Tag Archives: switch access

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

todos com todos

everyone with everybody…

A fantastic documentary about the inclusion of children with disability in mainstream schools in São Paulo, Brazil.

While almost the entire doco was “quote worthy” I particularly like the simplicity of this translated statement by Samuel’s father…


“I don’t see any other model.

In the segregation model people with disability don’t learn their autonomy and people without don’t learn to deal with the difference”.
Samu’s Dad


This movie is part of the Why Heloisa Project www.porqueheloisa.com.br
I think I will be spending some time clicking around in that project/website in the coming days.

For our English language blind viewers I have requested an English translation… will post it here if I can get my hands on it.

todos com todos…



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

switch access for iDevices… from those in the know!

INKY ED OUTSOURCED? well, just for today…

  1. Because I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on the “APPlicator” yet (but plan to).
  2. Because Jane’s Blog is one you should be visiting regularly in any case.
  3. Because Jane has provided a great review  of the Pretorian APPlicator.
  4. And, because Jane & Alex have compiled THE comprehensive list of switch accessible apps.

Here’s two links you shouldn’t miss.



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Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help

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"

temporary tattoos

Mac came home with some “temporary tattoos” today.  Apparently his teacher, Mrs R, has some difficulty with “left” and “right” under normal circumstances.

Spare a thought for her now having to manage it ‘in reverse’ as she sits facing Mac with his switches.  Not to mention the fact Mac has a tendency to scissor his legs so that his left ends up on the right side… which is her left, when it should be her right.  She’ll get there – in spite of Mac’s attempts to make her dizzy.

So, a couple of ‘marker pen letters’ assisted her (and the other kids).

I have some Temporary Tattoo paper around here somewhere – maybe I will make him some very cool ‘tats’ that will stay put a little longer.

Here’s a shot from Christmas Day where you can see just how tricky that leg crossing gets if you are holding switches under those feet.

By the way, that’s not a ‘real’ pet crocodile walking behind him in the background – we’re not all Croc Hunters ‘down under’.


Filed under first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!


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

.- -.-. …. . .- – … …. . . – (a cheat sheet)

This is a copy of the cheat sheet I have created to help me teach Mac his letters in morse code.


Being a very “visual” person this should help me in the early days – who knows, in time I might learn the auditory/rhythm side of it too.

Some two message voice modules have arrived from the USA just today so when Mac’s Pa and I get them up and running we will use one for the “dit/dah” sounds and another for his “yes/no” options.


Filed under first grade here I come