New AssistiveWare webinar for Proloquo2Go is now available on iTunes

AssistiveWare announced their webinar for What’s New in Proloquo2Go 1.7 is now available on iTunes as a free video podcast. Click here or go to iTunes and search for “assistiveware webinars.” You will also be able to view the previous webinars from the July-August series.

Please subscribe to the AssistiveWare Webinar Series on iTunes to stay updated and join in the webinar discussions at the Webinar Forum.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I’m the presenter for this Proloquo2Go webinar series.

My path to working from home – Part 2: Apptastic therapy – “When we ask for something, we say ‘please'”

Working with Proloquo2Go was the first experience I had that showed me the power of using apps. Although there weren’t any other special needs apps on the market for iOS devices, there were reading, music, writing and math apps that my students with special needs could use. I was amazed to see how engaged my students were by the apps. They learned much more because the fun involved with these apps encouraged more learning. I could see that that the apps were going to completely change the way that education was delivered to students with special needs. The iOS touchscreen had incredible sensitivity in such a low cost device. It was head and shoulders above anything else available on the market for special needs. I could see that the field of special education was going to change forever.

One of the first apps I used with my students (other than Proloquo2Go) was Wheels on the Bus. The app is a musical book which involves the bus in fun, interactive pages as the classic song is played. Just like a traditional book, I realized that I could use the app for language therapy. The first time I used Wheels on the Bus with my preschool and kindergarten groups, they were immediately engaged and more interested in the speech therapy I was delivering. Using the app, I could target the expansion of sentences, grammatical structures, social language, and more. For an example of social language, there is an instance in the app when a frog swipes a cupcake from the chef without asking. I used this as an opportunity to model social language by demonstrating how to ask politely when you want something: “When we ask for something, we say ‘please’.” I would follow up by asking my students, “What do we say when we want something?” in order to elicit the response “please.” Since many of the skills contained in my students’ IEP goals could be addressed in a fun, effective way with the use of apps, I saw great value in using them. It was amazing to see the difference this cutting edge technology was making for my students.

I began wondering if the delivery of intervention could entirely involve apps. I started using other apps for reading and writing and then Proloquo2Go was released in the spring of 2009. After that, many types of special needs apps followed. There were apps for organization including reward charts; apps for dictating speech to text; and several augmentative communication apps to follow Proloquo2Go. I learned about as many apps as I could and I used them with as many students that I could to meet their IEP goals.

One of the first special needs apps I used was iReward. iReward is a visual chart that reinforces positive behaviors using rewards. For example, a star chart could be configured in the app so the child receives a toy after performing a set of positive behaviors. One of the charts I created for a student with autism was a star chart for remaining seated. He took to the app immediately and it definitely motivated him to successfully remain seated without much prompting from me. Although he couldn’t use too many words to express himself, his fingers on the iPod touch and his eye gaze told me what I needed to know: he wanted to use the device to achieve his goal. I hadn’t seen that level of interest from him previously with a standard paper chart.

After trying different apps with my students, I noticed they were increasingly more attentive. As a result, they would practice more and I was able to see progress a lot faster. Taking into account their tremendous interest and progress, I began gravitating away from all of the traditional therapy materials including traditional flashcards, paperback books, games, etc. and really focused on exploring the possibility of app-based therapy.

As my knowledge base of apps grew, I began to seek out ways to share my experience and tips with other speech-language pathologists and professionals. It seemed people were interested in using apps, but didn’t quite know how to approach them. So, I started speaking about apps and my experiences using them in therapy, and this led me in an unexpected direction.

Click here to view part 1 of “My path to working from home”

My path to working from home – Part 1: Beta testing Proloquo2Go

Prior to working from home, I began constructing the groundwork a while ago. And I didn’t even know it at the time. Back in the winter of 2008, I got involved in testing Proloquo2Go (an augmentative communication app for iOS devices) before the app’s release. I became a beta tester along with one of my students who has augmentative communication needs.  Once my student started using Proloquo2Go on an iPod Touch, I began to think about how an app could completely change not only my student’s life, but also my life as a speech-language pathologist. I soon realized that I could use iOS apps to facilitate communication for my students.

When testing Proloquo2Go with my student, I saw that it was a very sophisticated, yet easy-to-use solution via a mobile device. It had a lot of features while the interface was very user friendly. Additionally, the mobility factor was very important for this particular student because he walks and needs to communicate wherever he goes. The AAC device he had at the time was bulky and thus limiting communication to a tabletop. Proloquo2Go with an iPod touch, on the other hand, could go with him anywhere, whether the device was in his pocket or attached to a lanyard around his neck.

I recall one day I wanted my student to use Proloquo2Go at recess with general education peers. I took him to the playground and he wanted to play soccer. Since he had an iPod touch with a protective case, I figured why not. If it would allow him to interact with students beyond his special education classroom, I was all for it.

