Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Perfect Holiday Gift for the Special Education Teacher

It's the season of giving and as a parent, I am looking for the perfect Christmas gift for my daughter's teacher.  I am guessing I am not alone on this mission.  The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) reported that according to national averages from the 2012-2013 school year, teachers spent $485 out of pocket on their classrooms.  (Access this article to learn more about these figures:
K-12 Teachers Out of Pocket $1.6 Billion on Classroom Tools by David Nagel
Yikes!  For those parents searching for something special for the special education classroom teacher, instead of grabbing a gift card or purchasing a coffee mug, think about supplies that come in handy in the classroom.  Here are suggestions of gifts I would rejoice over:

A Protective Case for iDevices
If your special education teacher is using an iAnything in the classroom, hopefully they already have it covered up with some sort of protected case. But if they don't, buy them a case ASAP.  Don't buy a case for $70.  Those super expensive cases aren't really the best option for special education needs anyway (heavy, hard to hold, no grip, no handles, no stand, hard to clean, etc.)  Instead, spend $40 and get one of the friendliest, safest cases on the market AND get one for yourself while you're at it.  Gripcase.com sells the perfect case- light weight, super protective, handles built into the case so it's easy for our kids to carry, possible to add a carrying strap if needed and all for a great price.  On top of that, you can take advantage of their BOGO program (buy one give one) by getting one for yourself and sending your bonus case to your school as a gift.  I personally vouch for these cases.  I've purchased several and they've been put to the test by many students. They are still standing strong!  Check out the Gripcase website for more information concerning their BOGO program here: Gripcase BOGO Program

A One Button Mouse
The typical two button mouse used with PC computers can be really difficult for special needs students to use and manipulate.  For $20 you can give a classroom with a small one button mouse, which can provide some students with an easier way to independently navigate some computer programs.  I get a lot of requests for these from special education teachers and from occupational therapists.  There never seem to be enough on hand to go around.  It's a nice little addition that every classroom could benefit from.  The Chester Mouse One-Button Mouse might put a smile on your teacher's face.   Click on the link to learn more about this mouse option:
Chester One-Button Mouse

Mounting Tape
I know, I know.  It doesn't sound very exciting.  I sounds like the equivalent of getting slipper socks from your aunt on Christmas Eve.  But trust me...this offering might be the greatest way to let your classroom teacher know that you are in touch with his/her true needs.  Mounting tape is used in a variety of ways in a special education classroom: creating picture schedules, mounting hallway passes, attaching communication devices to mounts and classroom surfaces.  It's expensive and hard to come by in some schools and when it is available, there is hardly ever enough.  There's a variety of different mounting tapes you can purchase, but if you really want to "wow" a teacher buy something super adhesive and with a lot of grip (check out 3M Dual Lock mounting tape.)  And don't underestimate the power of slipper socks...I ask for a pair every year.

Deluxe Spa Package
Reoccurring appointments, scheduled for Fridays at 4:00pm.  This is never a bad gift for any teacher.

Let's hear it from the teachers!  What are some items you would love to be gifted for your classroom? 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 Edublog Award Nominations

In the fall of 2012, I began a quest to find and follow as many quality blogs as I could in order to grow professionally.  At that point, I was following two or three blogs I had stumbled upon by searching on the web for specific resources and noticed how regularly I checked their archives for past posts that I had missed that might contain information I needed to learn more about.  Over the last year, I have subscribed to several blogs that have enriched my educational practices.  I started a Pinterest page so I could catalog these resources and always have them at my fingertips.  Then I started dipping my toe into the Twitter water.  Wow...I'm like a sponge now, trying to follow all of these amazing educators who are generously posting and sharing their wisdom daily.

The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media. Visit here: http://edublogawards.com/
In order to express my gratitude to the brave, intelligent and generous people who have shared their thoughts and resources so graciously with me over the last year, I would like to submit my nominations for the 2013 Edublogs Awards.  Here they are!

Best Individual Blog and Best EdTech/ resource sharing blog: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/
Richard Byrne is a man on a mission: to share free, superb tech resources and provide examples of how they can be used in your classroom.  I've gotten so many "goodies" from this blog that I didn't have to think twice about these categories.  Free Technology for Teachers shares free iPad apps, Android apps, Google Tutorials and much, much more.

