Programming an Activity Page in Proloquo2go

Another great feature of Proloquo2go is the ability to set up Activity Pages. You can make them for anything. Books, special events, special seasonal crafts.

Below is a video of how to program an Activity Page for Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Feel free to share.

 

Creating an Activity Page

  1. Select the Edit Button (the pencil icon at the bottom of the screen).
  2. Select the New Folder icon (folder with a + sign inside).
  3. Select New Folder
  4. Select your desired Template from list on left hand side of screen.
  5. Select Next.
  6. Type in Name of New Folder.
  7. Select a picture/symbol.
  8. Select Done.
  9. Make desired edits (add characters, verbs, items, etc.)

 

 

Exporting and Importing Activity Pages in Proloquo2go

One of my favorite functions of Proloquo2go is how EASY it is to send files that you’ve created to numerous users using Dropbox. This is a quick video on how to do that for those of you who are visual learners.

Exporting to the Dropbox App

(Make sure Dropbox Integration is turned on in options > Dropbox and that you have installed and are logged into Dropbox on your iPad).

  1. Go to Edit Mode (little pencil icon)
  2. Select the button(s) you want to export (a checkmark will indicate that you’ve selected the icon).
  3. Select the Export/Import button (the right and left arrows at the bottom of the screen).
  4. Select EXPORT TO DROPBOX
  5. Confirm export.

 

Import from Dropbox App

  1. Open Dropbox app (sign in if you haven’t already)
  2. Open the Apps.
  3. Open Proloquo2Go folder.
  4. Select a file.
  5. A message will appear stating “Unable to view file”.
  6. Select the Open button (square with upward arrow) in the top-right corner.
  7. Select Open in…,
  8. Select Open in Proloquo2Go.

Dinner Winner for Picky Eaters

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This is one of my new favorite things: Dinner Winner by Fred Toys. Basically, it’s a lunch tray setup like a game board. It’s pretty self-explanatory; you place foods in the tray, the child eats the items one compartment at a time, and they get their treat at the end.

I’ve been using this for my picky eaters.  The visual element might make more sense for kids than simply “cleaning their plate,” and having them work step-by-step towards a concrete reward is helpful.  Oh, and instead of an edible treat at the end, I’ve used smaller toys or picture cards to represent rewards (i.e. an iPad picture for 10 minutes of iPad time). Of course, it’s a little more complicated than just that. For example, you’ll need to consider where your child is in terms of food adversity, so consult your therapist so they can show you how to use it for your picky eater at home. Every kid is different, and therefore will need different directions, supports, etc.

Another benefit of this item is that it’s portable. You can take this bad boy on vacation or to restaurants. Using this familiar item in unfamiliar places may help your child understand that even though the place is new, the expectations are the same.

Here is the Amazon link if you want to buy it: Dinner Winner on Amazon.

Bon Appétit!

How to use Guided Access (with video)

I’ve had a lot of families asking about using Guided Access lately. For those who don’t know, Guided Access is a great feature that allows you to disengage the home button and parts of the user’s screen, effectively locking them INTO an app. It’s a must have for use of the iPad as a communication device. Here are the steps to set it up, as well as a video that goes over  how to use it (for those of you who are visual learners).

Setting up Guided Access:

  • Go to SETTINGS.
  • Select GENERAL.
  • Select ACCESSIBILITY.
  • Select GUIDED ACCESS.
  • Turn on Guided Access by PUSHING button on RIGHT SIDE (it will turn green).
  • Select PASSCODE SETTINGS.
  • Select SET GUIDED ACCESS PASSCODE.
  • Enter passcode of your choice (WRITE IT DOWN SOMEWHERE ELSE). Note: If your client knows the password to turn ON the device, use the same passcode for the Guided Access Option.
  • Select ACCESSIBILITY SHORTCUT (button will turn green)
  • Select TIME LIMITS (Optional)

Here’s the video:

 

 

AN UPDATE TO THE UPDATE!!! Medicaid Approved Apple Devices Are Back.

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So, lots of you are aware of the issues with Medicaid pulling funding from Talk to Me Technologies. Well, after many phone calls, emails, and trial cases, they re-approved coverage of Talk to Me Technologies devices.

Please contact Wyatt (info below) if you have further questions.

Wyatt Franken of Talk To Me Technologies (TTMT) presented to a group of SLPs last year and provided us with great information. Here are some highlights.

