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.