Friday, April 30, 2010

Many Autism apps Free- until May 1!

I am sure I heard this somewhere and should have posted it, but many of the Autism-related apps for iPhone, iPod or iPad were available for free during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month. Try out a bunch today if you can!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Video Social Story: Personal Space

Video social stories are a great resource but a bit time-consuming to create. Perhaps I will focus on this in a future post! Thanks to Lori Franzella, a friend and colleague of mine, for pointing this one out to me. The author, Maria Scaffadi, does a great job of illustrating the concepts. If you were to set about making a video social story, I think this author has the right idea about the visuals. Despite the abundance of downloadable images available online, it is likely that you would spend hours and hours and still not find what you need for a movie of this kind. Might as well just draw and scan 'em!

Please leave a comment if you feel that you would like to see how to create a movie like this!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SpeechTechie on Mindwing's Blog

Hey folks!  I am really excited to be guest blogging for Mindwing Concepts-- the creators of wonderful visual-kinesthetic tools to address language comprehension and organization across a wide range of student populations.  You may know their Story Grammar Marker® and ThemeMaker® tools for narrative and expository language development--if not, they are a great place to start!

I will be posting about discourse skill development on their blog about twice a month, and will cross-post here, so please click on through.  In this post, I created a screencast and described the use of digital storytelling site Kerpoof (kind of an online KidPix) for narrative skill development.

According to the FTC guidelines, I will disclose with each of these cross-posts (and in other references to Mindwing products) that I have a contractual relationship with Mindwing as a guest writer. In no other instances am I compensated to review or endorse products or technology resources (i.e. websites).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reading Feet

Many resources designed to help people use body language to succeed in business or romance would be appropriate to use in sessions with our teen or adult clients with social cognitive deficits. Check out this video from body language expert Carol Kinsey Goman on BNET. The video has specific examples of gestures people make with their feet that provide clues about whether they want to talk to you or not.

For example, this woman doesn't, because although she looks attentive, her feet are pointing away. She's totally over whatever the heck you are saying, and wants to go back into her fancy sliding glass door office. Where you aren't.

Crud. I probably do that with my feet all the time!

This video provides a nice jumping off point to some practice sessions with a pragmatic group!

Monday, April 26, 2010


SLPs and teachers of all sorts are increasingly using data-driven interventions and formative assessments that help us figure out what to do next.  Also, whether in public school or private settings, we are addressing specific goals and reporting progress though data collected during sessions.  I must confess this has never been a particular strength of mine, and I work toward new organizational systems all the time--the problem being that this piece of paper or that post-it on which I took a cue tally might have just disappeared into some netherworld.  Percentally is an iPhone/iPod Touch app that provides a great solution to these challenges by allowing you to store all this data electronically, without being tied to a cumbersome laptop (or desktop!) during your sessions.  Percentally was designed by Jason Rinn and SLP (and SpeechTechie reader) Eric Sailers, and is available on the iTunes store at the extreme bargain price of $2.99!  Here are some screenshots that show how it works.

The opening screen of the app allows you to add folders for groups, activities, or whatever works for you.  I created some mock folders for a 5th grade group and a client with whom I use Lindamood-Bell's Talkies program.

I am really big on "level of cues" type of goals- it's often pretty impossible to work in a larger context or functional academic task and use percentages (but Percentally obviously does that too- see below).  Once you set up your tallies, all you need to do is tap the space you are tracking during the task, and a cue is tallied.  How cool is that??

Here you can see how this would work in a percent-accurate kind of tally.  But, wait, we're not done...what good is all this data as stored in your iPhone?  Well, you can export by sending it to email or your Google Docs (brilliantbrilliantbrilliant).

Take a look at two exported spreadsheets I created here and here.

I highly recommend you try Percentally on your iPhone or iPod.  And if you don't have one, get one!!  Don't miss that Apple sells a refurbished iPod Touch for cheap, and that if you do any private work, it's likely that you could write such equipment off...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

iPosts- comin' up!

Today I am writing from my back porch and enjoying some beautiful weather while on school vacation in Boston!

Moving forward after vacation, I would definitely like to feature some apps for iPod/iPad, perhaps one each week, so be watching for that. I have a few readers who have developed some great apps, and I really believe in these platforms as great resources for SLPs and teachers of all kinds. Most are founded on interactivity and ease of use, and these benefit all of us. Also, and although this may be a controversial viewpoint, I have always found the cost associated with software and devices in the AAC realm to be staggering, given how limited these technologies are. I have no doubt that they have enhanced the lives of countless people, but, with competing resources in the market, I think they are going to have to get with the program. I should say for full disclosure that I am generally more experienced with mild-moderately impacted populations, so am hardly claiming to know everything about these technologies and techniques.

