Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Get some learning here!

Hey Tek-ninjas! As many of you begin your summer, maybe you are restless for something to do.... I mean, just how long CAN you spend at the pool or lake (ok, maybe all day long....) I want to remind you of free training available to you through the Learning Hub from Tobii Dynavox. Take a look at just a few of next week's offerings!

Preserve Your Voice: Get Started with Message Banking: June 22, 1-1:30

The Tobii Dynavox Message Bank is a joint project between Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Otolaryngology and Tobii Dynavox with a goal of providing a free and open message bank site. We define Message Banking as: Digitally recording and storing words, phrases, sentences, personally meaningful sounds using one’s natural voice, inflection, and intonation. This webinar will review why message banking is important for individuals who are at risk for losing their voice and how it can be accomplished through mymessagebanking.com.

Simple Implementation Tips: Positive Communication Environment: June 23, 1-1:45

Are you new to AAC and wondering how to get started? In this course you will learn specific and simple tips to create a positive and successful AAC environment.

Core First Learning: June 24: 10:30-11:15

This session will walk through this program designed to support communication and literacy skills by focusing on how to find, use and read core words. There will be an outline of activities included as well as how to assign and use them with any learner regardless of their access method.

The Magic of Modeling: June 25: 1-1:30

Wondering how you can introduce vocabulary and help promote use of AAC for people with complex communication needs? Join us as we explore the evidence-based approach of modeling, including specific ideas for implementing modeling in a variety of settings.

Happy summer, and happy learning!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Delivering Voices in SC and western VA

 Hey Tek-ninjas! More shaking up in my Tobii Dynavox world!

First, let me say that I'm so excited to announce that South Carolina has a new Solutions Consultant. She's going to work with Courtney Grant, whom many of you may know as having been the consultant there for years. Courtney is taking on other responsibilities in the company, but she's going to help with the training of our new hire, Emilie Peel. 

Emilie has been in the field of speech pathology and AAC for the past 11 years. She wrote to me that she is passionate about AAC and the many ways it fosters communication. We are excited to have her on board and think we will all benefit from her knowledge.

Additionally, today Tobii Dynavox posted a position for what I refer to as the western portion of Virginia. If you are interested in applying or learning more about the position follow this link

From the link: "The Solutions Consultant is responsible for contributing to the sales growth in an assigned territory by increasing awareness, developing networks, providing information on Tobii Dynavox products to potential customers and clients and assisting them in the selection and sale of speech generating devices that best meet their needs. This is a remote position, the solutions consultant must live in the sales territory. Territory area includes Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Blacksburg."

On a side note, those towns are in the middle of world class mountain biking, trail running, and flyfishing.... just say'n. 

Also, Tobii Dynavox is a wonderful company to work for!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Quick Learning Opportunities!

Hey Tek-ninjas! I wanted to take a moment and highlight some terrific education opportunities for you to build your AAC skills. 

These courses, offered through Tobii Dynavox are excellent, typically 1 to 1.5 hours long, and price just right: FREE. These times are all Eastern Time. 

May 27: Keep Doing What Matters: Technology Supports for ALS: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm 

May 27: Stay True to You: Personalized Communication for People with Aphasia: 5:30 pm - 6:00 pm 

May 28: Tips, Tricks, and Resources for Snap! 11:00 am - 12:00 pm 

June 1: Support All Learners with Boardmaker. 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm 

June 2: Access Your Computer with Your Eyes. 11:00 am - 11:30

June 2: The Magic of Modeling. 12 pm - 12:30 pm

This is a just the surface of what is available. Peruse the catalogue here.  The events are constantly being updated. Miss one you want to see? Likely it will pop up again. What something specific? Reach out to your local Solution Consultant, and they can bring your idea to our Learning Team! 

Happy Learning!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Jo gets to deliver voices!

 Hey Tek-ninjas! I have so loved being a Tobii Dynavox Solutions Consultant for 3.5 years. The job has been such a good fit for me, and I am so proud to be a part of this organization. If you are a long time reader, you've read me gush about my job. You know that I am constantly impressed by my colleagues. They are such a smart and dedicated group of professionals. We get to deliver voices!! It has felt like so much more than "just a job". 

My IG Story: 2019
As of April 1st, I've moved into a new role, and I am now a Regional Market Director, which means I am managing close to a dozen Solution Consultants in SC, NC, VA, DC, MD, PA, and a small corner of WVA and OH, and helping them to deliver voices. 

With this shift, one of my biggest concerns has been finding a replacement who would 1. love this work as much as I have, and 2. recognize it's profound importance. Fortunately, we had several amazing applicants to choose from, and ultimately there were some hard decisions to make. 

I'm confident we got it right, and I am so pleased to share with folks that Jo Taylor, SLP extraordinaire will be taking over my territory, the "right side" of NC, and Tidewater, VA! Jo begins May 24th.

Jo was a guest blogger here on Tek-ninja awhile back, where she showcased how she was leveraging infrared and Snap Core First to engage her clients. She has a ton of AAC experience, and has helped grow AAC awareness where ever she goes. Jo is very much an AAC dork like myself! One of her self-professed joys is to try to give an answer on Facebook BEFORE Jeremy Tobii-Dynavox Nelson can do so! 

