Tag Archives: morse code

fishing for info @ AGOSCI 2011

Just back from the AGOSCI conference in Adelaide where I was both an attendee and presenter.

I will post soon about what I learnt, gleaned, extracted from those in attendance.

It is a very interesting coming together of people with complex communication needs, family members, Speech Language Pathologists, a few OTs and some educators.

As always with these bigger/longer conferences I tend to get so overloaded with information it takes time to sift through it.

A positive is I don’t feel we are behind where we should be with Mac and his communication – in some ways I am feeling quite confident we are on the right track – despite being surrounded by ‘professionals’ – our home-made approach with Rosemary Crossley’s initial guidance holds its own.

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I showed this video to Mac today and asked him for one ‘describing word’ to tell me how it made him feel…


was his response – not quite understanding I pressed for more information…

“thankful to know you will help me”

awwww shucks, with slight watery sensation in my eyes can I just say “my kid is awesome”.

In this moment I can honestly say if he never types, taps or says “I love you” I don’t think I could care less.

To know he wants & needs my help – and is confident I will be there for him – means more than any old ‘love you Mum’ he might offer up at some stage in the next 50+ years.

That’s not to say I plan to be a “needy Mum” where I end up in that ‘icky’ place where I am needing him to need me.

I have full intentions of ensuring there are plenty of people around to ‘help him’ – particularly if he plans on doing a PhD via Morse Code à la Dr. Kristin Rytter… thanks Kristin for your inspiration (I think ;-))



Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!, the big picture

the big award, the bigger surprise

Presentation Night was here.

Leading up to the end of term I had considered Mac might, in light of his performances this year, garner an award.

However, as the night drew nearer there were no questions raised as to how Mac might make it up on stage, where he would sit etc – so I pretty much ruled it out.

Over dinner, before presentation night, we discussed with Mac the likelihood he wouldn’t be getting an award.  We explained how so few awards are actually given out it means the majority of students don’t get them and how, some people never, ever receive an award despite working hard their whole life.

On arrival at our local ‘Entertainment Centre’ (our venue for the evening) we were greeted by Mac’s teacher, Mrs R, who pointed me in the direction of the rest of the class.

Unaware of what was happening behind me Mac and I trundled off to get him seated.

Meanwhile, Mrs R had pulled Shawn aside and said

“right, Mac is getting an award – can you check the best access route onto the stage for me… oh, and don’t tell Gina as it is a surprise”.

Needless to say I was enormously proud of our little boy for receiving his first ever ‘big’ award for “Maths and Communication” – proud that he truly earned this award and proud, once again, that his teacher took the extra effort to explain to the entire audience how Mac does his work to ensure this was not seen as a ‘sympathy’ award.



I was also absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to get the same “surprise” other parents get to enjoy.

I have (occasionally) reflected privately on the fact that as Mac’s mum I don’t really get to experience surprises with the ‘little things’ like other parents do.  There always seems to be planning and involvement in most areas in order to simply make things appear to happen spontaneously.

To have Mac’s teacher go to the effort of ensuring this was a surprise was almost overwhelming – I felt, and still feel, so very privileged at the amazing gift she gave me.

I know as parents of children with disabilities we often talk about the concept of “getting it”.

Mrs R absolutely “gets it”.

We have had a great 12 months – it certainly feels like this was “our year”.


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

can Stephen Hawking spell ‘catalogue’?

School assembly had finished, I was waiting for the bell to ring – but had that funny feeling I was being watched.

I saw her out of the corner of my eye – she seemed to be waiting.  “Does she want me” I wondered.  I didn’t recognise her but made eye contact all the same… just in case.

She quietly approached, her face looking very serious and spoke to me, almost whispering…  “Hello, I’m Caitlyn M.  My sister Maddy went to pre-school with Mac – I saw Mac graduate pre-school”.

It worked out the relationship and who this young girl was.  “Oh yes, I knew Maddy” I told her, “she’s a year younger, right?” Cailtyn nodded.

“Well, I think that Mac might grow up to be a scientist.” she added (still very sincere)

“Because, well, there’s a very smart man who is in a wheelchair and uses a computer and he is a very, very good scientist.  I think Mac might be going to be like him because ‘catalogue’ is a very, very, very hard word to spell.

