This is perhaps my favourite quote to do with inclusion – so simple, it just goes to the heart of the matter.
This is perhaps my favourite quote to do with inclusion – so simple, it just goes to the heart of the matter.
Tough times for a child who can sometimes take on the form of a pretzel.
Depending on the time/place/moment/noise/temperature/season… Mac can be tough to get a decent shot of.
After an epic fail in Year 1, where I was meant to be helping, and subsequently Mac’s individual photo was atrocious, I have been banned from assisting by Mac’s dad.
So Shawn has had the task, and has done a great job, for years Kindy and Grade 2. As a hardened journo from way back, he isn’t shy asking for a ‘re-take or do-over’.
This year he wasn’t available so Mac’s aide, Tim, took charge and assured me he was up to the job and was going to make sure it’s a good one ( although I don’t think he realised how much easier said than done this actually is )
I do think it will work out ok – Tim’s nothing if not determined. On collecting Mac at the end of the day Tim advised, “we didn’t get him smiling, but he did look ‘a bit posh’ ”… hmm, intriguing… can’t wait to see it now.
Tim took the initiative for Mac to have ‘two sittings’ for individual photo at different times of the day and said the photographers “were extremely accommodating”. I love that Tim took the job so seriously – he and Mac appeared to have a good time, even if Mac wasn’t prepared to smile whenever a camera was anywhere near him. But Tim being a bit pushy helps the photographers know they can ask for a redo themselves and not feel like they are embarrassing anyone, in fact it would be welcomed. It also sends a message that it’s ok to set a higher standard for all kids photos, particularly those who aren’t always as easy to photograph.
In this era of digital photography there’s no real extra cost to taking those few extra shots here and there.
I actually think there’s almost a social role for photographers to ‘step up’ and ensure they are presenting those most at risk of being devalued, in valued roles through respectful and thoughful use of their art.
Still, glad they are done for another year but only ‘half glad’ that kid in the pic at the top of the post isn’t mine…
Football season is here. In Australia you are spoilt for choice with the amount of sport and number of ‘footy codes’ to choose from.
In our family it’s Australian rules football and the AFL (Australian Football League).
Mac has consistently maintained he is a Sydney Swans supporter (which is my team ) yet his dad is a very loyal Carlton Blues supporter. I have let Mac know he doesn’t have to ‘truly’ commit to a team until he turns 10 but he has been solid on the Swans for a good few years now.
We were reasonably organised this year, even made it to the opening game of the season in Sydney last Saturday. An historic moment being the first game ever for the new Great Western Sydney Giants (GWS). I’m not sure he doesn’t love the pre-game frivolity and post-game celebrations a little more than the actual game… that’s probably not that unusual for an 8yo – particularly one who can’t really see what’s happening on the field courtesy of his cortical vision impairment.
While Mac has had a lovely time over the years snuggling with his Dad, usually in front of the fire, for the couple of hours it takes for an AFL game to take place he hasn’t really been that engaged. He’s been to a couple of live games in the early days but they seemed to ‘freak him out’ a little with the crowd roar and the whole ‘lack of vision’ thing.
This year Mac has joined his ‘first ever’ footy tipping competition with his Dad and some other Dads’n lads. Great practice for AAC (either with auditory or visual scanning) and we have found some time for him to select his tips at school. This has a couple of benefits… it helps the other kids see him doing the same stuff (or cooler stuff) than them and it saves me one job at home. It does help that his Learning Support person this year is an AFL supporter (although there’s no explaining him being a Richmond supporter).
At the moment we have each of the rounds set up on the computer for visual scanning, but might (time permitting), load them into a Dynavox share page for easy updating each year.
I am looking forward to seeing how Mac fares in his first ever tipping comp… ‘carn the Swannies!
You’ve probably seen these puzzles appearing in your newspapers over the last few years. Looking a bit like a weird Sudoku puzzle they are worth a second glance.
KenKen puzzles have built in differentiation, potential for collaborative learning and are readily available as free resource. Is that not the ultimate in universal design in learning?
