Tag Archives: dynavox

puzzing intrigue

This kid does impress me at times.image showing the number pattern in blue squares being 44,88, 264, 1056, 5280and a red graphic representation of Mac's number grid (numbers 1-9, 0, 00) he uses for row/column scanning with two foot switches

OK, I know i’m somewhat biased and, as his mum, it’s my job to be impressed by him… soooo, at the risk of seeming a little ‘braggy’ i’m going to share a snippet from Mac’s recent school work.

Math(s) is still Mac’s favourite subject, it comes easily to him, he enjoys success with it and it’s easier for output than most literacy/writing based activities… so, what’s not to love?

In class Mac and his and his peers (now in 6th grade) were working on number patterns. Mac was working well and was given the first addition number pattern to complete as a warm up.

8, 16, 32, 64, 128

Mac typed “doubling” as his response to the teacher’s aide, ‘M’, to explain the pattern.

He was then required to provide ‘M’ with a subtracting pattern for her to try and work out, and so he typed:

100, 75, 50, 25

She easily identified it was subtracting by 25 each time.

But it none of this was really challenging Mac so ‘M’ upped the anti and asked him to create a really hard number pattern for her to do.

This is what he typed:

44, 88, 264, 1056, 5280

To quote Ron Burgundy, “well that escalated quickly”.

Seems he followed his brief… it is a tricky pattern.  Mac’s aide, ‘M’, worked on it for quite a while but he had her pretty stumped. None of the other kids in class could get it out – Mac assured them it was a proper pattern, that the numbers were correct.

Mac’s teacher, Mrs M worked it out… eventually… and in the end Mac gave the rest of the class the solution.

But it’s these little snippets and insights that intrigue us about this child.  Mac doesn’t use a calculator, it would be too tedious on this communication device.  When asked about his ‘methods’ for many things he says he “just knows it” and can’t explain his working.  Also, on his device he can only type left to right, unlike many instances in calculations where the rest of use might work right to left. So there’s plenty of times we adults are not quite sure what to do next, while Mac just keeps on doing his things his way, and yes, impressing and intriguing us as he goes.

Oh, and the answer?

Well, really I need to give those who love a good maths puzzle the chance to do it themselves.

But be sure to put your solution in the comments, I’ll pop Mac’s explanation he used for the class in the comments too, but don’t peek. 😉

Oh, and just so we don’t get too carried away as ‘braggy parents’, I do love the comment in his school workbook immediately following this entry which said… “Mac then dozed off in his wheelchair for a brief nap after all his work on number patterns”, seems it’s exhausting this math(s).

Way to go on the snoozing at school Macco!


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

the problem with scare campaigns…

As the month of AAC Awareness (augmentative and alternative communication) draws to a close I was struck by the amount of times the QUIT Victoria ad from 2007 “Voice Within” has been running on TV.

Here’s the link:  http://www.quit.org.au/media/?id=28073

It frustrates me that we are constantly bombarded by the insidious messaging prominent in this ad, that, if you can’t speak you can’t communicate – something AAC acceptance is constantly up against.

And… not withstanding, that once again “walking” is put out as the great ‘hope’ not “communication” (ugh).

I accept this ad is important in the context of “quitting smoking” but concede it is quite damaging to the ongoing awareness and acceptance of AAC – it’s pretty offensive.

This maybe have been something addressed (by AAC users and professionals) when it first aired back in 2007 but the reappearance of it during my TV watching was just a little jarring – particularly so when Mac is often watching when these ads come on.

I discuss with him why people choose to use that type of fear based portrayal and why it is so wrong.  We lump those people, the “fear mongers” into the same basket as the “pity peddlers” and the “disability charity merchants”… there is no place for them in our world.

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liver la vida

It’s hard to know how much involvement to have in assignments when your child has no chance of doing it on their own.

A lot of the assignments to date have been more about me teaching Mac the concept of choosing topics, researching and then deciding what to include – I guess this is probably much the same for everyone.

That being said… I wasn’t overly thrilled when he brought home the requirements for his assignment on “organs”.  He had been assigned “the liver” and was to present to the class as if he was ‘the teacher’.

Ugh, the liver, I thought.  How are we going to find age appropriate stuff and avoid the obvious drug, sexually transmitted disease and alcohol damage issues that seem to feature ‘way more prominently’ on the internet than any other.

With some focussed searching we did OK.   We watched some cool videos, found some good websites.  Mac had to decide what he wanted to include in his assignment.  I showed him how to change up the information so it sounded like something he might say.

We decided to go with a Powerpoint presentation so he could progress it with his switches while ‘taking the class’.

We created his own avatar using the WeeMee Avatar Creator app (we like it because it has a wheelchair accessory).

We popped his Avatar into his CrazyTalk 2D animation software so it could speak with his dialogue.

We decided to use the Acapela-Box to download the voice.  We had to pay for some credits to use this despite having his Dynavox.  Thing is the Dynavox doesn’t really ‘hold its own’ for long tracts of speech.  It gets crackly and breaks up a bit too much for our liking.  With Acapela Box we can use the same voice he uses on his Dynavox but with greater clarity and no chance of it failing mid-sentence.

