Friday, July 12, 2019

The Role of the Related Service Provider in the IEP: Again

Hey Tek-ninjas! I shared this older post on my Facebook page recently, and heard back that it was really helpful for a lot of my friends, so I thought I’d repost it here. The post was written by my ‘then-colleague”, Ashley Robinson

I have a question for all the school based related service providers and assistive technology professionals:  Have you ever struggled to explain your role in a student's education to a parent or teacher? As a speech-language pathologist at a middle and high school, I see many students who have received speech-language as a related service since preschool. In many cases I wonder if the role of the related service professional has been explained to the team. So, I came up with my own explanation. 

Figure 1
A student who qualifies for special education services cannot access the curriculum (in most cases the Common Core). (Fig. 1)

The IEP is the bridge to the curriculum. It should address the skills that the student needs so that he can follow the Common Core. For example, there is a sixth grade boy who struggles with written expression.  Instead of writing a goal that states “Boy will write on grade level,” think about what is keeping this student from writing on grade level. Perhaps this student is not using complex sentences or is using ambiguous pronoun references. 

Figure 2
The IEP team will work together to review data on a child and determine the needs of a particular student. In this case (Fig. 2), the student does NOT require any related service support, so the special education teacher is the one building the bridge. Another possibility is that the team may find that a speech-language impairment is the primary disability holding the child back, and the SLP will be in charge of building that bridge. In either case, additional related service support is not needed.

In my experience though, most students have a disability (think ADHD or specific learning disability) and language disorders (or sensory issues, or assistive tech issues....) are a part of that disability and require related service support to access the IEP.  (Fig. 3) The bridge cannot be built straight across - there needs to be a ramp.

Figure 3
This is how our lead SLP explained it to us, “If you take away the student's primary disability (e.g., ADHD), would they still have a language disorder?” This is a clinical judgement question for each student; however, I've found the answer to be “probably not.” Thus, speech-language is a related service. 

Because I'm an SLP, I am going to use speech-language services as my example; however, this analogy applies to OT, PT, and Assistive Technology (at least with the model we work under in my school system). 

Once the team determines that speech-language services are needed to address a goal (stay tuned for a future post on this), then the question is – what is the role of the SLP as a related service support provider? Here's what I think:

Figure 4
Related service is the RAMP to get on the bridge (i.e., the IEP). (Fig 4). What language skills does the student require to even get on the bridge? Again, goals or objectives should be developed to address a student's language needs that are impeding him from accessing the IEP (e.g., explicit instruction in pronoun use or sentence construction). Once the student has mastered these skills, and is on the bridge, then the special education teacher is the one to continue moving forward to build the bridge.  Speech-language services are no longer necessary. 

Goals should address the needs of the student, and with each year the student will (hopefully) close the gap until he is working on the curriculum (YAY!!!). Some students will never have a bridge that stretches all of the way across; however, it is important that goals are systematic and are bringing that student as far as possible each year. 

I'm curious to know what you think. How do you see the role of the related service professional in the school? Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions!

Ashley Robinson – MS CCC-SLP and AT professional

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

iPad finally has a Mouse!

Hey Tek-ninjas! Did you know Apple has finally introduced a “mouse” interface for the iPad?! It’s not without at least one pitfall, and the curser is a circle, but for your users who would benefit from a mouse interface, it’s worth a look. 

First, (and this is the pitfall imo) you will need to download the beta version of iOS 13. You can find out more here ( Before you install the software, you should backup your device. This way, if you change your mind, and want to revert back to your older iOS, you can restore your profile.

Once you install the software you will be able to setup a mouse. Start by opening Settings>Accessibility>Touch>Assistive Touch; Toggle On>Pointing Devices>Bluetooth Devices - pair mouse, >Magic Mouse. The video above shows this process step-by-step. I added a right-click function to movie between apps. You may opt to use a different function, as offered in the menu.

Happy Therapy!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wanna Deliver Voices?

Hey Tek-Ninjas! If you are a regular reader, you know that a little over a year and a half ago, I took the big jump from 18+ years in the public school setting to work for Tobii Dynavox. It was just the move I was looking for. In my short time here, I've had to grow professionally, but still get to use my hard earned skills.

Maybe you too are looking for a new opportunity? If so, Tobii Dynavox is hiring a couple of positions both nationally and internationally. The position I'd most like to see filled now is that of Solutions Consultant for the western portion of Virginia. We'd be on the same team!

I have found this to be deeply satisfying work. In this position, you get to directly impact the lives of people of all ages. You get to work directly with clients, giving them a voice. In addition, you will get to work with professionals, to build their skills so they can make an even bigger impact for their clients than they already do. Also, working with cutting edge technology is just plain fun.

