Monday, August 31, 2015

Writing Equations Without a Pencil!

Hey Tek-Ninjas, lately I've run into a number of older students with some variation of dysgraphia  performing a high level math.

These students have been struggling with writing out complex formulas. Not because the math itself is difficult, but rather the motor output.

One great and free solution I've found is Google Docs. Built right into the word processor is a free Formula editor.

If your student does not have a gmail account, get parent permission ( I like to get that in writing ) or ask them to set up an account for the student.

Then, in google docs follow the easy instructions in the video below.

Happy therapy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Helping your Student Get their Clang-n-Bang Needs Met!

Greetings Tek-Ninjas. It's been a long and glorious summer. Alas, backpacking, mountain biking, and fishing will slow down dramatically with the return of school.

Even so, in order for me to stay productive and focused, I must incorporate movement and a little "bang-and-clang" contact with others. Some would refer to it as my sensory diet.

Recently a friend asked me to recommend something for his rambunctious 4th grader. She also craves movement and crashing into stuff. Her teacher notes that she wiggles non-stop in class.

I am a huge fan and advocate for martial arts. But not all martial arts offer the same experience. It's good to consider what your student (or you) will most benefit from. In our area there are multiple types of martial arts; Ninjutsu, Akido, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Folk-style Wrestling (America's Martial Art!) Jujutsu, and Brazilian Ju-jiutsu just to name a few.

Primary Differences
Some martial arts are formal, and require a student to stand at attention and follow specific protocols, others are less formal and relaxed. Certain forms focus on punching and kicking, other's involve grappling on the ground to control or dominate your partner. Another distinction is whether the form incorporates learning long katas (prescribed choreographed movements) or short katas (moves). Also, does a school offer kid specific programs. A final distinction I make is whether or not the school participates in competition.

None of these distinctions make a school good or bad, but they are simple distinctions which may better suit a specific student.

Locally, my favorite school or Dojo is the Chapel Hill Quest Center (QC), which teaches Stephen K. Hayes' To-Shindo Ninjutsu. Both of my sons, and I trained for several years at QC.  QC offers a blend of formality with relaxed friendliness. They offer a robust youth program which trains near-by the adults (meaning you and your child can train simultaneously), allowing you to be a role model for your youth. To-Shindo Ninjutsu is a blend of strikes, throws, wrist locks, and grappling. This art form uses short katas (ideal for folks who struggle learning long patterns), and is non-competitive. They offer a "Mighty Dragons" program for very young children which resembles an Occupational Therapist's sensory motor playground.

I'm also a fan of Folk-style or collegiate wrestling. This involves a lot
of physical contact, short moves to learn, competition, and self discipline.

A final consideration, parents may find it useful to talk with the staff and ask specific questions: i.e.: is your school comfortable working with kids with _______ (autism, Aspergar, sensory issues, or some other consideration). Some will be uncomfortable, others will jump at the opportunity to help your child reach his or her potential. Go where the staff are excited to work with your child.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Talking BIG Math

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Recently I have been working with a unique situation.

I have a student whom I will call Mike. Mike is very bright. Exceedingly bright. Top of the curve bright. However, he has some significant motor impairments, which leave him unable to write with a pen/pencil, and unable to type functionally.

I have worked with Mike for many years. We've tried voice dictation on and off, but his voice quality was never quite good enough. I always thought, eventually his voice would mature, he might get better breath control, and the voice dictation software would continue to become better.  All of which has come true.

Mike is taking Calculus. He has been dictating formulas to a scribe/TA. It is challenging to find
people who can dictate such formulas easily that are also willing to work for a TA salary. Let me be clear, I don't mean to denigrate, the fact is, I would be hard pressed to scribe for him. Math has never been a strong point for me.

Recently Mike asked to give voice dictation a try again. We set him up with a Windows 7 computer and Dragon 12. Mike was able to successfully complete the Scott Adams training module, which is the hardest of the training modules. I choose the harder one, because in order for Mike to be able to use this tool functionally, he needs to be able to dictate with the sophisticated vocabulary he utilizes.  Anything else, would essentially be pointless. He struggled with just a few words, but overall it was a great success.

Along with Dragon Naturally Speaking, we are using Scientific Notebook and Math Talk.  Scientific Notebook is essentially a word processor designed to create documents that contain text, mathematics, and graphics. Scientific Notebook can be downloaded for a free 30 day trial to get a sense of what the software can do.  A student license is $79.