For an auditory or visual scanner they are great because you have a small number of answer options compared to other puzzles. For a 4×4 puzzle you only have to enter 1, 2, 3 or 4 in each square – much less tedious for a scanner.
Kenken puzzles can contain all maths operations but, just as easily, can be simplified to only include ‘addition’ operations for someone not yet able to cope with division or multiplication (and don’t look any different – which can be important to some learners).
Here’s two examples of different puzzles, one simple – the other more complex. Using colour is another way you could differentiate for learners – for example someone still learning their colours and number identification may work alongside others to complete all the “purple squares”, or groups can work together each on their own colour based on individual competencies.
The basic instructions are:
A solved 3 x 3 (addition only) puzzle looks like this:
The KenKen website is a great resource. Educators can sign up for the KenKen® Classroom program, where they will supply KenKen puzzles to you every week. Parents are most likely able to apply too – they gave me a subscription and my next step is to start setting the puzzles up on Mac’s computer for him.
I could see the corner of a piece of paper poking through the zipper on Mac’s school bag. There’s not normally stuff in that front pocket… I reached in to see what it was.
Now, clearly… this is not Mac’s own handiwork. I believe there has been some wonderful collaboration on this project.
What I love is the insight or inclination whoever it was had to help Mac send a “love note” home for his Mum.
Mac wouldn’t yet have the communication on his device available to him to say to someone, “hey, can you help me make this” without them needing a lot of patience to ‘hear him out’.
I just love that someone thought I’d get a kick out of that coming home – they were so right. I get the ‘warm fuzzies’ every time I look at it.
Thank you to the parents of the ‘mystery children’ that helped Mac make this. You are growing fine, thoughtful little citizens – keep up the great work.
What a wonderful gift.
Another parent shared the Time Timer® with me the other day. Her daughter is using them at home and school to help her with time management, understanding time concepts and planning.
They are fantastic items and thankfully, just as good ‘in the flesh’ as they appear on the site.
There are watches, 3x timers with prices starting from about $35, software for $24 and via iTunes you can buy iPhone and iPad apps (AUD$1.99 and AUD$7.49).
For Australian families the best deal you can get is from Bilby Publishing and Consulting. A business I have just found out about even though it’s ‘just down the road’ (hmm, well four hours drive) – they have some other interesting items so will probably be ‘poking around on their site a bit more’. Bilby are the official Australian distributors for Time Timer® (which is why they can offer such low prices) and schools can order on account.
I will be using the Time Timer® to see if we can help Mac with motivation to get work done in a set time. I think the visual for him will be really useful and perhaps, at other times help him feel like there is an ‘end point’ to an exercise and that he won’t be working on something for the ‘rest of his life’.
It may even help him understand that “our” 10 minutes isn’t actually the equivalent of “everyone else’s”one hour. Unfortunately I have to take full responsibility for that one. I hate to think how many times I have told him we would do something in 10 mins and actually get to it so much later (even hours later) – poor kid never stood a chance in understanding time management.
And, yes, I have already downloaded the iPhone app and plan to use it ‘keep me honest’ at home.
Mac ‘chucked a sickie’ last week, thing is he really was sick.
In fact, he was probably sicker the day before and I would normally have given him the day off… only we had appointments with both Vision Support and Speech.
I never normally do therapy appointments at school – I don’t believe that is the place for them. They create an imbalance in the adult to child ratio and they are, let’s face it, a little bit weird. To me therapy (speech/OT/other) is an extra-curricular activity, like learning to swim, soccer training, homework clubs… I try to leave them for school holidays or after school hours.
But this day we had a the opportunity for our speech therapist to be joined by her manager so I figured it was worth breaking with tradition just this once.
Besides, we are really keen to explore social communication opportunities at school so it was the right time to ‘bring some people in’.
Unfortunately, no-one showed. They did call and let us know during the day but I wish I had just kept Mac home.
He stayed home the next day and ‘laid low’ over the weekend seeming fine to return to school on Monday. And he did, not acting sick – a little tired maybe, but that’s all.