During the soccer game, my student ran after the ball as his iPod touch with Proloquo2Go was attached to his neck with a lanyard. The general education students approached him with great interest. They wanted to know how it was possible to use the cool device to communicate. With some assistance from me, my student was able to show them by asking questions and making comments. The students were very patient in waiting for him to communicate. I was highly impressed to see the conversational exchange between them. Plus, it was amusing to see how many of the students became more interested in my student and his “talker” than in playing soccer. It was something I had never seen before and it gave me chills that ran up my spine.

This experience with Proloquo2Go was the catalyst for further exploration of apps to use with my students.  My life was about to take an exciting turn as I entered a new chapter in my career.

AssistiveWare’s webinars for Proloquo2Go now available on iTunes

AssistiveWare recently announced their Proloquo2Go Webinar Series is now available on iTunes as a video podcast. Click here or go to iTunes and search for “assistiveware webinars.” Part 1, Introduction to Proloquo2Go, was released first, with subsequent webinars scheduled for weekly release. Please subscribe to the AssistiveWare Webinar Series to stay updated and join in the webinar discussions at the Webinar Forum.

9.1.11 update: Part 6, iTunes and App Store, is now available here on iTunes.
8.31.11 update
: Part 5, Advanced features (Word prediction and Grammar), is now available here on iTunes. 
8.26.11 update
: Part 4, Backups (Professionals) and Part 4, Tips and tricks (Users, Family, Caregivers) are now available here on iTunes. 
8.20.11 update
: Part 3, Vocabulary customizations, is now available here on iTunes. 
8.15.11 update
: Part 2, App customizations, is now available here on iTunes.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I’m the presenter for this Proloquo2Go webinar series.

New AssistiveWare videos for Proloquo2Go

I want to share four new AssistiveWare videos for Proloquo2Go, the AAC app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. We created the following videos organized by chapters: Introduction to Proloquo2Go, How to backup your vocabulary, How to restore your vocabulary, and How to transfer your vocabulary. The videos are fully accessible with captions that can be viewed either in the YouTube players (click CC) or on the Proloquo2Go website by clicking here. You can also view the YouTube videos in HD and full-screen mode.

Introduction to Proloquo2Go
This video covers the app’s four views including grid, typing, recents, and options. The typing view demonstrates the new word prediction feature which facilitates the typing process.

How to backup your vocabulary
This video demonstrates how to backup vocabulary in Proloquo2Go on a device (e.g., iPhone), then to save the backup to your computer via iTunes File Sharing.

How to restore your vocabulary
This video shows how to copy a Proloquo2Go vocabulary file from your computer to a device (e.g., iPhone) using iTunes File Sharing. Then, retrieve the vocabulary using Restore from Backup in the Options view of Proloquo2Go.

How to transfer your vocabulary
This video demonstrates how to transfer a vocabulary file from one device (e.g., iPhone) to another (e.g., iPad) using the backup and restore features in Proloquo2Go, in addition to iTunes File Sharing on the computer. The process can be used to share a vocabulary file across multiple devices for a given individual.

2010 ASHA Convention

I will be getting married in San Diego, CA during the week of this year’s ASHA Convention. Needless to say, I will not be attending ASHA. However, our ArtikPix app will still have a presence at the convention. The nice folks at AssistiveWare (creators of Proloquo2Go and Pictello) will be demonstrating ArtikPix at their booth (no. 652). You can get hands-on time using the app on an iPod touch and iPad.  If you’re attending ASHA, stop by the AssistiveWare booth to try ArtikPix in addition to Proloquo2Go and Pictello.

Reasons why I love iPad for speech-language therapy

Since the iPad was available April 3, 2010, I have been using one in speech-language therapy with K-8 students who exhibit various disabilities. It is definitely my new favorite tool. I love to use it for push-in lessons in the class, and pull-out lessons in my office. Here are my top 3 reasons why I love using the iPad for therapy:

  1. The apps – The apps are fun and engaging because they are multisensory, appealing to the senses of sight, sound, and touch. There are apps specifically designed for special needs (AAC apps like Proloquo2Go and TapSpeak Sequence) and apps that can be utilized with special needs (song apps like Wheels on the Bus, and storybook apps like Shrek Forever After). I enjoy using the apps that have been optimized for the iPad’s screen resolution.
  2. The size and weight – Since the iPad is bigger than the iPod touch, the screen is viewable from farther away. I can easily hold it at a fair distance away from students. Then, when I want a particular student to interact with the iPad, I can easily bring the lightweight device (1.5 pounds) to him/her. The size is also easier for children with various physical abilities to interact with.
  3. The resolution – The iPads resolution is 2x that of the iPod touch. The higher resolution provides for fantastic looking graphics. As a result, the optimized iPad apps are more visually appealing to students, and are easier to see from a farther distance.