Best New Blog: http://iheartedtech.blogspot.com/
I heart ed tech too!  What I really love about this blog is I can read it and learn from it in just 5 minutes.  The posts do not take a whole prep period to read through and often offer very helpful short video tutorials.  The author of this blog "gets it"...we don't have a lot of time.  Gets to the point, great ideas, easy to read.

Best Individual Tweeter: @PaulSolarz https://twitter.com/PaulSolarz
I haven't been following this guy for that long.  But in the short amount of time he's been on my radar, I can't help thinking each time I read one of his tweets, "I wish this guy could have been one of my teachers."  The way he is integrating technology into his classroom is inspiring and a wonderful model to teachers who are wondering, "Where do I start?  What should this look like?"

Most Influential Blog Post of the Year: Voiceless But Still Talking (with AAC) Challenge Day 4
http://www.speakforyourself.org/2013/10/04/voiceless-still-talking-aac-challenge-day-4-time-wine/
I was watching this series of blog entries with great interest.  Here we had a mother who decided to challenge herself for one week by exclusively using her daughter's AAC system (Speak For Yourself app on an iPad mini) to communicate.  She wanted to see the world through her daughter's eyes.  And then she wanted to tell us all about it.  I have tried to take a similar AAC challenge in the past for just one night...I usually last about 10 minutes before I get so frustrated and decide to use my voice to communicate rather than a communication device.  I applaud her for sticking to her word and really seeing this challenge through, as well as sharing with us the emotional roller coaster ride of having to rely on an alternative communication system as your voice.  I wish every Speech Language Pathologist and Special Education Teacher would read this blog entry.

Good luck to all the nominees!  And thank you for the inspiration, community support, and resources you continue to provide.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Dynamic Duo of Apps

I am often asked, "What are your favorite apps?"  I have a love/hate relationship with this question.  There isn't a set list that I refer to as my favorites because each app targets a skill very different from the next.  After giving this explanation I usually get, "Well...what is your favorite autism app?" Again...we need to think about a specific skill/task/area of need before we can make a decision about an app that might be a good fit for a student.  However, I really do love sharing apps that have worked well for teachers and students.  It's through other's suggestions based on their experiences that I have been able to find and fall in love with apps.  So with that being said, I am going to break my own rule and throw out two of my favorite apps of all time for special education classrooms.

There's a method to my madness with choosing these two apps.  Money is tight in any school district; as Assistive Technology Coordinator for a large school district, I need to think wisely about app purchases and how they can be used by all students in our classrooms.  If I could only choose two apps to go on our special education classroom devices, these would be the two I would choose.

Choiceworks, from Bee Visual LLC
There are many visual schedule apps on the market today.  I've purchased several and this app almost always is the student and teacher preferred choice.  I often hear teachers say, "Oh, I meant to make a visual schedule for that. I haven't gotten around to it yet."  I get it- it's a time consuming process to create the visuals, print, laminate, Velcro, and teach the schedule to a student.  Choiceworks, along with other visual schedule apps, takes a lot of that work off your plate.  With a built-in symbol library and the option to take your own photos and import into their library, it is fairly easy for teachers to create a visual schedule on the fly and makes it very personalized and meaningful to the student.  What sets Choiceworks apart is its included supports of "Waiting" boards, social narrative books, and "Feelings" boards.  It also offers the ability to add a timer to each task within a schedule.  It has text-to-speech, so the schedule can be read back to a student by the click of a button.  It's an app that works for all students.  It's an app that is adult-friendly.  And I love how you can save and share schedules you have created with others!  I've created some cheat sheets for the app to help newbies quickly create a schedule and learn the nuances of the app.
You can access those cheat sheets through this link to Google Docs:  Choiceworks App Cheat Sheets
To learn more about Choiceworks, visit their website here: http://www.beevisual.com/