Handheld/ portable devices:

  • They offer WEGO 5A, 7A, 10A, and 13A. The number is the screen size and the ‘A’ stands for Apple. The 5A is an iPhone 6 Plus, the 7A is an iPad mini, the 10A is an iPad, and the 13A is an iPad pro.
  • They also have 2 devices that are Windows-based, the Zuvo 12 and Zuvo 18HD. All devices come with cases and external speakers.
  • Straps, stands, and carrying cases are included.
  • Their vocabulary/page set options are WordPower, TouchChat, Gateway, Grid Player, Proloquo2go, and LAMP Words for Life on the Apple devices, and Word Power PODDs on the Windows devices.
  • Switches via blue tooth are available.
  • Keyboards, made in-house by TTMT, are available.
  • The fee to ‘unlock’ the device is $75, out-of-pocket. This is NOT covered by the patient’s insurance.

Eye-gaze devices:

  • TTMT offers two eye-gaze devices, the eyespeak 12 and the eyespeak 18HD. They are 3.5 and 6.75 lbs respectively and each comes with the eyespeak eye tracking camera.
  • These are Windows 10 devices, not iOS (i.e. Apple) devices.
  • The battery life on the 12 is 9+ hours The 18 has a 8+ hour battery life.
  • Calibration settings can be changed from 1-15 points depending on the users needs.
  • Their vocabulary/page set options are Alphacore, PODD, WordPower, Zoom, Quickstep, and Onward.
  • The fee to ‘unlock’ the device is $75, out-of-pocket. This is NOT covered by the patient’s insurance. Unlocking them allows the user to access and control other apps (i.e. educational games) on the device. NOTE: This feature was not demonstrated at the presentation but we were told it is possible and works well.

Insurance:

  • Medicaid/Medicare will pay for these devices, including whatever language app you choose. They are considered DME/DSGD (durable medical equipment/dedicated speech generating devices).

Other Highlights:

  • Loans for trial periods are complimentary.
  • If you edit a user profile or language set during the trial period, the company saves it for you so you can upload it once you receive the device.
  • They give the user a vocabulary inventory guide to obtain information about the user (i.e name, interests, etc). This is then programmed by the company for the user before the device is even shipped.
  • The company does provide report templates.
  • They offer orientation training to the client and the clients support network.
  • All devices come with a 3 year warranty (or 4 major screen breaks).
  • All devices come with lifetime phone/tech support from TTMT.

This is big news in the AAC world here in South Carolina. Please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me, Clay, at readysettalkllc@gmail.com. Wyatt’s information is below as well.

Wyatt Franken

Office: 1-877-392-2299 ext 732

Cell: 1-319-464-1107

Email: wyatt@talktometechnologies.com

Disclosure: I am not being paid by or receiving benefits from TTMT.

 

Please Take a Minute to Read Your Kids a Book About Zombies.

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My three-year-old loves books. At the moment, he is devouring all things scary. It started with a Curious George Halloween book wherein, George and his friends try to solve the mystery of No-Noggin’, a headless scarecrow that kicks off the hats of passersby.  Believe me, this is terrifying  if you’re 3. His other favorites are Scooby Doo: Museum Madness, 10 Little Monsters, and I Need My Monster.

Before scary stuff, he was obsessed with Paw Patrol. And before that, The Avengers. The point is, his tastes change over time, and he’s only 3.

Now, consider this. I work with a kiddo who just completed the second grade. He is on the autism spectrum, and has been receiving therapy services since before he was 1. His special education teachers were concerned last year because every time they sat down for circle time to read a book, he would start to exhibit, wait for it, ‘negative behaviors.’ He’d begin by protesting, and it would escalate to hitting, kicking, and throwing his communication device. Obviously, this was a problem.

What was the antecedent to these behaviors? Was it the transition to circle time? Was there a sensory trigger like the pillows or the carpet the kids were sitting on? Was he simply ‘being bad?

His parents and I started to investigate what was happening. At some point we turned to his classroom reading list. This particular little boy was in the 2nd grade. He had the same teacher and peers for 2 years. He had been in the same classroom for 2 years. And, as we found out, he had the same reading list, for 2 years.

That’s right, he and his classmates had the same reading list they had the previous year. The list was made of classics like Brown Bear Brown Bear, Goodnight Moon, and  Go Dog Go. This list was also going to be the same list the school would use for this classroom the following year.

So this was my theory: This child was exhibiting so-called negative behaviors because he was loosing his mind from reading or being read the same books over and over and over again. He’d been in therapy since he was one. Imagine how many times he’d read about Brown Bear and what Brown Bear had seen. Probably countless. Imagine being read the same list of books for years and years. Would you feel like having nervous breakdown? Would you exhibit ‘negative behaviors’? I might.

