setting.

Provide nonverbal feedback in the moment: Doodle Buddy is also available on the iPhone. If the therapy context is not one in which I have my iPad handy, I keep shots such as the numbers from The Incredible 5-Point Scale available in my Favorites (in the Photos app). This enables me to provide quick, nonverbal feedback to a group without shouting over them or interrupting. This has been useful after teaching a group scales such as a "chaos" scale (1-5 ranging from no one talking to multiple people raising their voice chaotically, in which case I might display my device with a "4" on it when things are getting out of control) or topicality (1-5 ranging from connected comment/question to uncomfortable shift in topic, which I might use if a group member makes a comment that is a 4- WTC or Whopping Topic Change).

Thanks for enduring my poorly drawn visuals, which I have nonetheless found very useful in scaffolding language, social, and executive function skills!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Valentine to Doodle Buddy- Part 3

Love means never having to say "WHERE ARE MY MARKERS?"

In this exploration of the free app Doodle Buddy, I have been giving examples of how I find this deceptively simple app very useful on a day-to-day basis. Using one app in many ways is a suggested remedy for App Fatigue- being overwhelmed by an internal pressure to keep up with all the apps available- perhaps resulting in giving up on using technology, a contextual and engaging tool, in your work!

A few additional loving examples are offered below as we approach Valentine's Day, though I encourage you to add your ideas in the comments.

Visualizing an idea or story setting: I recently was reading along with a group the book Iron Thunder, the story of the critical battle between the ironclad ships Merrimack and Monitor during the Civil War. An important plot element is the main character's role during a key battle: to run between the turret and the wheelhouse to convey orders from the captain about what and where to shoot. This was a very spatial situation for students to grasp and benefitted from a sketch; this also allowed us to reference previous story elements such as the storm that damaged the speaking tube between the turret and wheelhouse. Visualizing in this way formed a scaffolding to cause-effects relationships in the story and its overall story grammar. This sketch above was actually made in Paper by Fifty-Three, a similar app, during a time where Doodle Buddy was in need of an update, but you can also see a sketch of the ship as an overall setting, based on a text passage.

Stickwriting Stories: Similar to the above idea, Stickwriting (Ukrainetz, 1998) is a "...strategy in which children represent the characters, settings, and sequences of actions with simple, chronologically or episodically organized stick-figure drawings. As a quick and easy representational strategy, pictography is applicable to both individual language intervention and inclusive classroom settings." Doodle Buddy provides all the tools needed to bring Stickwriting to any context, and engagement to boot. In the above picture, we used Stickwriting as a strategy alongside the We Can Make it Better program; in this series of stories, students are presented with social situations gone wrong and cued to "make it better" through social narrative problem solving and pose "instead of..." scenarios. Maria had refused to help Bob rake the leaves for jumping piles, and the student here illustrated how they could work together to make piles. I have found that it's helpful and more salient (and supportive of more oral narrative practice) for students to illustrate alternative scenarios rather than simply describe the actions.

Illustrate concepts on the fly: I work with an adult client who has significant regulation and processing issues. Doodle Buddy is often helpful for me to write/illustrate key ideas in lessons and discussions, and grabs his attention as well. Above you see a lesson about the structure of conversation and strategies for accepting/responding to others' opinions in interactions. Using Doodle Buddy has the additional benefit of providing a sharable visual to his caregivers about strategies we have addressed in sessions. Keep in mind you can also easily add text to a Doodle Buddy sketch.

Provide simple visuals about methodologies: If I don't have, say, a Zones of Regulation visual or Social Behavior Map handy, no problem. I can just do a quick drawing as you see above re: Zones. In some cases this enables me to provide a teen- or adult-friendly visual whereas the methodology visuals may be geared toward younger students.

A few last ideas will follow tomorrow!