Book Creator for iPad, from Red Jumper Studio
Last year I set out on a mission to find a "productivity" app that would fit the needs of all students and offer teachers a plethora of options as to how it could be used within instruction.  The answer was Book Creator.  Lots of apps do some of the same things that Book Creator does (and sometimes for a much cheaper price.) However, I haven't found one yet with the combination of features that Book Creator has to offer.
Book Creator is an app that allows you to create your own book.
But by adding text, audio, video, drawings and importing pictures to each page, this mega app can be used for so much more than simply creating a book.  The speech language pathologists of my school district are using it to create social narratives, video modeling supports, and books that target Common Core.  It's a great way to adapt assessments for students who are non-verbal and face fine motor challenges with writing (teachers can create a version of the assessment where a student would read or listen to a question and then respond by activating a visual multiple choice selection layered with audio.)
 We can easily share these books through a shared Google Docs folder.  Whenever a teacher creates something they think others could benefit from, they simply send their "book" from within the app into their Google Drive app, into a shared Google Docs folder. Then all therapists and teachers can open
 it from their Google Drive app into iBooks and access the book as well.  The app also allows you to submit your creations to iBookstore.
Book Creator offers wonderful support with tutorials on how to work the app.  You can view those tutorials here: Book Creator Tutorials
Learn more about the app here: http://www.redjumper.net/bookcreator/

Choiceworks and Book Creator can be used to support one student or a whole class.  They can be used throughout the entire school day, no matter what the activity.
We all wish we could have access to a million apps to fit every activity/task we are conducting in our classroom. But in a world were budgets only allow for a few choices, these are the two apps I would choose.  I am seeing first hand how students are benefiting from them.  I see how happy they are to interact with their visual schedule; how writing a book is much more pleasurable experience when they can take photos, add text and record their voices all on one place to create that book.  I see teachers who are relieved that making a picture schedule will not take a whole prep period (and can't get destroyed/lost/thrown away later in the week.) I see teachers creating lessons that bring accessibility to all students.
 Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?







Saturday, November 9, 2013

5 Best Practices for Case Conferences

I've sat through a lot of case conferences.  All kinds.  Case conferences to discuss initial testing, annual case conferences to discuss progress and goals, re-evaluation case conferences, exit conferences, and conferences to develop behavior plans.  Conferences that were quick, conferences that were joyous, conferences where feelings were hurt, people felt betrayed, people felt proud. Or conferences where people left feeling like nothing was accomplished.

And I know there will be many more to come...of all kinds.

I remember my first days in the world of education and how nervous I was to attend these conferences.  If I'm being honest with myself, I think I probably talked a lot at those conferences.  Too much.  I was eager to show parents how well I knew their child.  Eager to show them how competent I was at my job.  Afraid that they would disagree with my recommendations for IEP goals or services.  Afraid that I would get talked into providing services or supporting goals that I didn't believe were appropriate for the child.  Worried that parents wouldn't take my recommendations seriously or follow through with my suggestions at home.

I don't worry anymore about case conferences.  But I do see a lot of teachers still get very nervous before meeting with parents and students, especially when they feel that parents will not agree with their recommendations.  Lately I've been thinking about how I got over these nerves and what "best practices" I follow in order to contribute to a productive and agreeable discussion with students and parents.  I certainly don't have all the answers, but these are the five practices I try to keep in mind that I think have really helped in a "sticky situation" meeting.  They seem so simple.  As educators we talk about them a lot.  But how often are we, as an IEP team, walking the walk and not just talking the talk?  Things that make you go hmmm....

5. Use language that everyone in the room (or anyone out of the room) can understand.
What's a lexile score?  Pragmatics means what exactly?  OT/PT stands for what, and what is their role with the student?  As educators, we throw around a lot of acronyms and terms that are very familiar to us.  And even if a parent has attended a million case conferences in the past, we shouldn't take for granted that they have learned, remembered, or recognize these terms.  Again, this is something I was very guilty of when first attending case conferences.  I thought that if I provided the scientific terms and explanations while discussing language comprehension, parents would see how much I "really knew my stuff."  And most of the time they just had no idea what I was talking about and how it related to their child.  (Even after ten years of working in the school system, I still don't really understand all the lingo that a school psychologist uses at an evaluation conference.)  I don't like to flat out ask a parent, "Do you understand what I'm talking about when I say ____?"  I'm guessing 9 out of 10 times they will say yes, regardless of whether they actually mean it.  Instead, I paraphrase and explain the terms as I go: "Let's look at your son's receptive language scores, or in other words how much he is understanding and comprehending when others are talking and explaining things to him."  This doesn't put the parent on the spot, it exposes the whole IEP team to vocabulary in your area of expertise, and clearly explains what in the world you are talking about.