I poked around on the internet and found some pictures, bought some stock images to include and created some of my own elements.  I discussed with Mac what his images might look like, what we could include and importantly made him choose the ‘liver’ image he liked the best.  From memory… I think he over-ruled my first choice for making “liver dude”

Here’s the video version of his Powerpoint presentation
(you’ll need your sound turned on & be sure to read on after you’ve watched it).

THE LIVER by Mac Burns

Did you learn anything new?

Oh, and for those super-observant folk…
Disclaimer: no M&Ms were harmed in the making of this assignment… but, that’s not to say a few weren’t hacked 😉  


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum

the ‘season proper’

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.

Mac: championing the red & white
SWANS v GWC with 38,230 of our closest friends

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!

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Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!

kobo, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

I have been going back and forth on what eReader and/or software to consider for Mac or whether to bother.

Since we have been experimenting with the magnifying screen reader at school it appears that Mac may actually be reading more than we thought.  And, considering we are always going to be lugging around technology, it seems silly to carry books around too.  Mac will never be able to hold a book and, despite decades of people trying, it seems no one has ever perfected a portable, affordable, mechanical book holder and page turner.

I stumbled upon Kobo which I guess started as an alternative to Kindle.  Like most things we aren’t anyone’s “target market” – I have learnt to accept Mac’s needs/requirements are far more “bespoke”… but I have to admit to being really happy with what Kobo is offering us so far.


Image courtesy of:  http://www.kobobooks.com


We HAVE NOT worried about buying an eReader.  We use the school iPad, our Mac mini (plugged into the large loungeroom TV) and Mac’s Dynavox vMax as his locations to store his “library”.

So how do I love thee?

I love that Mac can auditory scan into the Kobo Desktop App from his Dynavox and then his two switches are allocated to automatically take over the task of turning the pages forward and back.  In time, who knows, he may be responsible for reading his own ‘full book’.

I love that I can also sync his personal Kobo library to his iPad at school which will allow his peers to choose from his bookshelf, not just the class books, if they want to read to him.

I love that it puts a bookmark on the page you are up to and then syncs this with your other locations when you open them.

I love that it has a dictionary option so if you press/click on a word while reading you can look it up in the dictionary right there on the screen.  We’ve only used this feature on the iPad – not sure if it is available on desktop versions.

I love that you can add notes in the same way which will be particularly useful in years to come I imagine.

I love that you can change the screen colour and font size to suit the user.

I love that the graphics look like real bookshelves – attractive, colourful, fun and motivating.  I love too that you can build your own shelf groupings for better management of your books.

This is Mac’s bookshelf so far…

So… any negatives?

Sure – nothing is perfect.

I would love to be able to buy a number of books at once – this may happen as they keep improving their site, currently there is no ‘shopping cart’ option but they do now have Paypal.

I don’t believe you can access the bookstore via your iDevices and the Kobo app – I thought you used to be able to so this may be a recent change (I’m thinking someone may have upset the “Apple” cart).

I would love to be able to have some sort of screen reader access for those with a vision impairment like Mac.  I haven’t tested this fully yet, but don’t believe it can happen – for now we use Audible for our audio books and Kobo for our eBooks.  Audio books are far nicer to listen to than a screen reader but every now and then a screen reader might be useful if Mac got too fatigued to read and it would be good practice to get used to screen reader technology and voices.

I would love to have the Kobo desktop version (PC & Mac) bookshelf switch accessible so Mac could scan through his bookshelf, select a book and then read and turn pages with the same switches he currently uses for auditory scanning on the Dynavox.  Of course, it would be great to have the iDevices switch accessible with R J Coopers switch plug – this would require a little bit of ‘app updating’ from Kobo, but hey, you never know…

But for now, we are pretty happy with our Kobo experience.

What eBook and eReader sites are you using?

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Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, things that make me go "glll"

anyone for tea?

What a lovely afternoon we had.

R (Mac’s former aide) arrived at school to meet him so she could come home to our house for afternoon tea.

Mac was happy, giggling and very excited.

He liked showing her his room (very cool with his three almost black walls), his fantastic huge painting of his penguins and letting her meet Henny, Penny and Re-cal (our three chooks).

He showed her how he is using his Dynavox for more writing these days.

R asked him what he liked about using predictive text – Mac’s response… “I like really big words”.

He then agreed his two favourite ‘phrase prediction options’ are “emphatically disagree” (no surprise there) and the rather odd “my incessant need to whine about money”.

I asked if he had managed to get the latter into any journal writing in class yet, he gave me a silly grin and answered NO.

I am looking forward to seeing if and how he manages to slip it in before the year is out.

I hope he now knows R is serious about being a part of his life away from school.  I know he is still a little sad about not working with her most days but now he has something even better… she has been to visit him at his house and he will likely visit her house soon too.

He has a good friend in R indeed.


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