Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Write Online

In December 2008, Crick Software introduced Write Online. Write Online (WOL) is a writing tool that can be accessed online and offline allowing students to use it on any computer at any time. Each subscriber is assigned a login and password. Also, WOL doesn't depend on an Internet connection while it's running. Rather it uses the power of your own computer, so it's just as responsive as an installed application. WOL is set up similarly to MS Word, but with two key added features: Word Bar and Word Prediction.

The word bar is a word bank feature that can be subject specific, and the banks can be customized easily. The word prediction feature is very powerful and can also be highly customized to best and most appropriately support the user in writing.Finally, this program also has auditory feedback to support a user in editing their work.

I recommended a trial of WOL for a student in an elementary school in southern New Jersey. The purpose for the referral was that, due to CP, she had difficulty writing using traditional methods, such as paper and pencil. Her writing was slow, laborious, and sometimes illegible. She had been using the computer for writing using MS Word, which was more efficient than using paper and pencil. However, she was typing at a slow speed because she was primarily using one hand access the computer. She has good knowledge of grade level (and above) vocabulary, but typing long words required several keystrokes, and she typically used simpler vocabulary that was shorter to save time and energy.

Finally, she wanted to be able to use a program that she could access in school and at home easily. This is why the school team trialed WOL.

The student, as well as her school team are extremely enthusiastic about using WOL, and have found the main features in the program (both the Word Bar and Word Prediction) to be extremely beneficial in increasing her efficiency in typing. She has been keeping up with her peers in the writing process this year. Additionally, the school team has discussed possibly using this program with other students who would also benefit from support in writing.

WOL has helped this student become more efficient and independent in her writing at school. I am looking forward to continuing to work with her and her school team to incorporate WOL into her writing in school and beyond.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Zac Browser

For children with autism, the standard web browser may not be manageable. For a more specialized browser, check out the Zac Browser.

According to the website, "Zac Browser is a totally free software package. It is the first Internet browser developed specifically for children living with variants of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD not otherwise specified and PDD-NOS, also called atypical autism."

To watch the clip on You Tube, click HERE.

Download it today and give it a try!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Read everything!

For people with print disabilities - finding the right tool to meet their needs is key. The Intel Reader may be that device for many consumers.

This device - which is about the size of a hand held video game - enables the user to take pictures of reading materials and have that turned into text. The text can then be spoken aloud for auditory support. There is the ability to enlarge the font for easier viewing. Consumers can also download electronic text and either read the material or convert it to mp3 files for listening.

Click HERE to view the video of the new Intel Reader

If you need to convert a large amount of materials into electronic formats (text books, etc.) - Intel has also created a Portable Capture Station. This station facilitates creation of electronic files.

The Intel Reader can be purchased for $1499 and the Capture Station can be purchased for $399.

Hopefully - we can get our hands on this device and give a more detailed report on the features of this device and the benefits for people with print disabilities. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sample Livescribe Notes and Recording: AT for Writing

What is the Livescribe pen, and how can it be used? From the manufacturer's website:
"Livescribe’s Pulse™ smartpen is an intuitive, pen and paper solution that captures everything students write and hear in the classroom, and enables easy, on–demand access to that information, giving all students a simple and more effective way to receive, review, and retain what they’ve learned in class"

Here is a professional example of it in use. When doing a presentation to the Burlington County School Social Workers on AT that supports students who are using whole words, pictures, and need speech feedback, I had an audience member take notes using my livescribe pen (thanks, Dodie!). The note taker was sitting in the back of the room, but you can still make out the audio.

To get the full effect, view it in Full Screen by clicking on the little orange arrow near the top of the handwritten notes page.

Friday, November 06, 2009

One thing from the NJEA Conference

Yesterday I attended the New Jersey Education Association's annual conference in Atlantic City. This was the second year that there was a Technology Intergration Showcase at the conference. If you want to see the list of presentations, check out this wiki.

One of the sessions, given by Lisa Thumann, was all about free internet resources that are available to anyone, and how educators can intergrate these tools into the classroom. One of my favorite websites that I was introduced to is This is a free website where a user can make a movie.

I spent some time creating my own movie. It took me about 45 minutes to do. Check it out.

There was a lot of good information shared at the conference and I thought it was a day well spent.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Conference Update - ATIA Chicago - Day 2 - Wrap up

Well...Day 2 has come and gone. More great sessions and networking opportunities.