But I was chatting to him today (one week on) just to see if there was any problem at school – as I don’t think he has been working all that well.
It went something like this:
ME: Are things OK at school?
ME: Do you think you are working well enough for your teacher, Mr B?
ME: Oh, have you got a problem – you know… a little bit of a problem, a matter, or something up?
ME: Are you still a little bit sick?
ME: You’re not completely better then?
ME: Is that making it hard to work at school?
ME: Do you think you could type where or how you feel sick for me (on the Dynavox)?
And so we switched input methods to auditory scanning.
MAC: e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g a-c-h-e-s
Oops… poor little guy has probably been battling along with the flu or at least ‘flu-ish’ illness all week.
ME: Do you think you are on the mend, are you feeling any better than last week?
ME: Are you sick enough to go to the Doctor?
ME: Are you well enough to go to school tomorrow? (bearing in mind he has had a really good, vibrant, engaged day today)
So I wondered more about the everything aches comment and decided to see if he could pinpoint where he aches. I know, I know… he said “everything”, but, I’m a Mum – it’s my job to press for more info
ME: Does your face hurt (thinking sinus pain)
ME: Do your teeth hurt
ME: Does your head hurt
ME: Do your ears hurt
ME: Does your chest or lungs hurt
ME: Does your tummy hurt
ME: Does your butt hurt
MAC: No (why do boys always smirk at the word ‘butt’)
ME: Do your toes hurt
ME: Do your ankles hurt
ME: Do your knees hurt
ME: Do your bones hurt
ME: Does your bone marrow hurt (we discussed the smooshy stuff inside your bones LOL)
I don’t know about you, but to me that is a pretty good description of how you feel when you are a little bit fluey. But clearly – Mother of the Year, I am not.
He has been much better today & yesterday so I think he is definitely on the mend – I hope so for his sake. It will be nice for everyone to have him a little more engaged in the last couple of weeks of term.
There’s been some trouble at school.
It seems Stage Two (Grades 3 & 4) have been testing the boundaries somewhat (in class and on excursions) and it has led to two special assemblies in the last week where the Principal has had to ‘have words’.
The latest ‘session’ took place yesterday, straight after the normal Monday morning assembly.
Apparently the kids that hadn’t been in trouble in class were allowed to leave and only those who have had some ‘strikes’ against their names had to stay.
The Principal was about to start when she noticed Mac still sitting in the midst of the group.
“Mac, you probably don’t need to be here?” she suggested.
“No… Nah” was the resounding call of about five of his classmates as they pointed towards him – to be sure they weren’t misunderstood… “he’s had his name on the board this week”.
“Oh” the Principal responded quizzically while seeking out a ‘confirmation nod’ from Mac’s teacher.
And so he stayed… with his classmates for their “en-masse admonishment”.
Isn’t this “why we fight?”… so our kid can get in as much strife as the other kids.
Ahhh, it warms my heart.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what Mac does to get himself into trouble. He giggles and chuckles when the others get into trouble. It is very difficult for the teacher to hold any ‘balance of power’ when you have a belly laugher in the classroom ‘mocking your stern tones’.
So Mac is learning how and when it’s appropriate to chortle and guffaw like this…
His teacher reports he is certainly improving and trying really hard to contain himself at times.
The Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard has a built in trackball mouse. It comes with a USB dongle and works wirelessly from a distance of up to ten meters, it is compatible with Windows 7, XP and Vista (does anyone still use Vista?)
Mac’s aide this year is a Gen “Y”er and awesome when it comes to thumb typing. This little keyboard/mouse is fantastic for maneuvering around the screen without having to be in touching distance of the computer or communication device. We primarily use this with Mac’s Dynavox V (open device) and do have lots of macros set up in toolbars so much of the everyday stuff is just a click of an icon..
These little keyboards would also work really well for group time when you have the entire class sitting around the whiteboard. Just because most kids can clamber up and use the interactive whiteboard doesn’t always mean the need to.