4. Listen more than you speak.
Shut up, already.  I wish I could go back and tell myself this on my first or second year of the job.  Ha, probably the first five!  This "best practice" (so to speak) is probably applicable across many aspects of life.  You will learn a lot more about someone and the challenges they are facing by asking some questions and getting quiet.  You will also solve problems through listening, as well.  I think in a case conference we sometimes think that we need to talk, talk, talk because the purpose is to "report" back to parents on how their child is progressing.  It's important to provide feedback.  But this is a collaborative process.  If one person is doing all the speaking, you've got a major problem on your hands.  Why even bother inviting different minds to the table?  Which leads to what I think is another great case conference "best practice"...

3. Respect everyone's perspective.
Everyone at the table has their own agenda.  Everyone at the table has their own special area of concern when it comes to the student.  And everyone at that table will have their own story to tell.  All of our stories are not going to match up sometimes.  If you ask my best friend Sarah what I am like to be around, she is going to tell you that I am hilarious, loud, and have a dirty mouth.  She might tell you that at times I am lazy and too opinionated.  She'll tell you I am a terrible dancer.  If you ask my boss what I am like, he would say I'm a hard worker.  He'd say I am professional, a good listener, sometimes too rigid in my thinking...and let's face it- hilarious.  Two people that spend a lot of time with me, two very different explanations of my personality.  Both accurate.  Different perspectives.  When a parent or student is telling us a very different story from what we see at school, don't discount it.

2. Be up front and honest.
Occasionally we get nervous to recommend a change in an IEP (changes to therapy services, changes to programming, changes to goals.)  In these instances, it's easy to sugar coat the reality of a situation or quickly run through the information in hopes that it doesn't ruffle feathers or raise a red flag.  The trouble is that it can really come back to haunt you later.  Once parents leave the room and really have time to digest what was said in such a rush, read over the paper work, the trouble starts.  They feel as if you are trying to trick them and they can lose confidence in your judgement when it comes to their child.  I think it's always best to be specific and honest about the consequences of decisions being made in a conference so parents are not surprised later down the road with their child's academic plan.  If parents are going to disagree with your recommendations, it is much better to have that happen from the start so you can agree upon a compromise now, rather than doing so later with parents who have lost their trust in you.

After all, you've got nothing to hide.  We are all there to do what's best for the student at hand.  And as long as you are doing right by that child, there's nothing to shy away from...right?

1. Let the most important person in the room speak.
Last but not least.  In fact, I'd venture to say it's the most important rule of thumb to follow.  In the case conferences I have participated in, more often than not, the student is present.

More often than not, the student doesn't say a word throughout the entire conference.  They aren't asked to.

They aren't ignored, per se...often the adults in the room are directly addressing them.  Talking at them.  But in a meeting focused on an individual's educational outcomes, goals and services, shouldn't that individual be the person doing the most talking?  In conferences where the student is asked to talk, usually it is to answer negative questions.  Why aren't you studying more?  Why aren't you turning in these homework assignments?  Why didn't you tell me you were having trouble learning this concept?  Instead, I like to ask the main attraction in the room questions like, "What do you think your greatest strengths are at school?  What do you wish you had more help with?  What kind of changes would you like to see happen?" I also like to reinforce that they are fully allowed to disagree with anything said in a case conference.  This isn't a time for compliance with adults.  It's a time to teach a student to advocate for themselves and how to use their voice in an effective way.

If nothing else, I wish this "best practice" was at the forefront of everyone's mind (parents and teachers) when walking into a case conference meeting.