Highlights from the day:

  • "Profiling Professional Development" - presented by the AT team from Loudoun County VA. They highlighted a survey they conducted with their teachers to determine training needs. Great examples of training strategies. Best Prize of the day: Tech Tip Daily Desk Calendar! Thanks Karen and Chris.
  • Looking for a podcast about AT - check out Chris's at
  • Winner for most interesting session of the day: "Creating Accessible Text and Digital Reading on the iPOD" by Dan from PATINS (IN). Dan went through many examples of software tools (mostly free - some cheap) for both the MAC and PC platform. Great resources - great examples - great job Dan!
Overall, the first ATIA conference has been a great success and I am sure will continue on here in Chicago for many years.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Conference Update - ATIA Chicago - Day 1 - Wrap up

The first day was a success! Lots of sessions - good products in the vendor hall - excellent networking opportunities.

Some of the highlights:

  • Session called "Budget Boosters: Inexpensive Software for Reading, Writing and Studying" by Kevin Reinhardt and Sherri Parkins from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. Outstanding resources and I learned about my new favorite free software tool: DSpeech by Dimio. Click here for the web page. Nice Text to Speech, good voices and the ability to convert files to mp3! Great job
  • QIAT presented the new indicators focusing on Post Secondary students (QIAT Grows Up). Good application of the indicators for this population. Next up: QIAT indicators focused on employees and Voc Rehab. Looking forward to participating!
  • From the vendor hall: Don Johnston was highlighting the NEW SOLO 6 suite of programs. Check it out here. Some features that jump out right away: no more student login (YES!), new voices (much better!) and a really nice new design for Co:Writer.
Overall - Day 1 was a hit. Got to reconnect with people and learn about new and exciting options to use with people we support. I am sure it will only get better on Day 2.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Conference Update - ATIA Chicago - Day 1

Well...I am here and ready to learn! Lots of people here for the first ATIA conference held outside Florida. I am just taking a minute to figure out a plan for the day. Gotta love the Sessions-at-a-glance card. Everything highlighted below is something I am interested in - now I just have to decide which sessions to go to.

I will post throughout the conference whenever I get a chance. Well I'm off to the Utopia Room (!) for a session about Smart Boards in the inclusive classroom

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

E-Book Readers: Kindle vs. Nook

Barnes and Noble has finally released their much awaited e-book reader and Kindle-rival: the Nook.

At first glance, the devices look similar. But go a little deeper and some differences emerge. For example, the Nook has a color screen vs. the gray-scale screen of the Kindle. Also, the Nook has a touchscreen which the Kindle does not (no matter how long I use the Kindle I still try to touch items on the screen!). One feature the Nook doesn't have and the Kindle does is Text to Speech. While the TTS is not the best - it is functional for students who need auditory support for print materials.

Want to learn more about these two devices? Click here to read a review from ZDNet.

For a really nice comparison chart, click here to read an article from Gizmodo.

Now I just have to get my hands on a Nook and really check it out!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SMART Board, Mimio, Promethean...? How do Interactive Whiteboards compare?

We get this question a lot, so I thought I would share some articles out there that do a good job of explaining the differences between Interactive White Boards (aka IWB's)

California Region IV regional center: simple, quick intro

California Region IV regional center: not an exhaustive comparison, but the most salient differences.

Tech&Learning article: provides snapshots of schools that purchased different IWB's.

find any other great comparison articles? share them here! click "comment" below.

Conference Update - NJAET

Just got back from the NJAET conference at Georgian Court University. (New Jersey Association for Education Technology)

Another great conference - kudos to the organizers!

Lots of outstanding sessions - check out the schedule at a glance here. I really enjoyed the diversity of topics - everything from iPODS in education to web 2.0 to 21st century learners. Good networking opportunities and nice vendor hall.

I presented a session entitled, "Free and Cheap Teacher Tools on the Internet". If you are interested - check out the WIKISPACES page here. Thanks to everyone who participated and shared resources!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Netbook Project - Science

Well, the school year is in full swing and Haley has her first research project. Finally we get to see her Netbook in action. (see the original Netbook post here)

I walked in today to the scene at the right.