It’s hard to come up with new ways activities and things to do with kids. We, as therapists and teachers, find something that works, and we stick with it. Because it works. Because there are materials created for these books or activities that we put numerous hours into creating.  This makes sense. I’m guilty of it for sure.

When it comes to working with kids with delays or who use agumentative and alternative communication devices (also known as speech generating devices) this is especially true. Coming up with and developing NEW treatment materials is a drag, it’s time-consuming, and there is no real way to know if it’s going to work with a kid. There is nothing worse than planning for a lesson, creating new materials, and then having that lesson bomb. Further, many of these kids like and respond well to repetition, so maybe we should keep activities familiar.

However, repetition that is the manifestation of the fear of challenging our children or ourselves is a problem.

To be clear, I’m not blaming teachers, therapists, or teachers aides for the problems mentioned above. I come from a family of teachers, and few people work harder. Blame doesn’t get us anywhere, and almost everyone I’ve ever met who works with kids with special needs truly wants the best for them.

I think the problem is simple: There isn’t enough time.

A recent federal study tells us teachers, therapists, and administrators spend “20 to 30 percent of their time, on onerous and often-duplicative administrative tasks.” In a 40 hour work week, that amounts to 8 to 12 hours minimum, though most teachers work way more than 40 hours a week.  If we consider just 40 hours, then that leaves 28 hours per week for teaching and 12 for administrative tasks. School days are approximately 8 hours long, depending on the age of the kid, so that leaves 5.6 hours a day to teach kids. Also, the teachers aren’t leaving these kids unattended for 2-3 hours a day, so in all likely hood this work is all being done after the kids leave or when the teachers are at home. No wonder teachers haven’t discovered Peanut Butter and Jelly Brains. It’s understandably not even on their radar.  Teachers and therapists need more time to create new materials. Heck, they need more time to DISCOVER new materials.

Where does this leave us? As professionals, we need to, when appropriate, break from the comfort of repetition. How would I know that the kid I mentioned above loves Minion books if I had never shown them to him? Unfortunately, breaking out of these cycles can’t happen without us as parents and professionals affording therapists and teachers the time to find and create new ways to teach our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality and Speech Therapy

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Here’s my new favorite tool to use in speech therapy: Virtual reality (VR) headsets. Yup. In speech therapy.

Virtual reality is a term you’ve probably heard before. Just to be clear this isn’t the type of VR that you’d see in a The Matrix. What we are working with isn’t going to make you feel like you Neo.

I’m talking about 360 degree VR videos. These videos allow you to turn your device (i.e. phone, tablet, etc.) in order to explore the computerized environment more fully. Here’s a great example from The National Autistic Society’s YouTube page that allows you to see the world through the eyes of a child with autism. A fair warning, this is a pretty stimulating video with lots of odd noises and flashing lights. I wouldn’t recommend it if you or your client happen to be prone to strobe induced seizures. Also, this video is going to look odd if you’re just at your computer, so view it on your phone or tablet. And make sure to move the screen up, down, left, and right because that’s what makes it awesome.

In case that’s not up your alley, here’s a few more videos to check out:

The live action Jungle Book.

Mega Rollercoaster.

Walking in a tiger cage.

What you’ll need to start:

  1. A VR Headset: There are a ton to choose from. I’ve tried Google Cardboard and the Topmaxions 3D VR Headset. I like Google Cardboard, but was nervous that my phone would slide out of the sides of it (which it eventually did). A little bit of tape was a good temporary fix, but that’s not really a great answer. Also, these headsets are harder to clean off between kiddos because they are, well, made of cardboard. On the plus side, I like how the strap comes off so that you can hold it in your hand. The strap could easily annoy some of kiddos we work with. Also, this one is smaller and secures to a child’s head fairly well. Another option,  Topmaxions 3D VR Headset,  encases your phone and is much more secure. However, I imagine that kids will find it a little intimidating. It’s also a little bulky and hangs loosely on kids with smaller (kid sized) heads. These are also super easy to clean, because they are mostly plastic. The good news is that both headsets are about $20.00, so they won’t break the bank. And just because I think this tech is cool, here’s an Amazon link for VR Headsets.
  2. A phone: Right now, I’m using my iPhone 6, which seems to work really well. Under the descriptions of each of the above VR headsets, it should tell you which phones are compatible, so find one that fits your phone.
  3. Headphones/earbuds: These are optional and really depend on the kid. Some kids may not tolerate headphones, but it does make the experience more immersive.  Obviously, if you’re going to be using audio and want the kids to wear headphones, don’t do earbuds, for hygiene reasons, unless the kid brings them from home. Here are some headphones that limit the volume of the videos for you, so things won’t get eardrum-busting-loud for your kid.
  4. Apps or YouTube: So, what do we watch? There are tons of videos on YouTube that you can use (see above), but be careful and always screen for content before just picking a video. I recommend finding some, watching them yourself, and adding them to a playlist that you can access later. As far as apps go, there are lots of free ones, but as is often the case with apps, not all of them are quality. The one app I am enjoying the most right now is Discovery VR. Within this app, there are lots of short videos, that take you underwater, on a rollercoaster, or even to a drum circle. So far, all the ones I’ve watched are kid friendly. Google Cardboard has an app, but it’s limited and mostly just directs you to other apps. Google Street View has a Cardboard option that’s pretty fun and allows to you explore areas in your community if people have made 3D pictures of the desired place. With Google Street there is no sound, so it’s not quite as over stimulating or immersive, depending on what you’re looking for.