So, if you are in Eastern NC, or Tidewater VA, please be on the lookout for her and reach-out to her for AAC needs. She will be reachable at jo.taylor@tobiidynavox.com. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Grant Money for AAC Equipment


Hey Tek-ninjas! This one goes out to school-based SLPs, OTs, and anyone on an Assistive Technology team in the US. 

Are you aware of the CARES Act? The CARES Act is a Federal program providing $390 million in
Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020. Funds are allocated to each state's K-12 schools in the form of grants to mitigate the financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly $39 million in federal coronavirus relief money has been released by the State Board of Education. This money can be used to support exceptional children’s programs and to purchase online curricula to support blended learning. 

Additionally, it can be used to purchase educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students served by the LEA – which can also include assistive technology for disabled students.

In a nutshell: there is funding available for your AT Team which could be used to procure AAC equipment!  Here in North Carolina you can learn specifics here, and apply for your district here.  

If you are in a different state, you can probably find application information by googling "cares act funding for (your STATE) school districts. 

Money left untapped goes back to DC. Good luck!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Increasing AAC user's independence with modern environmental controls and universal design

 Hey Tek-ninjas! Today I want blog about how a concept designed to support "lazy" has morphed into universal design (UD) AND access.

Some of you may not even remember a time when you had to get up off the couch to change a tv channel. I do. No, not because I'm THAT old, but we did not get a tv until I was a teen, and then it was a very cheap model. Momma-T was a bit of a granola hippy, and was convinced tv would rot our brains! We certainly did not have a remote control on that black and white box. Did you know that it's been almost 65 years since infrared remote controls came to market? These little gadgets were called "Lazy Bones" and allowed us to stay on the couch (so as not to lose a prime seat). Staying on the couch allowed you to dictate what you watched at least until your bigger brother or sister exercised their might. Sigh. 

One inherent problem with infrared remote controls was that they got lost. When we finally got one, my father drilled a hole in it, tied a bit of rope, and secured it to the side table. Rhet did NOT play. Then we started needing even more remotes for the cable service, and tv, and speakers, etc. 

Flash forward to today, and you find that most if not all modern televisions and tv services do not come with an infrared remote, but rather a radio-frequency remote. RF, also known as “radio frequency,” and IR, which stands for “Infrared,” are two kinds of energy used in remote controls to send commands. RF uses radio waves and IR is a kind of light that.  

Additionally, with web-enabled technology, there are so many alternative user interfaces (UI) available now which use voice controls. And this is not just for our tv's anymore. We can connect to the home thermostat, lights, doors, etc. 

In my home any of us can say "Hey Google, play the Grateful Dead on Spotify" (I'm the only one who asks for the Dead though), or "Hey Google, turn on my office lights". As long as I'm within "hearing" of the speaker UI - those commands are carried out for me. OR, I can open the app on my iPhone (Android too) and control all of this. It's pretty Amazing. 

These web-enabled environmental controls are very accessible, and available at local stores or online. They are relatively affordable, and easy to setup. You don't need a specialist to automate much of your household. This access to universal designed access can be of profound importance to many of our folks who utilize communication systems. Leveraging Siri, Alexa, Google, and other smart speakers, users can control so many aspects of their environment. Especially eye-gaze or switch access. 

Historically AAC software and AAC hardware came with IR built in to it. Tobii Dynavox still offers IR on most of their DME. But more recently, folks have begun ignoring the IR, and leveraging their AAC systems to speak to their smart speakers. All without having to be in "line of sight". 

Some folks may have already invested in Alexa or Siri in their home. If that's the case, that's fine. Those pagesets are built in and ready - go ahead and use them. BUT... if you've not, and are considering a smart speaker - I endorse Google because Tobii Dynavox and Google worked together to integrate Hey Google commands over the wifi to the smart speaker system. This means the user is no longer tethered to being close enough for the speaker to hear you. This is huge. Awhile back I blogged about the integration of Hey Google into Snap Core First AAC software from Tobii Dynavox. 

Access to such technology obviously increases an individual's independence. It allows them to do so much. And for young emergent communicators, it can be a terrific motivator to practice using eye-gaze. 

So, I'm unsure that infrared is actually "going away", but I am confident and excited that there are new and more robust user interfaces available which can greatly increase the quality of life for many of our AAC users!

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Let your voice be heard, so that other's might have a voice!

Hey Tek-ninjas! I've heard from many of you about how much you appreciate the free, quality webinars that Tobii Dynavox offers at their Learning Hub. I've most recently blogged about those here. A number of folks report using the webinars to fulfill most of their continuing education, from home, on their own computer, learning about AAC! Well, it looks like the company's Learning Team is about to take their efforts to a whole new level!

Tobii Dynavox has announced that they are working on the creation of a Certification Program. Completing a specific course of study would provide participants with Tobii Dynavox Certification. They indicate that their intention is to create a program that best serves "your" interests and needs, and in order to do so, they are hoping to get your input on this survey

This is your opportunity to tell Tobii Dynavox what you want to learn, and what you think other AAC focused SLPs and other professionals "should" know! You can have a hand in determining what a Tobii Dynavox Certificate Program might look like.

So, who are they looking for feedback from? Well, SLPs, educators, and any other AAC/assistive tech friends (hey fellow OTs...)! By the way, AAC/assistive tech friends definitely 
includes parents, caregivers, and even end users!

Please consider sharing your opinion, and inviting invested AAC friends to do so as well!