What are some "best practices" you feel are important to keep in mind during case conferences?  I'd love to know.  Time for me to grow by listening to your perspective.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Using Pinterest as a Professional Resource

A little over a year ago, I took a position new to me in a new school district as Assistive Technology Coordinator.  I had used several different varieties of AT with students in the past and was excited to learn about other AT tools that my new school district already had in their inventory.  Now that I was going to be the "go-to" person for all things AT I felt the need to create a system (preferably categorized) which would provide me with a list of tools in my toolbox.  So I created a list of what we currently had on hand.  But wait...what was I going to do with all the tools mentioned on blogs and newsletters that I had read about but didn't have on hand and wanted to remember for a rainy day?  I started bookmarking websites with products that I might need to purchase some day if the need for that tool should arise.  But that didn't solve my problem with having a central location to scan through "AAC resources" or "apps that are switch accessible."  So I created an excel sheet and categorized tools; started adding images to provide myself with a visual...what a mess!  And too time consuming.

I met with my district's Technology Instructional Specialist and asked her how in the world she kept all these tools/ideas accessible to herself and she said, "Pinterest!"

Pinterest? I had a personal Pinterest account. Like most people, I had made some wish-list boards of products that one day I would like to buy for gifts or ideas of how to decorate my house.  But associating it with work?  I hadn't really thought of using it in that way.

I set out to create a Pinterest account for professional purposes.  I created category boards, pinned the websites of the tools that I already had in my tool bag, and started pinning tools that I didn't have access to but might want to purchase in the future.  I started pinning blog posts that contained wonderful information on how to implement tools and instruction into the classroom.  What resulted was an immediate, easy, user-friendly way to keep myself organized.  I also saw another benefit; many of the teachers that request consultation meetings with me for AT needs do a great job of articulating the environment and task that a student is struggling with...they also do a great job of explaining the tools they have already tried.  But many teachers always end with one common statement.  "We know this student could use some assistive technology.  We just have no idea what's out there."  That's when I open up one of my Pinterest boards.  I can provide a visual of some products that we can trial with their student, links to videos that demonstrate how to use the tool, train on the tool, set up the tool, etc.

Instead of flipping through several vendor catalogs or trying to remember a website with a web tool that I read about three months ago, now I just open up my Pinterest account and start browsing my boards.  Regardless of your role in education, Pinterest is a great place to store those great ideas you know you will have to access someday.  But before you get started, there are a few things you need to consider:


Tips to keep in mind when creating a professional Pinterest account:

Always pin from an original source.  I don't re-pin anything onto my professional boards.  When I click on a tool I want to directly link to the website that sells that tool or blog providing information on the tool.

Be careful with images.  Occasionally I will run into a blog or website that I want to add to a board but it doesn't supply an image that I can pin.  In these circumstances, I either directly contact that company or person and ask them for an image I can use with their permission or I search the web for a copyright free image to attach to my pin.

Put thought into pin descriptions.  When I pin a website or tool that I don't' currently have a need for but might in the future, I try to label the pin with a phrase or statement that will adequately remind myself later down the road as to what features this tool has to offer.

Learn from others.  Before I started creating my own boards I checked out other Pinterest users who were also using their accounts as a professional resource.  I collected ideas on how to categorize my boards and arrange them into a layout that would accommodate my needs.  Here are some Pinterest pages that I took a good hard look at before creating my own:
Lauren S. Enders, MA, CCC-SLP pinterest.com/lasenders/
Lesley Karpiuk, Technology Instructional Specialist pinterest.com/IHeartEdTech/

Check out my boards for AT tools, apps, AAC resources and more at http://www.pinterest.com/ATgirl/









Saturday, October 26, 2013

Portable Word Processor- The Forte

One of my favorite assistive technology tools to use with students who have difficulty with writing tasks is a portable word processor. There's a fairly new product on the market called Forte.  After testing it out over the last two weeks, I think it will quickly become one of my favorite portable word processing solutions.


The Basics
It's pretty simple:  the Forte is a portable word processor featuring a text screen and keyboard.  It comes with some key features which provide wonderful writing support to students.  It's extremely light weight and compact which makes it easy to transport.  (The device is comparable in size to an iPad.)  It runs on a factory installed rechargeable battery, so just plug it into an outlet to charge.

Transferring documents off of the Forte for printing is a fairly simple and fluid process- transfer to a USB flash drive or transfer directly to a computer through a provided USB cord. Consumers can choose among different packages when purchasing a Forte, depending on the features/tool supports they need included on the device.  The most expensive package will run just a touch under $250 per unit (price goes down when buying in bulk.)  But for $250 you get a whole lot of features and supports to play around with- so let's take a look at some of those features that make me drool...                          
      
