Friday, October 17, 2014

Vendors, Closing the Gap: 2014

Just a few of the many vendors at Closing the Gap this year.
Tobii goes big!

Don Johnston represents!

Jabbla in the house.

Origin is here.

No technology conference would be complete without RESNA!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Zot Artz: A closer look

Giant Roller
This morning I just had to go back to Dwayne Szotz's area to learn more about his Zot Artz events & experiences. According to their website: "Creative expresssion is a primary human need, necessary for self-fulfillment and self esteem. Art is a from of creative expression in which individuals with disabilities can excel, given the opportunity."
As a fellow artist, I couldn't agree more! Zot Artz's mission is as follows:
Pogo Stamp
"Rather than finding ways for people with disabilities to participate in activities for non-disabled people, we create entirely new activities and projects for people with disabilities and invite those without disabilities to join in."
Stencil Creation
This mission is what really makes Zot Artz so unique and fabulous. On their website you can purchase tools from them, or arrange an event at your site. Art work projects vary in size and scope, allowing for graded difficulty to suit the user. Here at Closing the Gap folks with and without disabilities decorated their canvas totes provided by the conference.
Tools include custom made stamps of all different sizes, including hand-held rollers, wheel-chair driven rollers, and pogo stamps.
Hand Held Roller
As an Occupational Therapist I get all kinds of excited thinking about the skills this activity engages (sequencing, hand-use, bi-lateral hand-use, planning, just to name a few). As an artist, well, the end results are really beautiful.
So, take a closer look at Zot Artz, and see if this interesting Assistive Technology might become an important part of whatever program you are working with.

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Closing the Gap: Day One, weeeeee!

Day one of Closing the Gap Assistive Technology Conference here in Minneapolis. WOW! So much great stuff to see and learn about.

I spent the morning wandering around the vendors booths, seeing old friends, and making new ones. Technology has come a long way folks!

So many great products available.

I had a chance to talk with Mel Dashner, VP of Origin Instruments, and the switch interface equipment they are making is really terrific with paletable pricing.

I also spent some time with Lalitha Nagarajan, ther Director of invention labs, creator of Avaz, which I reviewed awhile back. They have some really terrific upgrades to Avaz which I was not aware of, and some amazing apps in development. Keep an eye out for new products from them!

Also, I spent some really valuable time with Mauricio Meza of Komodo, makers of the Tecla Shield. Expect a review of their very sophisticated switch interface soon.

Finally, I had the opportunity to talk with Dwayne and some of his "art assistants" from Zot Artz. Really fun work happening there. I hope to get back with Dwayne this week and learn more about their program.

I gleaned quite a bit from Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Product Manager from Apple regarding Accessiblity Features in Apple's iDevices. Some of this was "basic" info for me, but some of it really clarified how the accessibility features can work. I hope to blog about some of this more later.

The stand out seminar for me so far was with Denise DeCoste, creator of the Writing Protoco.  l which will soon be available from Don Johnston. I hope to take a closer look at her assessment tool soon.

So, I'm finishing lunch now, and heading back down soon.
Happy therapy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reposting: A favorite app: iWrite Words

Back in 2012 I wrote about iWrite Words as one of my favorite apps. It continues to be one of my favorites, and so I thought I'd repost this write-up!

There are a lot of great apps which help kids learn and practice letter and number formation. However, like most Occupational Therapists, I am particular about how students form their letters and numbers.  Many apps form letters haphazardly, or at least not consistently from the top down.  iWrite Words starts letters just like a Miata... Top down baby!

Compatible on all iDevices, iWrite Words is 81.1 MB. The app retails for $2.99, and there is a lite version which is free.                 

iWrite Words dovetails nicely with the handwriting work I do with my students. The graphics and sound effects are engaging and playful. I have used it in sessions with a single student, and I've used it in groups of up to four students (each student using a iPad or iTouch). 