If your curiosity is piqued, you should check it out. I did, mostly on a whim, and I will always be grateful I took the leap. If you have questions, contact my excellent colleague Jasmine Galindo.


Friday, June 7, 2019

The “Random Stuff”

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Today I am breaking a cardinal rule of blogging by posting more than once in a day. But I’m excited. This evening I went for a run with elite running coach Chris Bennett, and Headspace cofounder and Tibetan Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. I’ll expound in a bit.

You may have noticed the blurb under my title says that I write about “the intersections of assistive technology, occupational therapy, AAC, education, and other random stuff“. This article is going to be about the “random” stuff.

I am a long time runner. Never the fastest, never the slowest, kind of a “middle of the pack” guy. Before I started this job I ran marathons and trained a decent amount of hours each week. This is no longer tenable with my work schedule. So in an effort to stay healthy and fit I am now trying to run faster but shorter distances. I want to tell you about a great piece of technology that is helping make this possible.

I have been a long time fan of the app made by Nike called “Nike Run Club” or NRC for short. NRC is free. You can install it on your iPhone, but I prefer to use it on my Apple Watch, and leave my phone in the car. If you are an android user, you’re in luck because there is a version for your phone.

NRC allows you to pick training programs based on your age, your weight, and you’re running fitness: like...even if you’re running fitness level is “sitting on a couch and eating potato chips“. As you use the app over the course of a few weeks it will adjust itself based on your progress. My youngest and I used the app to prepare for the Uwharrie 20 when he was 15.

But what I have really been enjoying of late is the pre-installed guided runs. On Tuesday I ran the “Hill, Hillier, Hilliest” run with coach and ultra-distance runner Sally McCrae. She had me engage in a 27 minute program incorporating a warm-up, a series of intervals, and a cool-down. It was hard, but it was super fun.

Today I engaged in a 45 minute run with meditation on mindfulness. Yep, that
was when I ran with Chris Bennett and Andy Petticombe. Okay, so they weren’t “with” me... but do you know what that kind of training would cost in person?! And I’m soooo not fast enough to really run with those two!

I started focusing on speed a little over a month ago using the Nike Run Club app and I already feel like I’m a bit faster. But regardless of where you are as a runner: non-runner or expert, I think the Nike Run Club app can help you choose and then achieve goals, which can ultimately help you become healthier and perhaps even happier in life.


Get your learning on in western NC!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Here in NC, school is out for summer, or soon to be. None-the-less, you can still get after some education.

Let me recommend combining some learning this August with a trip to downtown Charlotte, the mountain village of Sylva, or mix up mountain and city life in Asheville!

My colleague Lauren Zubow is coordinating some tremendous learning opportunities with Patrick Brune.

Patrick Brune is a Speech Language Pathologist and has provided assessment, therapy, and consultation services for children and adults with severe speech and language disabilities for over 25 years. He worked as a clinical supervisor for Queens College, in New York, and as a related service provider for the NYC Department of Education. Patrick is a member of the Tobii Dynavox Learning Services team, providing implementation support and workshops. This fellow knows what he's talking about, and he is a dynamic presenter.

West Asheville Public Library: August 20, 2019
Communicating with Core Vocabulary in Snap + Core First - 9:30 am – 12:15 pm
Tips and Tricks with Snap + Core First  - 1:30 pm - 4:15 pm

Sylva North Carolina Assistive Technology Program: August 21, 2019
Charlotte North Carolina Assistive Technology Program August 22, 2019 
Tips and Tricks with Snap + Core First  - 1:30 pm - 4:15 pm  

These dynamic trainings will offer ASHA CEU's. The trainings are free, but they will most definitely fill up quickly! Follow the links to get registered. 

If you have questions, contact Lauren

Happy therapy!

Friday, May 17, 2019

WATI: AT Teams check it out!

Hey Tek-ninjas! Back in 2012 I shared a post about WATI (Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. If you don’t recall, or know what WATI is, their mission was/is to assist early intervention agencies, school districts, and their partners to provide assistive technology by making training and technical assistance available through the development of materials related to the provision of assistive technology tools, and services.You can read that post here.

WATI has had a number of changes since I wrote my original post. In 2009 they lost funding, and were shut down. Since then, they rebooted and are now run by a volunteer group of former WATI Consultants.

The new WATI site imo is better than before, and any school district in the process of developing or improving their Assistive Technology team would do well to spend some time exploring the offerings.

Again, all hail WATI!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

30 years as the industry standard!