“You might be right” I concurred “who knows what the future holds”.

Look out Stephen… Caitlin thinks you might have a rival in the making – better hone your spelling bee skills.



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another award

Today’s school assembly saw Mac the recipient of his latest Merit Award.

The assembly was in our new hall and his teacher was handing out the awards for the junior school.  It was a great day for Mac.

Mac’s mate Jack wheeled him up the new ramp onto the stage to receive his award for “Excellent Computer and Maths work”.

His teacher actually took some time to explain to the whole school how Mac is in her class and how well he has been doing with his maths.

She added “Mac has also been doing some excellent work with his spelling” and went on explaining how Mac uses his feet to type in morse code on his computer.  She also told the entire audience about this week’s big spelling test and gave an example of one of the later words in the test he has spelled correctly… C-A-T-A-L-O-G-U-E (and how impressed she was).

Mac is most of the way through the South Australian Spelling Test which has been broken down over a number of days due to fatigue on his part.  I think in that test you keep going until you get 10 in a row incorrect…  amazingly he is still going and is up to word 50+.  He has missed a few words like efficient (Mac went with a “shent” ending) and furniture (a simple “tr” ending thwarted him on that one) but seemed to know about the g-u-e ending on catalogue… go figure).

It was wonderful for Mac to get that kind of public acknowledgment of his hard work.  It was completely natural, wasn’t contrived – it was wonderful to watch.

Well done Macco – not bad spelling for a seven year old.



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

my pet’s adventure

Mac’s class had a ‘writing assessment task’ on Friday.

The four key components of the task…
Series of Events

Mac used Morse Code and Yes/No switches with R (his Aide).

He didn’t have enough time to complete the task but he may finish it off in the future.

I hope so, I am dying to find out how it ends…


My dog’s name is Tirina.  She is a medium sized dog.  Tirina is black, brown and white and she is desexed.  Tirina is a good dog and likes playing.

Tirina got stolen by robbers.

Mac let R know the dog was ‘imaginary’ and he doesn’t actually own a dog.

It is nice to see him “making things up” as he has trouble with that creative writing aspect.  We have been talking to him about how it is OK to write silly stories, crazy plots etc.  Maybe, just maybe, he has been listening.

So I guess he managed to cover off Orientation and Complication portions of the task…

Stay tuned for the next installment of “My Pet’s Adventure”.


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how does he do it…

A long time follower of this blog, Adelaide, recently asked how Mac currently checks/proofreads/edits during dictation in class?

Currently he still uses the MORSEspell Excel spreadsheet program I made for him.

This relies on him completing the first letter, then his Aide hitts the [TAB] key to allow him to move on to the next letter.

Mac tends to have a fairly obvious facial expression as well as a slight dropping back of his head to indicate he is finished a letter so his Communication Partner knows to hit the [TAB] and move on.  He also has a fast kick he tends to do when he wants to start over on a letter.

It is far from ideal – it relies heavily on him having a Comm. Partner who is familiar with working with him and able to read his non-verbal cues.  He finds it pretty frustrating working with people who aren’t as ‘tuned in’.

The TANDEMmaster will start to remove some of the ‘guesswork’.

We will need to work out which text to speech software to use with basic word processing packages so he can listen back to what he types and from there he should be able to start learning some of the editing/proofreading (proof-listening?) skills he will need.

We have talked about whether a third switch to act as a “space” to show the end of the letter is viable – Mac has said a number of times that “NO” he doesn’t think he can do that.

The TANDEMmaster will literally act as a keyboard so Mac can eventually learn all the different punctuation options.

We intentially didn’t teach Mac his Morse Code numbers as I believe on the TANDEMmaster you can choose to be on NumLock and then have much shorter character sets for the numbers.  Normally in Morse Code each number is five (5) characters long so the NumLock option will make it much faster.

We have a review meeting with his teacher next week.  One of the things I need to make sure we do is allow Mac the option of changing  his answers.  We don’t do it very often as he does pretty well, for example he did some Maths the other day and got 19/20 as his score.  As time goes on he probably needs to be given the time and chance for reviewing his work.

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