By Phyl T. Macomber, Assistive Technology Specialist
Designing and programming customized communication boards and instructional materials can be a time-consuming process. Teams struggle to find an adequate amount of time to complete this task in educational, vocational, community, and home settings. Time is a precious commodity. And, regardless of a team member’s comfort level with a technology solution, the ever-changing communication and learning demands of a person with a disability can be overwhelming for teams. This is never more true then when it comes to finding the time for materials development when serving individuals with varying disabilities.
We need to make this process easier for the technology we support and find quick and practical methods for teams to use when personalizing, editing, and changing communication and instructional activities. Both Boardmaker Plus! and Speaking Dynamically Pro offer a solution to this.
Here are some real-life stories . . .
Amanda, a ninth grade learner with Down Syndrome and autism, needs to prepare to go on errands with her family in her local community. She needs to have a talking list of what is happening, where she is going, who is bringing her, and what she needs to bring along, as she learns to gain independence in this area.
Her mom, Holly, needed a quick and easy way to set up an errand list for Amanda - containing various Wh- components – on her integrated speech generating device - that could be changed each day without typing in messages or involving significant programming time. Holly had limited knowledge of how to use a computer-based system. In fact, she had just recently mastered how to use a mouse. The team needed a communication board that could be set up “spur-of-the-moment.” In addition, Holly wanted Amanda to be able to tell someone what she did out in the community to retell a past event and increase her ability to share information.
Amanda uses a talking errand card that her Mom or respite care worker utilizes to
record messages “spur-of-the-moment” - using Quick Record buttons on her Speaking Dynamically Pro communication board. The board takes less than 60 seconds to set up in Use Mode and is displayed with all the necessary Wh- components: What Activity, Where, When, Who and What Do I Need. In addition, the current day of the week and current date is automatically displayed on this board by using the Quick Date action.
Quick Record Errand Card
Using Speaking Dynamically Pro
Prior to going into the community, Holly (1) touches the record button on the board, (2) talks the messages into the Wh- targets with Amanda, (3) provides a preview of the errand card by having Amanda touch each button to listen and learn about the upcoming event, and (4) guides Amanda in how to get what she needs prior to leaving the house. Amanda then uses the talking errand card while running the errand in her local community.
When out in the community, Holly then records a simple “news” message on the talking errand card board upon completion of the errand directly in the communication environment that it occurred. In turn, Amanda now has the ability to share “what happened” when she returns home or goes to school the next day. Holly stated, “Anybody can use this - even if they don’t know how to use a computer!”
Corey, a Kindergarten learner with autism, needs to communicate choices during center time in his primary classroom. His teacher pointed out that center time choices changed – not only throughout the year – but sometimes every few days to offer variety to all the students from a collective bank of rotating activities.
The team needed a way for Corey’s instructional assistant or classroom teacher to quickly set up a talking center time choice board on his speech generating device based on the center time choices available in the classroom that day.
Using Boardmaker Plus!, Corey’s instructional assistant uses a center time board, with a corresponding pop-up of center time choices, to “copy” and “paste” the center time activities onto the talking center time board every morning on Corey’s speech generating device. The board contains the design of using the two actions of Quick Picture and Copy To Quick Picture. The board takes less than 60 seconds to set up for Corey.
Center Time Choice Board with Pop-Up Center Time Choices
Using Boardmaker Plus!
Each day, Corey’s assistant checks in with the classroom teacher to find out which choices will be available for center time that day. Corey navigates to his Center Time Choice board on his speech generating system. His assistant (1) touches the target “Center Time Pictures,” which navigates to a pop-up of center time choices with a Copy To Quick Picture action assigned to each button, (2) the assistant touches the center time picture to “copy” the picture choice, (3) the board automatically changes back to the Center Time Choice board, and (4) the assistant touches the blank target on the choice board to place the picture choice or “paste” the picture choice on the choice board. The assistant repeats this sequenced process each time for the number of center time choices available to the student each day.
Copy, paste, copy, paste . . . .Mayer-Johnson cannot make it any easier than this!
Corey now has a way to use his “voice” to make center time choices in his dynamic classroom – an environment not unlike many classrooms – that changes on a regular basis. And, because this is quick and easy for the staff to use, they are consistent in implementing this with Corey. As a result of this practical solution, the instructional assistant, speech-language pathologist, and classroom teacher have generated numerous ideas for future communication boards for Corey using this format.
There are a collection of Quick Actions available to you in Boardmaker Plus! and Speaking Dynamically Pro that allow you to easily make changes and “build a board” in a heartbeat while in Use Mode. As stated in the Boardmaker Software Family User’s Guide, these quick actions include:
• Quick Picture buttons and actions which allow you to copy a picture from one button to another.
• Quick Record buttons and actions which allow you to record and save a message to a button.
• Quick Day, Quick Date, and Quick Time buttons which automatically display the current day, time, and date on a board.
• Quick Text buttons and actions which allow you to compose and save text messages on the button or to the “face” of the button.
By using Quick Actions, you can quickly customize, update, and personalize numerous communication boards without having to go to Design Mode to edit the board.
The Quick Actions in Boardmaker Plus! and Speaking Dynamically Pro make technology appear “easy” to those who are “in the trenches” using it every day with our individuals with varying disabilities. And, if something is perceived as easy, it is practical.
I have seen first hand that practical assistive technology solutions will not only be used frequently and consistently by team members, but also that they build excitement within a team. And, when you build excitement about using easy software solutions like Boardmaker Plus! and Speaking Dynamically Pro, team members simply want to learn more. In short, it creates “magic!”
NOTE: You may reprint any items from this article in whatever format that you wish, but respectfully request that you please include the following paragraph:
“Reprinted from Phyl T. Macomber’s free AT Solutions At-A-Glance Newsletter. Subscribe at http://www.PracticalATSolutions.com.