Hey Tek-ninjas! Do you work in Special Education? How long have you been around? (You don’t have to answer that)

Are you "I remember when we made Xerox copies from our Boardmaker Book and cut & paste (literally) to make picture schedules" old?

If you are, you are as old (or maybe older) then me!

Well, 2019 marks the 30th Anniversary of Boardmaker! That's 30 years of being the "industry standard" in education. There a several different ways a subscriber can access Boardmaker tools to increase your efficacy as an educator/therapist. Including robust free tools that I blogged about last December.

It has been a long time since Boardmaker was "just" a picture symbol generator. Boardmaker Online provides a multi-level approach to creating engaging print and interactive materials for your special education needs. Start with convenient, ready-made print activities or just imagine, make, print and use. Extend learning by adapting curriculum to the unique needs of your learner with easy-to-use enhanced features. Then, increase student engagement by making your favorite print activities interactive on smart boards, computers, tablets and communication devices.

Take a look at all the different offerings and price structures here.

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Users, Pagesets, Pages, and Tigers, oh my!

Hey Tek-ninjas! I’ve blogged a lot about Tobii-Dynavox’s Snap + Core First, and today I want to dig a little further into the many save/export/backup options. The many options can be a little confusing, so hopefully this will shed some light on the various processes.

Snap + Core First offers several convenient ways to share and save your clients Communication tool. I like to think of it as *nesting-levels of content .

  • Pages; an individual Page can be saved, or shared with anyone else with a mytobiidynavox
    account. For example, if I’ve made a terrific page of Occupational Therapy activities, I can share that with another therapist for the child they are working with. All of the graphic/text content will remain the same.
  • Page Sets consist of all the pages, and they also can be saved, shared, etc.. For example a colleague shared with me a Core 7x7 Rett syndrome Pageset that a lot of folks have appreciated. It can be easily shared to a User profile, and caregivers can “toggle” back and forth between different Pagesets to determine “best fit”.
  • Users: this is the most all-encompassing view of your client’s tool, User backup files contain the Page Sets and settings associated with that user. User backup files do not contain voice files, however, voice settings are preserved and the selected voice will download automatically if it is not available on the device (internet connection required).

That covers the “levels” of content. Now let’s consider variations of saving/moving data.

  • Export/Import Locally (User, Page Set, Page Bundle) — Use when storing the file on your
    local machine, sharing on a USB drive, or with people who do not have a myTobiiDynavox account.
  • Export/Import through myTobiiDynavox* (Page Set, Page Bundle) — Share Page Sets and Page Bundles with oth- er myTobiiDynavox users. Store and access files privately on your own myTobiiDynavox account.
  • Sync** (Page Set) — Share ongoing changes to a Page Set across your devices and with specified myTobiiDynavox users. A Page Set shared through sync keeps an up-to-date version of the Page Set in the cloud, so that changes made to the Page Set on any approved device/account are shared across all synced devices/accounts for that Page Set.

* Conceptual name credit to M. Sardo - ‘Master Tek-ninja”
**These sharing methods require an active internet connection.

Happy therapy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Two Great Ideas: Core Words & iBooks

Hey Tek-ninjas! I'm excited to share a free resource with you. This is specifically useful if you are teaching Core Words, and/or reading skills to your people. I did touch on these books in a blog awhile back, but I'm really excited about using iBooks with them.

Tobii-Dynavox offers a selection of books that can be viewed on pretty much any computer. If you make a free account at mytobiidynavox, you can download these books, and lesson plans that come with them.

Like I noted, you can view these books on any computer. Or you could print and bind them. Or... and this is the solution that I really like... if you have an iPad, you can save the books in iBooks, and access them anywhere, even without wifi.

Take a look at the video to see the process.

Incidentally, if you really like these books, and prefer old-fashioned paper-back, you can purchase 36  of the books here, for $169.50.

Happy therapy!!

Monday, April 8, 2019

"Ask Us Anything" Sessions with Tobii Dynavox and Boardmaker!

Learning Team and Tech Support Consultants

Hey Tek-Ninjas! This will be of interest to my peeps supporting AAC and Symbol users.

Starting April 19th, and following weekly, Tobii-Dynavox professionals will be available for an hour to answer questions, provide demonstrations, provide resources, etc. 

Someone from the Learning Team and Tech Support team will join up to offer open forums where learners can come and ask questions. As a learner you can stay long enough to just have your questions answered (by asking it aloud, typing in a chat window, sending it ahead of time – whatever your comfort level is) – or stay for the whole hour to hear what other questions might come up. 

The next offering for this is April 30th. 
Learners/Customers can register here.  Feel free to spread the word.

As if that weren't amazing enough...

