Tag Archives: jelly bean switch


As promised for those interested here is a copy of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I made for Mac to use at school.

Message me in the comments if you would like to receive copy of the MS Excel template (include your email address) or send me an email at sandgburns [at] bigpond [dot] com with morseSPELL in the subject line.

If you are planning on actually using it for learning then a couple of external options will make this much more user friendly for you.

1.  Download the full set of .wav files for each letter and number of morse code from: Morse Code Letter & Numbers http://www.freesound.org/packsViewSingle.php?id=852

2. Trial or purchase the software: Sounding Keyboard and Mouse from http://www.softboy.net/keysound (This allows you to assign any sound to any keyboard or mouse function – see the instructions tab within the file for more details).

So far so good with this program – I was thrilled when I found the Sounding Keyboard software – that made life much easier (and probably saved me from learning a whole lot of computer coding that would only make my head hurt).

I can/will assign a third switch to the TAB so that either Mac or the assistant can use a switch rather than pressing the TAB key.  This is just a matter of plugging another switch into the CRICK USB interface.

Mac’s cousins played with the morseSPELL for over an hour tonight – so it can’t be too boring.

It was a funny situation to observe in the lounge room tonight where the kids went from playing the Wii to sitting down and “playing” Morse Code.  Interestingly Mac’s Pa had a “real” Morse Code machine in the shed – it’s one he is fixing for someone – so that was out too.  Talk about ‘centuries colliding’.

I will add a morseNUMBERS in eventually as well as a morseCONTROL for learning computer controls – but for now, I am happy with morseSPELL which means when the children do LIPI in class (Literacy Skills Program) Mac will have congruency while he too perfects his letters etc.

And just to make me feel like I am on the right track here’s an excerpt from Gaylon Ponder and Ricardo Ortega (AAC Consultants from Words +, Inc) who presented at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference 2004.

Two-Switch Morse Code

In order to make a letter in Morse Code the client must learn the code. It is unbelievably easy. For instance, an “e” is one switch hit, so is a “t”. Morse Code is nothing more than a different way of writing a letter. In Two-Switch Morse Code one switch sends dots, and the other sends dashes. In order to make an “e” you have to hit the dot switch one time – pretty easy compared to what we had to do to learn to print an “e” with a pencil. A “t” is the dash switch one time. Two dot switch hits is an “i” every time. Three dot switches yields an “s” every time. We learned 26 complicated ways of making letters on paper when we were little kids. In Morse Code we ask the client to learn 26 simple ways of making letters, and provide an easy way for them to do it. The access is direct select without the fine motor and visual load. The client does not need to watch the scanner, or the keyboard. They have to hit switches in the correct sequence within a certain time frame, but not at a specific time.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad

she said… he said!

Rosemary Crossley

Mac has just spent a week of his school holidays with Rosemary Crossley at DEAL communications in Melbourne.

It has probably been one of the more incredible weeks of our life.

We spoke with Rosie some months back to determine who, if anyone, she recommended for us to see. We knew Mac had a yes ‘facial expression’ but we needed help with the next step of getting consistent yes/no options for him. We were starting to get overwhelmed with the next step in technology to better allow him to access more learning and increase his chances/options for communication.

The upshot, she recommended herself, so we trotted off to Melbourne knowing this was the best option for Mac and us. Within two hours Rosie had provided Mac a YES/NO option using two jellybean switches with his feet being the ‘conduit’ for his decisions. His cheeks will work equally as well, but as I was more unfamiliar with him using his feet we concentrated on them this week.

The rest of the week focussed on helping Mac develop a process for auditory step scanning.

Rosie’s piece of technology of choice for Mac is the Macaw 3. It is an older piece of equipment but it’s capabilities are perfectly suited to Mac’s needs… and the best bit, it bounces, it is a sturdy bit of kit.

Mac uses his left foot and a jelly bean switch for auditory scanning where he controls moving through the choices and removes his foot when he reaches the desired answer. The machine then repeats his answer more loudly to show that is what he is wanting to say (as opposed to the quieter scanning volume while he is making his choice).

Some of Mac’s appointments with Rosie went for 4+ hours. He was incredibly tolerant and determined. I know he is a great natured little kid, but it was nice to hear Rosie comment on how much she enjoyed working with him because he just ‘kept on going’. He did ‘nod off’ mid switch at one stage, but it was a fleeting micro-sleep, then we pushed on.

So where to from here…

Our directive from Rosie is that Mac needs to be accessing the same curriculum as the other kids but designed for a ‘blind child who won’t/can’t use braille’. She believes his level of cognition is easily on par with his peers and therefore we need to keep pushing him along the mainstream curriculum that is merely made accessible, not ‘dumbed down’.

This is the first time anyone has suggested to us that Mac may not have a developmental disability.

It is generally assumed based on his physical condition, lack of vision that there is most likely cognitive delays… but it seems, this is not so!

Some of the questions Mac was answering were pretty interesting.

  • We now know for sure he is a Sydney Swans (AFL) supporter.
  • He thinks I am meaner than Rosie. 
  • He’s pretty good with his numbers.
  • He knows the wolf didn’t actually eat the three little pigs.
  • He knows which letter he needs to turn ‘mat’ into ‘mate’ and ‘hat’ into ‘hate’… although he did suggest we ask him something else when asked to spell ‘dog’ (funny kid).

He did remarkably well on comparative relationships including:

  • are watermelons bigger than apples?
  • are lemons sweeter than chocolate?
  • is night darker than day?
  • are parents older than their children?

And even better on the passive relationship with questions including:

  • John was hit by Eric, was Eric hit?
  • Mary was driven by Alice, was Alice driven?
  • Paul was chosen by Steve, was Paul chosen?

These are great insights for school. We will now be able to have a more focussed approach with a much clearer IEP. We now have the opportunity for Mac to be challenged and, subsequently, the ability to collate results and progress more readily.

On reflection I do believe all early intervention and early childhood services need to set goals far higher than they do.  I guess I always suspected they needed to (as did Mac, explains why he disliked it so much) now I KNOW they do.

They all need to set a goal for consistent YES/NO by any method as a basic requirement for every student.   Communication is power, communication is opportunity.  

Any centre, therapist (or even school) who sets a goal below this should be challenged – we all need to play a role in demanding higher expectations for all children… after all the the least dangerous presumption is that of competence, we all know that… now we need to ‘DO THAT’.

Mac’s world has just grown from one with reasonable (primarily because we don’t think small) but limited opportunity to unimaginable, endless opportunity.

This is a wonderful place to be.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help