The third component, Math Talk is a unique and phenomenal piece of software that integrates with Dragon Naturally Speaking to allow the user to voice any math phrases, including pre-algebra, algebra, trig, calculus, statistics, and graphing. An individual student version retails for $275.

Now, these are all pretty robust pieces of software. Layering of technology can often lead to problems. But, when loaded correctly, following the directions from the folks at Math Talk, and the training is completed, it is very impressive what a user can accomplish.

This is not a particularly inexpensive intervention when you tally a laptop, Dragon Naturally Speaking  Scientific Notebook, and Math Talk. But, in the long haul, it is significantly less expensive than hiring a scribe.  Also, I have yet to find anything that will work in this type of situation. My expectation is that the intervention will open up a significant level of independence for Mike.

One more note to make. The dove-tailing of 3 pieces of software can at first seem daunting. It did to me, and I tend to be fluent in this sort of venture.  If you follow the written directions from the Math Talk, it will work.  Or, if you call Math Talk for help, you will get NanciLu on the phone. She is the creator and owner of the company. She will make you laugh, and help you experience success with dictating complex math to a computer.  That is a win!

For the right student, this intervention is phenomenal, and I encourage you to take a look at a video or two if you think you have that student.

Happy therapy!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Believe the hype!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! First, let me say, I love rap music. I do. Old school, and even new school.

Second, I also love when everyone gets to participate in cool stuff!

So, if you haven't seen this clip, dig it... a sign language interpreter at a Public Enemy concert. Too cool!

Happy Friday!

AVAZ returns with a bang!

A few springs ago I was introduce to Avaz, and blogged about what a great AAC app it is.

Well, the folks at Avaz have not simply rested on their laurels.  They continue to offer Avaz Pro, receiving accolades from parents, teachers, and researchers. In addition, they now offer a great companion app called Avaz Together.

Avaz Together is available for a monthly subscription rate of $9.99.  

What makes Avaz Together unique is that it is a communication app designed specifically to guide parents in teaching their child to communicate at home. 

It is filled with ideas and tips for the parent to
create communication opportunities throughout their day. The communication board is easy to navigate, and to customize. In addition, Avaz Together tracks data regarding the number of words your child uses, and sentence lengths.

For those of us wanting to be evidence based in our work, Avaz offers a page of research behind Avaz Together, and the insights that went into the app.

For folks who want to or need to take their child's communication experience past the therapist's time, Avaz Together may be just the tool needed!

Happy Therapy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Look a Little Closer at Ginger...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, recently I wrote about a grammar and spelling correction software called Ginger. I have removed the blog post, as a friend has directed me towards several online complaints about it.

Several users complain that the software works as malware. They also indicate that it is very difficult to remove. Other folks explain that Ginger coming up as malware as a secondary function of it being an online tool. I don't necessarily understand the explanation, suffice to say these users suggest it's not an issue.

Nonetheless, there are enough complaints that I am a little leery of recommending the software. I intend to write the company and see what their take is on these complaints.

I will report any response I get from the software engineers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little Help FOR Our Friends...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, don't we love it when we find a great app? How about when we like an app a lot, and make a suggestion or two, and those suggestions get incorporated in the next update? How cool is that?!?!

Well the good folks at ModMath built an amazing app. I wrote about it awhile back (read my blog here).  They built it originally with their own son in mind, but to date around 27,000 people have downloaded it, so clearly, we like it. And, folks are making a lot of great suggestions for various updates.

I really like this app. It is a stand out because it allows math students to complete their assignments without writing out answers longhand. And it's purposefully built sans calculator so the teacher can see if a student doesn’t understand the concept, or has simply made a computation error.  The app builders, Dawn and Josh Denberg could feasibly leave the app as it is, and walk away feeling successful. However, they would like to make it better, and they want to incorporate many of the ideas users have suggested. In order to do so, they will need some money. They indicate that "An upgraded ModMath 2.0 supporting advanced algebraic equations is about $25,000. An Android version with the exact same features will cost $30,000".

Dawn and Josh have started a ModMath Kickstarter campaign.  For this first iteration, they are asking for $20,000 and in about a day, they are already half way there!

If you like ModMath, if you would like to see a more powerful/robust version of ModMath, or simply need a worthy place to donate, consider supporting their fundraiser! Also, be sure to "Like" their Facebook page.

Happy Therapy!