Upon opening the app the user is presented with options to trace upper-case, and lower-case letters, short words, and numbers.  The user drags a crab along the character outline.  If the user's finger deviates from the proper course, they hear a "boing", and start the character over. After tracing the character successfully, the user must drag the character into a spinning star shaped hole.

If the student is stuck, he can click on the play icon and see the character traced in animation. In addition, there are a number of ways a therapist/teacher/parent can custom tailor the app to the users needs. Customization includes many options, but to name just a few, the adult can change difficulty (tracing path size), and handed-ness.  In addition, the app allows for changing letter formation style. Without naming some of the more popular teaching methods, to the discerning eye, it becomes evident what they are offering. One can also change the gender of the voice that offers directions and affirmations.  

A final nice touch is the alphabet song which sings out with each tap on the screen.

Overall iWrite Words is a terrific app. It's appealing to my students, and an excellent tool to augment my handwriting work.

Happy therapy!

Leaving on a jet plane...

Hey Tek-Ninjas! In an hour I will head to the airport to fly to Minneapolis for the Closing the Gap conference. It has been about 4 years since I've attended this conference and I'm so excited!

According to the website the 32nd annual conference is:
The most practical, practitioner-driven AT conference in North America!
This year's conference builds on a tradition of providing a comprehensive examination of the most current uses of technology by persons with disabilities and the professionals who work with them. 
Topics will cover a broad spectrum of technology as it is being applied to all disabilities and age groups in education, rehabilitation, vocation, and independent living.
 If this years conference is as good as the last I attended, I'm sure to learn much, and hopefully have ideas to share with you all.

I'll be in touch!
Happy therapy.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Handwriting Activity Made Easy

Cursive work-sheet
Recently a colleague who is working with our Occupational Course of Study students came to me and said she wanted to work on cursive signatures for her students. Alas, her cursive is terrible (self-report, not my judgement). So, she wondered if there was a program that could make individual sheets for each student to work on their names.

A quick google search found Handwritingworksheets. Easy, quick, and best of all, FREE.  The website allows the user to make worksheets in manuscript, D'Nealian manuscript, and cursive. In addition, the user can made individual words which are repeated, short sentences, or a paragraph.  Because it is web-based, it can be used on Windows, Mac, Linux, Pi, or another platform you are sporting.  Also of interest, sizing is customizable, as is the page orientation (landscape or portrait). Also, font colors are infinitely tailorable.

There is some research (don't ask me to cite it, 'cause I don't remember and will just do a google search as can you) which says tracing letters is perhaps one of the least efficacious ways to learn letters. With this site, it is possible to make one word traceable, and the next just have starting dots for the letters.

For those of you working on handwriting, I hope this proves to be a useful tool.

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Great Tool for Reluctant Emerging Writers!

Two years ago I wrote about Scribble Press, a favorite app of mine, which I referred to as Mad Libs with Super Powers. Well, the folks at Scribble Press have teamed up with the folks at Fingerprint Play and developed an app called Scribble My Story. It is described as a "junior version" of Scribble Press.

The key differences between Scribble Press and Scribble My Story are outlined here:
1) Scribble My Story has audio!  Pre-written stories are read aloud, and there is also the option to record your own voice as you write your own story.
2) Scribble My Story takes advantage of the Fingerprint platform so parents can keep in touch with what their kids are learning and what books they are creating.
3) There is a wealth of new artwork available, much of it based on the popular characters from Fingerprint Play’s Big Kid Life. 

4) Photo and web image support is not a feature of Scribble My Story
5). Scribble My Story is free! 

 Scribble My Story is geared towards kids ages 3-7, with an age appropriate user interface and easy drawing tools.  There are 6 stories in the free download, and more to download for small fees ($0.99).

FingerPrint Play brings more interactivity for the family including a shared family account which allows parents to track their kid's progress, message one-another, and a "parent gate" to control in-app purchasing.

This app, like it's predecessor is a great way to engage reluctant writers, either using their index finger, if they aren't quite ready for a writing tool, or to introduce a stylus. It should prove to be a great tool for Occupational Therapists!

Happy Therapy!