She explained that this is a partner project. They have to work together to complete a research project on Telescopes. The project happens both at home and school. She is collecting the facts for the project and her partner is collecting all the images. Then they will work together during school to put the project together.

I asked her how she went about finding her information and she explained the following steps:
  1. She went to Google and typed "telescope history".
  2. After reviewing the first two search results (!) - she went a Wikipedia page titled "History of Telescopes"
  3. That led to the majority of her info + another link led to the Hubble Telescope page.
Now we just need to work on paraphrasing the information and looking for sources beyond Wikipedia! Updates on her grade to follow

Monday, September 28, 2009

Become an AT Leader!

Class is filling up - sign up today!

Are you looking to increase your knowledge of Assistive Technology? Do you want more training than a full day workshop can provide? If so, join us for an in-depth training institute and discover the range of assistive technology solutions possible in the education field.

This four-day institute, one day a month for four months, will provide a deeper understanding of the assistive technology process -- from the initial assessment to the implementation phase.

Participants will learn about the areas of technology used most in the education setting. In addition, there will be opportunities for participants to select half-day, hands-on sessions focused on specific areas (such as AT for reading and writing, computer access, etc.)

For more information, click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Demand Books!

With all the continued talk about e-books replacing hard copy books (see "Schools Dump Textbooks for iPODs and Laptops") - here is an instance of the reverse happening!

Google Book Search, in cooperation with On Demand Books, is now offering the ability to custom print over 2 million out of print public domain books.

Google spent the last 7 years scanning all these old books into electronic documents. Now for the price of around $8 per book, you can have your own hard copy edition of one of these books.

I know there are some readers out there like me who still like to read from the paper and not the computer screen!

Check out the article from (Google Lets You Custom Print Millions of Public Domain Books)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Did you Know?

For a great video about convergence and technology, check out "Shift Happens". This new version of the video includes a variety of facts and statistics about media and technology use today.

There is also a companion WIKI with additional information.

Friday, September 11, 2009

FREE Webinars!

There is still time to participate in our FREE webinar series.

From Low Tech to High Tech: Computer Access
Date/Time: September 14, 2009; 3PM-4PM
Click HERE for additional details.

From Low Tech to High Tech: Communication Aids
Date/Time: September 21, 2009; 3PM - 4PM
Click HERE for additional details.

From Low Tech to High Tech: Environmental Accessibiblity
Date/Time: September 28, 2009; 3PM - 4PM
Click HERE for additional details.

Sign up today!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Four Things to Double Check on Written IEPs

Check out this article from, written by L. Mae Wilkenson.

Four Things to Double Check on Written IEPs

The four areas she discusses are:

1. Check to make sure all services agreed upon are listed.

2. Check the minutes for each service.

3. Check for facts on the present level of performance.

4. Check for discussion outcomes.

Good reminders now that school has started.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Improving Parent Teacher Communication - Part 2

In this post, we will build on the ideas presented in Part 1 and discuss the idea of active listening.

by Tazee Mahjied, Advancing Opportunities Director of Consumer Advocacy.

The words that are spoken often don't address the root of the problem. A parent telling someone from the district, "I don't like my daughter's teacher," isn't really the issue. It's a byproduct. Don't get stuck on the byproduct. Taking an active listening course is something that can greatly benefit educators and social workers.

There are three points of active listening. They are clarifying, restating and summarizing.

Clarify to get as much information as you can.
Parent: "My son did not eat lunch for an entire week!"
Teacher: "That's not good. Was lunch not offered to him? Did he refuse lunch? What happened?"

Restate by repeating key points in the discussion. It shows you are listening. It gives the parent a chance to hear what he or she has said and the opportunity to correct the listener or possibly change what he or she said. It allows you to both continue in the same direction.
Parent: "He is refusing to eat because of the noise he makes when he eats. He is extremely self-conscious. He was okay with the group he ate with last year."
Teacher: "The sounds he makes when he is eating keeps him from wanting to eat with his peers."

Summarize by pulling all the facts together. Hopefully, this will lead to a game plan you can both agree upon. Teacher: "So, what I'm hearing is that your son hasn't been eating because of his self-consciousness about the sounds he makes. Perhaps if we allowed him to have lunch with his friends from last year he would start eating again."