User Writing Supports
The basics- Includes spell check, adjustable font and text display, thesaurus, translation and dictionary tool. Create files and folders and never worry about losing your work...it's automatically saved on the device each time you close a file.

Word Prediction- customize the size of your word prediction list and simply select and enter a word from the list that you would like added to the document.

Text to Speech capabilities- depending on your package, use head phones to access audio or use the external speaker built into the device.

Calendar- forget that assignment notebook and use this built-in calendar tool.  Includes automatic reminders and alerts for upcoming events.

Spell It- Teachers can import spelling lists and students can use this tool to quiz themselves through ten interactive exercises, including a final spelling test.

Math Facts- ten math activities that focus on timed exercises regarding math facts.  Includes automatic tracking and monitoring.

Writing Prompts- Comes with several built-in writing prompts to get ideas flowing for writing.  It also provides different editing checklists, tips and reminders on how to improve a piece of writing. One of my favorite features is the Score button.  This provides students with a grade-level estimated score on their writing and writing stats.  Students can quickly assess their writing score and continue to edit and add to their document to improve the score.

Keyboard Instruction- includes Perfect Form, a tutorial for appropriate keyboarding form and drills.

Split Screen with vocabulary lists- I really love this feature! Targeted vocabulary can be added to the Forte. Students then can go into Split Screen mode, which will display their vocabulary list and check off the words used within their document.

The Bottom Line
This tool is easy for students to physically manage, quickly allows staff and students to be trained on how to operate, provides several tools and supports for writing, and has an age-appropriate appearance that won't make students feel like they stick out like a sore thumb in the classroom.  It has all the supports needed for students who struggle with organization, fine motor issues, and expressive writing difficulty.  Forget the mouse...no need for one when all editing options are accessible through the keyboarding buttons. It's a more affordable option than purchasing a tablet if you are just looking for a writing support system.

Last but certainly not least, you can't beat the customer service that Advanced Keyboard Technologies, Inc. provides.  Whenever I have a question or need some quick trouble-shooting support related to their products, I typically get a response within a few hours.  That's pretty hard to come by in this day of age.

For more information regarding Forte Writers, check out http://www.writerlearning.com/
Home screen display






Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pairing a Blue2 Bluetooth Dual Pedal Switch with iOS7

If you're like me, you need some step-by-step directions (with visuals!) to help navigate through the process of pairing your Bluetooth switch with the new iOS.  Below are step-by-step directions to help you through the process if you are using a Blue2 Dual Pedal switch.  You can also access these directions as a PDF through Google Docs here: Pairing a Blue2 Bluetooth Dual Pedal Switch with iOS7

For more information regarding switch access and the iPad, check out Jane Farrall's Consulting Blog: How Do I Pair A Switch with an iPad



Directions for Pairing:
Go to the Settings App

Select the Bluetooth tab; turn Bluetooth On (You will see your iPad “Searching” under DEVICES)

On your Blue2 dual switch device, turn power ON

You will now see Dual Pedal show up under DEVICES.  It will say “Not Paired” (See picture below)

Tap on top of Dual Pedal.  You will see a Bluetooth Pairing Request box pop up with a four digit code, which needs to be entered in order to pair your Dual Pedal







































Use the numbered keys on the Blue2 to enter in the code.  The numbers are very small and hard to see…also there are only 5 keys to choose from.  If you look closely, you will see that each key has two numbers assigned to it…1-5 and 6-0. (Refer to picture below.)



















In order to use these keys to enter the four digit code, directly select the key for numbers 1-5 or hold the Shift pedal and select the key when entering numbers 6-0.  After you have typed in your four digit code, select the Enter pedal.

You should now see the iPad notify you that your device is “Connected” (see image below)


Click on the General Tab within the Settings App

Select Accessibility

Underneath Physical and Motor, select Switch Control






































Turn Switch Control ON

Select “Switches”; select blue2

Choose your switch actions.  Scanner will activate your Shift pedal.  System will activate your Enter pedal.