 

That’s all you need to begin. Of course you can get as deep in to this as you want. There are very expensive headsets, and even remotes that can help you navigate through some of the VR worlds, but that’s not necessary to start. When you get things up and running have your kids describe what they see. Are things moving fast or slow? Are you high up off the ground or way down deep in the ocean? What do you think the lion feels like based on what he looks like? The questions really are endless. VR can open up entire new worlds for some of these kids.

So tell me, have you tried VR yet with your kids at work? If so, how’d it go? Please share your ideas and comments with the rest of us. I’d also love to hear from OTs and PTs who have used this tech.

DISCLAIMER: You probably know this, but check with your families before using VR. Some families have very strict rules about screen time and content. Also, make sure the kid you’re working with is not prone to seizures. I have not read of this tech inducing them, but rather be safe than sorry.

 

What Do You See?

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Before we start, what do you see in the picture above? Take a second.

If you don’t know me, you might say, “It’s a mom and her kid.”

If you know me, you might say, “That’s Lisa and Denver, when he was a baby.”

If you’re my mom or mother-in-law, you might say “That’s my beautiful grandson and his wonderful mommy.”

If you’re me, then you might say, “Those are two of the most important people in my life.”

If you’re my wife, you might say, “It’s a picture of me and Denver on the first day I had to go back to work after being home with him. It was so hard to leave him. I hated it.”

If you’re Tommy, a 7-year-old aspie I worked with way back when, you might say, “Target.”

Look in the background of the picture. You see it?

I mentioned in a previous post how important it is to think about the world from the point of view of the kids we live and work with. If you bend the constructs of what you perceive the world to be, even just slightly, then you might be able to understand these kids more fully. If you can do this, then maybe you can work with them more efficiently. If you work with them more efficiently, then maybe, just maybe, that child will have better outcomes.

Let me give you a more concrete example. Names and dates have been changed.

I worked with a kiddo who loves to color. He is a natural artist. If he sees a coloring book, especially one with a certain, red car from a certain Pixar movie, he HAS to have it.

Anyway, this kiddo was having tons of difficulty completing work in class, specifically worksheets. The school had tried limiting sensory stimuli. They tried a token system. They  tried just about everything.

One day, this kiddo’s parents showed me the sheets they were working on. It looked a little like this:

The content was stuff that this child could do. I had seen him complete harder tasks with my own eyes. So what was the problem?

The boy and I attempted to work on the his homework together. He signed his name in pencil, then immediately started to color in a picture scene at the bottom of the page. Because of course he did. This kid loves to color. Loves. To. Color. The pictures on the bottom were such a distraction that it took us an additional 20 minutes to get through our work.

So, the next week, I prepared similar work without pictures. It took him about 20 minutes to complete 5 sheets. No problems. Then, as a reward, we colored a different picture.

Know your client. Know the kid. Look at their behaviors. This kid didn’t hate work; they loved coloring. Changing his lessons to be less distracting helped us better than any token system ever could.

 

My Stupid, Stupid Hobby

I love music. My wife and dearest friends know how deeply this passion of mine runs. So, about 6 years ago, I started collecting vinyl records. If I’m going to be a music snob, might as well go all the way with it.

Last week I received my first monthly shipment from Vinyl Me, Please, a record subscription service. The first album I received was Weezer’s cult classic Pinkerton.  Released in 1996, the album was darker than their first record and, at the time, was not considered a success. If you believe the internet legends, it almost destroyed the band, and may have caused Rivers Cuomo to have a break down. Now, years later, it’s considered by many to be one of the best rock records of all time.