I am sure you can waste a lot of time waiting for kids to stand up, step over other kids, do their stuff and sit back down again. Some days it might be easier and novel to hand the wireless keyboard around the group. It’s a new level of dexterity required, it’s less disruptive on those days where you just need to keep things calm and it’s great for kids in class who may not have the physical ability to get up and access the whiteboard – or might just find standing up in front of everyone a bit too much pressure.
We got ours off eBay and so far it has got a five star rating from both Mac’s aide and myself.(We did try a bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo but found it wasn’t reliable enough with its pairing on the Dynavox. Not sure if that was a Dynavox issue or that Keyboard’s issue.)
I was helping out in class the other day – I think I was helping fix a computer glitch.
The class were doing some group work and a maths equation came up where the students were required to multiply numbers ending in zero. The teacher asked them if they knew a way to check their multiplication was correct… whether they knew the trick.
“How would you check your answer to 40 x 1,000, what’s the trick? How do you know you have the right answer…” the teacher asked.
Lots of methods were being suggested, all sorts of options – but not really any actually ‘correct’ as such.
Then one of the kids had a brainwave, his hand shot up…
“Yes S. What would you do?”, the teacher queried.
“Ask Mac,“ was S’s response.
With a chuckle the Teacher concurred, “sure Mac would probably know, but sometimes you have to work it out yourself”. He then proceeded to teach them about adding the zeros to check their answers.
I had a little giggle to myself. I know when Mac started school I didn’t ever think he would one day be considered the ‘voice of academic authority’ or their ‘go to guy’ for checking maths facts.
I love that they have that much confidence in his ability.
Now I just have to work on the “Ego” formally known as Mac, that isn’t terribly keen to do things when he isn’t 100% sure he knows the answer.
I like Microsoft Word. I have used it since the days of DOS, so have kind of grown up with it, along side one another, it’s an old friend.
Not to say I am totally thrilled with some of the changes in the more recent version – but I am trying hard not to be one of those “Oh, in my day Microsoft Word so much better, before all this new fan dangled stuff…” That’s not to say I don’t ‘stray’ – I do and fairly guilt free, but I know it will always be there for me if I need it.
I am fortunate I know how to manouver around Word pretty well. I know lots of tricks and ways to manipulate it. For years I could get by without a Desktop Publisher program because there was very little I couldn’t manage in Word.
So it was a natural step to create files on Mac’s (the kid not the operating system) computer using MS Word for him to access the curriculum.
Part of the reason I was keen to do it was that MOST people these days are familiar with Word, if only at a very basic level. I decided I was more likely to have someone ‘embrace’ Word than the thought of having to learn Clicker or Boardmaker. Both of which can, of course, do way more than what we are doing – but we wanted something quick, simple and capable of being modded on the fly.
We designed a file with a simple table format to use and then fill the the information as required.
Mac uses a Crick USB interface even with his Dynavox as it gives us way more control over switch settings than the Dynavox ports. MS Office is loaded on the Dynavox V open device too and he has buttons within the Dynavox software to take him to the appropriate files in Microsoft Word.
It works by having one switch set to the [tab] and the second set to a [macro] and assigned to the [F11] key that turns the cell he chooses bright yellow. He can use it for editing, find-a-word, graphing, footy tipping, choice making, brainstorming etc.
It is visual scanning. Something we never thought Mac would be able to do, but it seems his vision is much better than we originally thought – so we try to offer him plenty of visual scanning opportunities.
Mac’s aide this year has embraced this method and it is being used daily. It’s so simple – we have a few extra macros set to menu buttons to clear a cell, or clear the shading to make life easier.
And, if Mac is going to type his editing changes we can quickly change to either the Dynavox keyboard page (if he is using auditory scanning) or a quick tweak of the switch setup to allow him to type in Morse Code in Word (but that’s another blog post…)
Some screenshots showing examples of how you could use it should make it clearer…
I am more than happy to send you a copy of the file if you want. You might need to create your own macros but it will help as a starting point – just put a request in the comments.
I don’t think I need a crystal ball to predict trouble in Mac’s future.