Within the Switch Control menu, there are several items you can customize and turn on/off.  Make sure you take a look at all of your options in order to fully optimize your switch experience.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tools That Support Social Skills

This week I've been investigating how technology can help support teaching social skills.  I've used these tools before for various instructional purposes but I really love how they can be used to support students tackling social challenges in the school setting.                                                           

The Power Card Tool
Power Cards involve incorporating a highly preferred subject and using it to make a connection to the social skill you are targeting with your student.  For more information on how to create Power Cards and the research behind their effectiveness, check out the links below:
Using the Power Card Strategy
The Power Card Strategy

I love using the Trading Card Creator from www.readwritethink.org for creating Power Cards. It's free, super quick, and easy for a student to   participate in the process. ReadWriteThink has several interactive tools that are great to use in the   classroom, so make sure to explore the other tools on the website if you get a chance!
The Comic Strip Tool
Allowing a student to help develop a comic strip to sort through social situations and feelings is another fun way to collaborate on problem solving skills.  For more information, take a look at the following link:  Comic Strips and Social Skills
There are certainly a plethora of comic creator tools available on the web and in app form...and I've tried several.  The Story Me App (available to iPads running on iOS 6.0 or higher) is by far the most user-friendly, time efficient tool I've found.  And it's free!
The Multi-Media Social Narratives Tool
I love using multi-media displays with students because it provides audio and visual cues.  ProShow (available on iDevices and online) provides three different account options depending on your needs.  This tool allows you to upload photos, video, text and music to create a slide show.  I use a variety of slide show apps but I always come back to this one- I love how I can access it on all my devices and the many options for sharing my creations.  For more information pertaining to social narratives, visit The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Token Economy Systems Using an iPad

As teachers get into their groove at the beginning of the school year, a token economy system is a great way to incorporate reinforcement (an evidence based practice!) into their instruction.  But who has time to laminate and Velcro paper and pennies for a penny board?!  With the help of an iPad, you can access a token economy system at the touch of an app.

Getting Started
I like to introduce a token board before a lesson begins and clearly explain the expectations to my students.  Which desired behavior are we targeting to earn a token?  What does that behavior look like?  How many tokens does the class or student feel are a reasonable amount to earn for the reward?  What will the reward be?  The reward or a reminder of the reward should be displayed throughout your lesson as a visual reference for students to stay on track.  (It's kind of like that picture of a girl in a bikini on your refrigerator door...we need to remember why we are not snacking between meals!)

For teaching strategies on token economy systems, check out these links:
Educate Autism
The Do and Don't of Token Economy from The Autism Helper

App Suggestions
There are a lot of great ways apps can be used as token economy systems.  Some are made specifically for tracking behavior- others are not but certainly fit the bill!  Here are some examples:

Working4 (currently $2.99)
For a nice price, this app is specifically made to be used as a token economy system.  Choose how many tokens (up to 5) you are working for, choose the reward from the picture library built into the app or add your own photos, touch the stars for each token earned, and then "cash in" when you have earned your reward.  The Cash In button has a nice "cha-ching!"  noise...students love it!




Cheerful Charts Free
This free version of Cheerful Charts is a great app when working with group economy systems.  The free version comes with four different charts to choose from (jungle, dinosaurs, mice who eat cheese, and cats!) and has several rows of "stickers" to reveal on each page.  The paid version is currently only $1.99.







Any Photo Editing App
Several photo editing apps offer stickers or images that can be added to photos.  (I've used Photo Sticker HD for this example, which is a free app but offers in-app purchases for upgrades.)  Take a photo of your student, class, reinforcement item, or environment in your classroom and add "tokens" to the photo as you work towards your goal.











Any Puzzle App
There are a lot of puzzle apps out there that are free or inexpensive.  Choose a variety of puzzles and let the pieces act as the "tokens" that need to be earned to complete the picture in order to earn your reward.  (Featured here 123 Kids Fun Paper Puzzle Game which currently runs for $0.99.)







123TokenMe
A highly customized app and great for using with individual students.  In-app purchases allow you to upgrade your account to add several students (but the free version will let you add one student profile.)  I love the data tracking and timer features.








Apps can quickly lose their appeal over time and it's important to change up your strategy and visuals to keep students interested...so please share with me which apps you use for token economy systems in your classroom!  You can never have too many tools in your bag.