But, let's take, just for example, Boardmaker Plus! v.6 ($399) maybe coupled with a Go Talk 20 ($249)--a pricey, very limited communication system, not even accounting for the cost in your time producing, laminating, and recording these boards.

I am interested to see where all this is going. Here is an article about Grace App, an iPod Touch application that acts as a kind of Picture Exchange Communication System for nonverbal students. I realize (and the article acknowledges) that it is not the same as PECS--I imagine the aspects of intentionality and obtaining others' attention might be harder to establish. Grace app is available for less than $40 from the iTunes Store. Thanks to my friend Brian Ciemian for sharing this article with me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Interesting Use for Legos

SpeechTechie is going on April school vacation, along with me, and on a trip to New York City. I may give a shout-out during the coming week, but will mostly be vacating!

Speaking of NYC, check out Christoph Niemann's totally cool creations on his Abstract City Blog. His photos, later published as a book, are a fun look at life in New York, said life created entirely with Legos.

I think our students would love to have a look!

Language Lens

  • I Lego New York would be a really fun way to talk about schema and associations- what makes New York...New York? 4th graders or any students studying U.S. Geography would especially benefit from this.
  • Obscuring the captions would make a great descriptive guessing game.
  • Do you have any Legos yourself? Think of a topic, like a shared book, science or social studies theme, and have kids create their own Lego abstractions on the theme that get at the essence of the word or concept. Pair kids to accomplish the task and it becomes a pragmatic language activity.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Do you ever administer Linguisystems' Test of Problem Solving, in whatever version you have? I always liked this assessment, which taps students' background knowledge and ability to explain things that are, well, common sense. It also struck me as evaluating skills that are necessary in our language-heavy curriculum, with literature circles asking students to explain what they think and why. However, I always regret that time and lack of good resources (frankly, the old TOPS kit and new Tasks of Problem Solving are drill-and-practice snoozefests) limit our ability to address those skills that we may find lacking. How do we build real-world problem solving skills?

One interesting resource in this regard is Swedish if Insurance's (what a great name for an insurance company) Bad-Luck-O-Meter. This is another website with a commercial purpose that can be leveraged for our own needs (I am rubbing my hands together evilly as I write). The site presents 10 timed tasks that ask you to solve a safety-related problem, and would lead to some great discussion with your students. Perhaps a list of "notes to self" could be generated as each task is completed. It's beautifully designed and you can simply skip the offers of "Would you like to find out more about if's alarms (etc.) after the test?"

This task asks students to place alarms in the most effective household locations.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What does the government do?

Here's another (tax) timely activity, strongly tied to curriculum standards around understanding our government.  For our students, it's a great categorization activity that builds background knowledge in a constructivist kind of way! The activity involves using Kidspiration to sort government entities, functions and services into local, state, and federal categories. Kidspiration is not something I have mentioned here before, but it really is a great software package.  I would recommend trying the free demo from Inspiration's website if you need the software to open the file, and I will be talking about substitutes to this program in the future.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nifty online ABC book

ABC books, I have always found, can be innovative and fun ways to address a variety of skills besides learning the ABCs. Bembo's Zoo is an online, interactive, and dazzlingly animated version of Roberto deVicq de Cumptich's book. The flash-enabled version of the site brings you to an ABC menu (and fun trailing alphabet cursor), and then to corresponding animals that are built from the letters of their name, like Mr. Elephant here:
Language Lens
  • Students can be asked to predict what animal has been assigned to each letter, as a nice word retrieval task.
  • The actual appearance of each animal is a bit transient--on the screen only briefly--but this could be fun! Ask students to identify which letters form which animal body parts. For an extension activity, students could form their own letter-built animals.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yet More Earth Day...

EekoWorld's house activity is an engaging interactive learning activity, again from PBS. Kids can navigate around a house, enjoy great graphics and animations, locate problems and make choices that hurt or benefit the environment.

Language Lens
  • While developing environmental responsibility, kids will practice referencing parts of a house, including rooms, furniture and appliances.
  • Clear causal connections are made between choices and their effects on the environment, providing an opportunity to model and elicit complex sentence structures.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A little more Earth Day...

The Eco Zoo is a beautiful interactive site featuring the adventures of different animals who make eco-friendly choices. You can select an animal and then open its "pop-up book," then click and drag around to see the 3D effects of the books from different angles! The stories are very basic and somewhat odd in their conclusions (I think something is lost in the Japanese translation), but kids would love them.

Language Lens
  • These stories can be used to focus on problem-solution aspects of narrative.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Earth Day is coming up...