Sometimes there's no easy way to resolve a difficult situation. However, you can avoid the trap of reacting to emotions and harboring ill feelings by maintaining professionalism and demonstrating your commitment to providing the student with appropriate services.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Improving Parent Teacher Communication - Part 1

With the start of school approaching rapidly - it seemed like a good time to share these tips about communication between school and home.

By Tazee Mahjied, Advancing Opportunities Director of Consumer Advocacy.

When communicating with a parent, one thing holds true: you can only control what one person says -- yourself. While most parents are pleasant, some raise their voices
and get upset. It comes with the territory. There are things you can do to help avoid these types of conflicts. There are three basic principles of communicating that
can make the difference between structured resolution and due process. They are reaction, perception and presentation.

Reaction: Know thyself. How do you take things? It's not realistic to be emotionless when being confronted by an emotional parent. If you know your triggers and recognize your feelings, you can do a quick self-inventory and move on to the true purpose of your conversation. Your reaction can guide the entire exchange with a parent.

Perception: How do you see things? Perception is reality. It's not so much what is said, but rather what is heard. You know how you perceive the parent's message. How do you think they'll perceive yours?

Presentation: How you present your point may influence the parent's perception. Body language, facial expression and tone of voice can impact a listener more than the words that are spoken. Some parents may take a little longer to get a clear picture of your intent. Be patient and be willing to take the extra time to ensure that they fully understand what you are saying.

Next time - we'll discuss the three points of active listening.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Netbooks - Ed Tech Savior???

These small, inexpensive computers are all the rage - but are they an ed tech savior? Even though Netbooks are suddenly everywhere, some people who own them don't even realize it! (see Engadget, "Netbook study finds that netbook buyers don't know what netbooks are")

Sure, who wouldn't want a computer for 99 cents! (see "Sprint sells Netbook for a Buck") But with that low cost (typically around $300) comes some system limitations. Mainly, slower processors and limited memory. While these netbooks may shine for on line work, load Microsoft Office into one and see how it runs. On the plus side, forking out $300 for a full featured Windows XP machine may be just enough incentive for school districts interested in reaching for the 1 to 1 laptop ratio for students.

More important to the students we support is the question - will these machines run the assistive technology software / hardware needed to complete assignments? I will be exploring this issue during the school year if I can pry this netbook away from my daughter!

Once school starts, I have also asked Haley to make a list each week of all the tasks she completes on her netbook. Look for periodic updates right here.

If you are considering a purchasing one of these computers, check out the Summer 2009 netbook roundup from CNET

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Hire People With Disabilities

Here is a great list from The National Organization on Disability.

10. Employees with disabilities can ease concerns about labor supply.
9. People with disabilities have equal or higher job performance ratings, higher retention rates and lower absenteeism.
8. Employees with disabilities can relate better to customers with disabilities, who represent $1 trillion in annual aggregate consumer spending.
7. Diverse work groups can create better solutions to business challenges.
6. People with disabilities are better educated than ever, and are proven to have met and/or exceeded challenges.
5. A person with a disability motivates work groups and increases productivity.
4. Companies that hire and accommodate people with disabilities in their workplaces can receive tax benefits.
3. Employing people with disabilities is good for the individual, the business, and society. This is a "win-win-win" strategy.
2. People with disabilities are motivated by the desire to give something back, and opportunities for personal growth, job flexibility, and social inclusion.

And the number one reason to hire people with disabilities:

It's ability, not disability, that counts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do you want to share?

Social networking sites have become all the rage. While most of these sites are good for connecting with people you haven't heard from since high school, very few offer an opportunity to connect with other professionals and share resources.

One tool helpful to professionals is Linked In. This site enables you to connect with other professionals and network about various opportunities. Check out my profile here.

Another site I just heard about, but haven't had a chance to try out is called Better Lesson. This site was founded by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston to help other educators organize and share curriculum ideas and lesson plans. According to the web site, this group is guided by these core principles:
  • Collaboration
  • Universal Access
  • Real Recognition
  • Curriculum Matters
These web sites provide a forum for sharing and networking - become a part of the network!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting the Most out of AAC Systems: Keep 'em Current

Once a student has been evaluated for, and receives, an Augmentative Communication Device the most important aspect of this implementation still lies ahead. How do we insure that the student uses the device all the time and that it is not abandoned and found unused and sitting on a shelf? The best way to do this is to keep it current.