I know there has always been potential given the ‘genetic’ predisposition (paternal of course ).
And I know that to enable a 7yo the power of communication when he lives a life exposed to way too much information & adult conversations and concepts can always be fraught with danger.
But, still… gotta laugh (a bit). This child is a nightmare – a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you will.
He had a fill-in/casual teacher yesterday and he was working with “M” his aide.
“M” asked him later in the day if he wanted to “tell or ask her something?” YES he answered.
He started typing…
And then he got distracted, or perhaps exercised some judgement (I can live in hope).
Anyway, when he got home I asked if he wanted to keep typing his message/comment/questions for “M”. He did.
Yep, you guessed it… B-O-R-I-N-G
Now to be fair to the teacher, and on further enquiry with Mac, I am fairly confident she never stood a chance – not when she is competing with his “beloved Mrs R” (the sole recipient of a Valentine’s card from Mac this year).
I am not sure whether his failure to ‘complete’ at school was an awareness that this probably isn’t something you want your communication device ‘blurting out’. It has reminded me how important it is for AAC devices to have a “whisper” or “secret message option” – I’ll add it to the wish list for our perfect device – would love to hear if you know of any that do this.
Slightly unrelated but prompted by this exchange I am intrigued by his inclusion of “really” in so many of his sentences.
“She really is boring”
“I really just want to drive quickly at home” (when discussing powerchair options)
“I really like going out with friends and going to the beech” [sic] (journal writing)
I like that he seems to have a ‘style’ with his commenting & communication – albeit slightly emotive.
He does, however remain a ‘word prediction fool’ offering up that “he emphatically disagreed” when he and I were ‘talking’ on Friday evening -
“oh phrase prediction, how I love thee… sometimes”
I know we’ve mentioned Mac’s friend ‘Miss B’ a number of times before and so here’s a pic of the pair of them doing what they do best… just hanging together and being very, very cool.
I am unaware if there was prior collusion between the pair to ensure they both ended up at the swimming carnival in their aviator glasses. Since B only got hers the day before for her birthday and Mac is reliant on his ‘oft’ absent minded mother to remember to pack that sort of thing I think it was more good luck than ‘good collusion’.
In a nice turn of events they have both ended up in “blue house” for their sporting events – Go the Blues…
Mac took his bath/shower chair which looks more like a banana lounge than a piece of disability equipment to the event – it was a good option to allow him to ‘kick back and relax’ between free swims (and it’s blue).
This year was Mac’s first swimming carnival now he is in Second Class (Year 2). I was greeted at assembly on the first day back by our newly appointed Sports Teacher asking can she catch up with me to work out how Mac could be included in the carnival.
Between us, our ‘cyber friends’ and ‘fleshy friends’ we all had some good ideas and plans for future carnivals but this year we decided that since there are still plenty of kids who don’t swim Mac could just go in to the pool for the free swim. The Sports Teacher offered to take him in but I figured his Dad could swing a day off work for that job. Mac enjoyed being in the water for his three swims and thankfully our heat wave had passed so it was a much more pleasant day with not too many sunburnt bodies.
It makes me laugh (and… yes, does my head in a little) that I can’t even get Mac to hold his breath under water. I spend an awful lot of time explaining to him that his evolutionary loss of gills make his desire to continue breathing underwater a poor choice.
However, I do have to admit to being a little surprised at how many children are not very strong swimmers. There is still the group who are great swimmers, strong, fast and impressive. Then their is the next group who seemed to have ‘nice looking strokes’ but I would consider a large proportion wouldn’t have the stamina to ‘save themselves’ if they got into trouble.
Remarkably, there is also another group… those who think they can swim, who have parents who must also think they can swim (signing the permission slip indicating such) only to find when they dive in, actually… they can’t. Thankfully the schools are ready for these few ‘sinkings’ so there is always someone on hand for each lane.
All in all it was a fun (and funny) day.
But how much fun would be to include some powered rides like this… I am working on using this as motivation for Mac to learn how to hold his breath, when needed, in the water.