Have I mentioned that I love music. And that I love collecting records.

And have a I mentioned that collecting records is a stupid hobby.

I mean, let’s be honest about this. First of all, records are expensive. I once paid almost 100 bucks for a Wilco box set. It was before I had kids, but still, that’s kind of ridiculous.

Records aren’t portable. Have you ever tried to move a record collection? Even just moving a couple of hundred albums from upstairs to my office downstairs was a tiring task.

There will never be a record player in my car; it’d skip too much. I can only listen to them in one room of my house, unless I get multiple record players. Which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad idea.

Collecting vinyl is a very, very impractical hobby.

But would you tell me not to collect them? If you saw how much joy they bring me, how much delight I get from opening a limited pressing of one of my favorite rock records of all time, would you tell me it’s a stupid hobby and that I shouldn’t collect records?

Probably not. Probably, you’d nod your head, say something polite, and never think about it again.

So then, why do we expect different of the individuals that we love, who happen to have disabilities?

Years ago, when I worked in a different state, I had a client who was a high functioning aspergers dude. He was funny, nervous, and in love with trains. He was in his teens, doing well in school, didn’t really have any friends, and loved Thomas the Tank Engine. And his parents had real problems with this. They felt it was holding their son back. They wanted him to stop collecting trains and to stop watching train videos non-stop. They thought it made him look like a baby, and they were worried that their only son would be continuously mocked the older he got. They were worried he’d be hurt, emotionally.

Now, for the record (no pun intended), I get this family’s point of view. These parents LOVED their boy, just like I love my boys. They wanted nothing but the best for their boy, and they wanted this in absence of Thomas the Tank.

This devastated the son. He was visibly shaking after we did the intake for the evaluation. It was rough. Everyone in the room was upset.

Now, I agree that this kid needed to be taught that not every conversation can be about trains. He needs to understand that these conversations have appropriate times and places. If I started every discussion with the history of the Weezer’s cult hit album, it would not be appropriate. However, teaching restraint is different than forbidding all outlets to explore his interests.

Sadly, when I expressed this to the family,  they decided not to choose me as their therapist. And maybe that was for the best.

I hope that this kid is in college and has joined a model train club, or that maybe he started one. He would be a great club president.

Or maybe he’s went to school to be an engineer, and has gotten a job designing trains.

Or maybe he owns a model train kiosk at the mall.

Or maybe he will have a family one day, and will have a son who he gets to share his love of trains with.

Maybe, sometimes, we should show these kids how to enjoy what they want to enjoy.  Let’s teach them how to live their lives, not how to live ours.

 

 

You Don’t Know Until You Know

Earlier this month, I turned 34. We also found out are third child will be a little girl. Oh yeah, and this month marks my first full decade of being a speech-language pathologist. Lots of milestones; markenings of the past, the present, and the future.

Looking back, the past decade has been crazy. During this time I’ve gotten a job in Charleston, met a girl, married her, had three kids, and started my own business.  It’s been non-stop for a long time. More often than not, I feel like I’m learning as I go.

During this time, people, all with good intentions, have offered their advice. When I was engaged, I was given books to read about what it was like to be married. When we were pregnant, I took a class at the hospital and read more books about living with a newborn. And while all of this was nice, and maybe even important, the real way I learned about these milestones was experience.

No one can tell you what it’s like to be married, because you won’t understand until you are married.

No one can tell you what it’s like to have children, because you won’t understand until you have children.

And no one, even therapists with decades of experience, can tell you what it’s like to live with a child with special needs, because you can never fully understand until you live it.

Daily, I tell parents things they should do when they get home to help their children. But, I don’t go home with them. Sometimes, it’s easy to give guidance if you get to go home to your own life at the end of the day.

What I’m saying is this: I have to keep in mind that while I might have good ideas and experiences to draw from, I don’t know what it’s like to go home and spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a special needs child. I don’t understand the tears that come when you realize that they may never feed themselves. I don’t understand the guilt that comes with feeling like you are neglecting your other kids or your spouse so you can be there for your child with special needs. These, for me, are just concepts and ideas I’ve read about.

I try to keep this in mind when a family doesn’t follow-up with homework or when they don’t take my advice. It’s not personal. It’s life. Lots of families I know just want to make it through the end of the day.

One more thing: I’m not implying that books and blogs and professionals with insights better than mine aren’t important. When I got married it was good to know that the tough times were a normal part of the process. I think the same thing applies here. We all need to listen in different ways.

We all need to be heard, but we also all need to listen.

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