Make sure the vocabulary is relevant and not outdated. For example, are vocabulary and messages appropriate for upcoming curriculum areas, field trips or special events? Are old vocabulary and messages eliminated when they are no longer appropriate? When a student transitions to a new class or school the following year, the new classmates', teachers', and aides' names and new places need to be added to the AAC system. Is the student's AAC system expanding to meet his or her language and communication needs? If a student is learning new skills, are they being programmed into the system? If a student has a new favorite television program, is that represented in the system?

The responsibility for making these changes must be shared by all team members: parents, speech-language pathologists, teachers, classroom aides and other therapists. Often, parents are the only constant throughout the student's years in school, so it is vital to empower them to help keep the system current.

Keeping their systems current will help to keep your students using AAC systems effectively!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Are you talking to me?

Voice recognition technology can be a powerful tool for struggling writers. Have you been thinking about voice recognition either for yourself or someone you work with? Are you working with someone who can describe ideas verbally but is unable to write it down? How about a person with a learning disability? A speech impairment? Or a physical disability? Not sure how reliable the available systems are?

Assistive Technology Services
will be hosting a full day workshop on voice recognition on August 18th, from 9 AM to 3PM at our Ewing, NJ office. This workshop will be a great opportunity for you to experience first hand the power of this technology solution. Each participant will have their own computer system, loaded with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, to test drive during the session. Through instructor led examples and hands on opportunities, participants will gain a better understanding of this powerful technology.

To sign up, please click here.

Do you need a break??

Do you want something fun to try?
Are interested in finding new websites and new ideas?
Do you want an alternative to search engine information overload?

Then check out Stumble Upon

Visit the web site and download the toolbar for your web browser. Now choose the things you are interested in. Click the Stumble button and hold on.

Sometimes you get a hit - sometimes you get a miss. But overall,you may just find that quality resource that makes it all worthwhile.

If you come across a site you like - give it a thumbs up. User recommendations determine which sites others see. You can save sites to your favorites or share with friends.

Plus, you can't beat a five minute "stumble-fest" to re-energize yourself.

Happy Stumbling!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

In Pictures-Free On line tutorials

Here is a great resource for anyone who needs some FREE, on line support for using standard applications.

In Pictures

I found this resource for a consumer who needs tutorials for Word 2007. She struggles with the steps of written tutorials and this seemed to be a perfect solution. These are PICTURE tutorials that show each step in the process.

The website has tutorials for the following Office programs (both 2003 and 2007): Access, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Publisher. There are also picture tutorials for Open Office (Base, Calc, Impress, Writer), Web Layout (HTML & CSS), and Web Programming (MySQL Basics, PHP Basics, and Perl Basics).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Look at the LiveScribe Pen

A Look at the LiveScribe Pen by Jeannette Van Houten

How many times have you been reviewing notes from a conversation or meeting and wished you could replay exactly what was said when you jotted a particular thing down? The LiveScribe Pulse Smartpen is a tool that makes taking notes easier. It creates an audio recording that is synced to what you’ve written. By clicking on a line in your notes, you can replay the audio of what was being said as you wrote that line. Imagine how helpful this tool could be for students who struggle with note taking or whose handwriting is illegible.

To read more, click here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

21st Century Learners + Web 2.0

A national survey of 281, 150 students by Project Tomorrow ( gives us an idea of the ways high school students are utilizing Web 2.0 tools.

For students grades 9 - 12, the tools they use for creation of materials include:
  • Update social networking profile - 44 %
  • Upload / download digital media - 39 %
  • Create / modify digital media - 32 %
  • Use tools to set up alerts about topics - 22 %
  • Create new work using pre-existing media - 22 %
  • Create a list of resources to share - 15 %
For students grades 9 - 12, the tools they use for collaboration include:
  • Participate in online games - 30 %
  • Use web tools for collaborative writing - 19 %
  • Contribute to a blog - 18 %
  • Participate in virtual reality environments - 13 %
  • Contribute to a WIKI - 11 %
This data is from the Speak Up 2008 national survey. In total, over 335,000 K-12 students, teachers, parents and administrators responded to this survey.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Welcome to our new online home! Many of our staff will be using this space to share their insight on the world of assistive technology. Conversations will range from new AT devices to technology support services for people with ALL types of disabilities.

We hope you find this space helpful and we encourage everyone to post comments. Join the discussion!