Check out some of the Green Games from PBS.  Some of them tend toward the arcade-y, with speedy responses required (which doesn't leave a lot of room for the clinician to interject, discuss or model in any kind of meaningful way), but Thrifty Threads is a fun, expressive design game about recycling and adding new life to dour old clothing.

Language Lens
This activity would provide good opportunities to emphasize the category of clothing, describe and explain choices, and perhaps compare and contrast with what students are currently wearing.  Maybe pair it with a hands-on activity in a similar vein (if you are craftsy) to drive the green message home.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Subscribing to SpeechTechie (and other blogs)

This is a screencast I made on how to subscribe to SpeechTechie and other blogs you might find interesting.  "Subscribing" means viewing blogs in an RSS Aggregator such as Google Reader, so that you don't have to remember to go to your favorite blogs individually to check for updates.

Here's a good list. And another.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Find movie clips!

The free film clip search engine Movieclips allows you to use some very interesting criteria to search its archive, including searching according to mood and character type. As movieclips allows you to view portions of all sorts of commercially released films, it would of course be a good idea to preview whatever you might want to present to students so it will be a swear-word free experience.

Language Lens
Presenting film clips depicting a certain mood or character type (e.g. "exciting" or "athlete"), in addition to other search criteria on the site, would be a great way to target emotional vocabulary, reading nonverbals, and story grammar.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Go back to Colonial Times

SLPs in public schools or those working privately with school-aged clients do well to make activities contextual and relevant to the classroom curriculum. One of my interests with this blog is to make that easy to do!

A few years back, PBS had a series of reality shows in which ordinary people were transported to a historical context, such as a New England colony. While Colonial House is no longer on the air, its website is still up and filled with activities for students studying early American history. The site features video diaries from the participants and interactives such as the "Would you have survived in the colony?" quiz and the activities below:

Language Lens:
  • Providing visuals and interaction with curriculum material is always a good use of therapy time.
  • The video diaries would be a good opportunity to work on auditory comprehension.
  • The interactive activities provide a context to work on information mapping with graphic organizers, and the 360-degree tours would be nice visual stimuli to use one of the Thinking Routines previously highlighted here.
  • Curriculum texts can be used to make connections and comparisons to the experiences of the modern-day "colonists."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

iPad is available today!

I am really curious to see what happens with Apple's new iPad.  I am not sure whether it will truly fly or flop, or how much it will penetrate the education market. Myself, I think I will resist the temptation to run out and get one right away. Being an early adopter can have some real disadvantages, as version 2.0 of anything often has more features at a lower cost.  However, this video from DK showing some mockups of their books in iPad form really blew my mind. How nice it will be for our students if their reading materials can become this multisensory and interactive!  What do you think?  Is the iPad the future of reading?  Thanks to the blog Dangerously Irrelevant for featuring this video.

Friday, April 2, 2010

World Autism Day

The New York Times published a wonderful interactive today in observance of World Autism Day. It portrays the experience of autism from six different voices, with a slideshow for each. There's a lot to think about there. I could see this resource being used with teens or adults who are ready to talk about their diagnosis. From a technology perspective, I was impressed by the perspective of Mac Dean, 15, who talks about how difficult conversation can be, but how video games (and playing/communicating with others) have helped him feel connected.

Thank you to Social Thinking's Facebook Page for posting this resource.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Learn the value of a dollar around tax time!

The design your own bill interactive is a fun creative/interactive activity from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, maybe useful for April 15! Kids can make their own currency complete with "president" and all the aspects of a bill.

Language Lens:

  • Use this activity with other resources to build background knowledge around economic concepts such as money and taxes.
  • Kids' creations can be compared to images of actual currency for comparing/contrasting and further schema development, as well as addressing mathematics standards around money.
  • Their final creation would be a good context for a writing activity, such as a description of the bill or perhaps a more imaginative assignment: what did you do to end up being honored with your own currency (targeting sequence of events).

eNature- A multisensory wildlife search engine

At the elementary level, 3rd Grade kids at my school always researched trees in the fall and animals of New England in the spring.  eNature is a great way to help kids with this kind of assignment, while providing a multisensory language experience.  The site allows you to search and display the wildlife that lives in your zip code.  I was surprised to find that Horned Grebes live right around the corner from me in good old 02122! I bet your kids would be excited to connect abstract curriculum information to their own backyard.  You are able to listen to animals' sounds (such as bird calls), thus engaging multiple senses. The site requires you to enter an email address, but not to login.

Language Lens:
  • The site is organized by species and provides a good opportunity to review animal categories at a more advanced, curriculum-based level.  Geographic concepts- such as comparing and contrasting the animals found near two different U.S. Cities, would also make a nice lesson
  • Try using the individual plant and animal description pages (which are very schema-based) to practice taking notes with graphic organizers.