The Education team will also offer ‘Boardmaker Ask Us Anything’ sessions. Registration is available on the Tobii Dynavox website and also on > Learning & Support > Webinars

April 16, 2019 @ 11:00 EDT HERE

May 9, 2019 @ 1:00 EDT HERE

May 30, 2019@ 5:00 EDT HERE

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How to install an app on an older iOS platform

Picture icon of Apple mobile device operating system
Hey Tek-Ninjas! Today's blog is a quick iOS app tip which will hopefully be useful for you.

Recently a colleague reached out to me, indicating that she was trying to download the Snap + Core First App on her mini iPad. Her dilemma was that iTunes kept telling her that she needed iOS 10 or later. Her mini iPad runs iOS 9.3.5 and would not install the newer version.

I knew there was a solution, but couldn't remember it.  Consequently, I had to send this tech-question up the ladder to my senior tech guy, my 17 year old son, Ben.

Ben quickly got back to me with the following:

So- the only way Apple will allow you to download an older version is if you already own the app. Once you find it in the “purchased” section of the App Store you can select “download” and it will give you the option to download an older version that is compatible with device

So what do we do if she hasn’t purchased it before? Go on a newer device like an
Picture of icon for Snap Plus Core First icon
Add caption
iPhone or iTunes on a Mac (the latter is preferable) that is associated with her iPad’s Apple ID and can purchase the app. Buy it from there, and then you will find it listed in the “purchased” section of her iPad’s App Store. Then you can download, and receive the “older version” 

In the specific case at hand,  my colleague needed to download the "free" version. Once she logged into her "mytobiidynavox" account within the app she gained full functionality.

I can see this issue presenting with a variety of apps, and so I hope this is useful to you all. Thanks to Ben!

Happy therapy!

So the clinician who asked for help emailed back to tell me she had to take a few extra steps. She shared the following:

A few extra steps were involved because essentially the newest version of iTunes on Macs does not support connections with iPad. I had to uninstall my current iTunes and re-install an older version in order for the steps from your blog to work. Essentially, the iPad is too old and iTunes is too new.

I hope this is useful for folks!

Monday, January 28, 2019

"How do I Teach Core...Like fer real"...

Hey Tek-Ninjas! More than occasionally speech therapists ask me "how to teach core language, like fer real".  I routinely direct them to make a free Professional account at The answers and the materials are there. For free. Fer real. 

Core language is ideal because 85% of the words exchanged in everyday communication come from a relatively small pool of roughly 300 words. By providing systematic instruction in these words, we give people increased power as communicators and target their literacy skills at the same time. Words like "I", "Want", "More", "You" generalize across sorry many conversations. Mastering them opens up true spontaneous conversation. 

Tobii Dynavox offers free research-based instructional routines, found the in the Quick Lesson Guide.  And, while I'd like you to jump both feet first into the Tobii Dynavox world, I'd like to point out that you can use these lessons with anyone learning core language.  

Within the Professional account you can find books created specifically with a Core strategy in mind and maximize use of the target words in connected texts that support comprehension and engagement. Activities are intended for classrooms, therapy, or home use. Each word unit comes with word-byword Lesson Plans, so you know what to do to get started on Monday morning

Within the account, you can also print out overlays for a variety of tech devices. 

Even if you aren't a "professional therapist", you can also find much of this content in Pathways for Snap, another free tool that runs on iOS or Windows 10

Happy Therapy!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

FREE downloadable Snap + Core First Core Board

Hey Tek-ninjas! Have you seen the Tobii-Dynavox  FREE downloadable Snap + Core First Core Board? ❤️ Perfect for printing and sticking up in your classroom or home!

Get yours today here.

Happy therapy!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Looking to Learn?

Hey Tek-ninjas! Recently I received a terrific list of webinars that I would have loved to have been present for....and now I get to watch them after the fact. I thought some of you might be interested in watching some of these as well so here you go.

Recorded Webinars

  • Creating Pagesets in Communicator 5 Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Message Banking: Where, Why, and How to Preserve Your Voice Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Snap + Core First for Adults with Communication Needs Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Snap Scene: Overview & Activities for All Ages Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Introduction to Implementing AAC for Emergent Communicators Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Report Writing Basics: Existing Barriers Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Positive Behavior Supports within Snap + Core First Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Report Writing Basics: Report Requirements Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Report Writing Basics: Goal Writing Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Report Writing Basics: Summary Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Introduction to Feature Matching Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Back to School with Snap + Core First Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Tobii Dynavox Family of Products Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Tobii Dynavox Free Resources Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here
  • Introduction to Gaze Viewer Webinar is available for you to view by clicking here

Happy Therapy!!