What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

Monday

Symbols in the Reading & Writing Process

Let’s assume that every child can learn to read. We are doing them a disservice to think otherwise, aren't we? By not teaching a child to read (or making the choice to not teach them) we are limiting their world. It is important that we assume every child can learn to read.

We can try teaching them in conventional ways but if this isn’t working, using visual supports may be the answer. The use of symbols to support reading is used throughout our world. When you are traveling, notice, the emergency directions on a plane are supported with pictures, airports have symbols to support every need: bathrooms, baggage, bus. Travel to a foreign country is made easier with symbol use. Cash registers in fast food restaurants are designed with symbols now. Look around and you will be surprised how many symbols we use in every day life.


Who can benefit from having text support with symbols?
  • ESL
  • Autistic
  • Severely disabled
  • Communication device users
  • Learning Disabled
How?
  • Have a symbol representation for every word
  • Only the key words for the week
  • Every word except the basic sight words
  • To anchor the content only by using a main symbol
Think about it- have you ever traveled to another country? Have you quickly learned the names of certain words quickly? Have you ever noticed how much quicker you learn them when they are paired with a picture? Did you rely heavily on the icons in the world. Have you found even in your local, known area, it is sometimes easier to look at a symbol than a word? How many times do you just look at the male or female picture of a bathroom instead of reading men and women? Start noticing! 


So, what are some of the symbol programs? (Just to name the most commonly used)
Always consider the student's age and their ability. Some students may need larger, colorful symbols but as they become better readers or if the student is concerned about it looking too “babyish”, you may want to consider making the symbols smaller and/or appear in black and white. So programs make it very easy to make this adaptation.


Adaptations and thoughts:
  • Type out the text to picture books, print it out and place it over the original text of the book.
  • When Reading with a child, always point to the words. If they struggle with the word, use the picture as a context clue.
  • Make 4 page picture books (using ½ or ¼ pages), staple them together, practice reading it and send it home as homework every week for the student to read to their parents.
  • Have your older kids who are struggling readers make books for the younger kids.
  • Make recipe books to take home for Mother’s Day. 
Resources to Explore:
  • SymbolWorld is great for already designed materials that is limited but free! Just pull up a story and print it off. Given to you by category, this site is very friendly and easy to use. 
  • Check out the Widgit Symbol ResourcesThere are hundreds of free and low-cost symbol resource packs, created in partnership with professionals. 
  • The Askability website is a website which was presented entirely in symbol form and text to enable children to become informed about ongoing current affairs and also create a central forum for children to express their views and opinions. Worth exploring to see if this is something that might benefot your students.  
  • News-2-You  is a subscription based weekly symbol-supported news articles and dozens of worksheets, games, and activities. 
  • Don’t have time to make your own books? Baltimore City Schools has some already made that you can download and print off. (You will need Boardmaker to use these pre-made grids.) 
  • Check out the templates in Adapted Learning provided by Meyer Johnson. 
AAC from Pictures to Literacy
A person cannot move forward as a life long learner if they are not a reader and a writer. We need to assume all students can learn to read and write and provide them with the tools necessary to do so.

Students learn by using the following basic approach:

See it, Do it, Hear it, Say it

We need to provide the same strategy for our AAC users. If they are using a computer to write, use this as their tool. 
  • Write the word on the monitor for them to “See it”. 
  • Have them copy it to “Do it”. 
  • Using their talking word processor they can “Hear it".
  • Using their AAC device they can “Say it”. 
  • Erase the word on the computer and have them spell it.
Once they have learned how to read a word (you will know, if they can spell it)  you may want to remove the graphic from their AAC device. This will reinforce the reading of the word. Using an AAC device without graphics will sometimes speed up their process of communicating and allow them to move to a strictly word predication/ abbreviation expansion more spontaneous method of communicating. This is individual however as some students find scanning a page of words overwhelming and symbols may help them to find their needed vocabulary faster than without. How to know? Try it and compare.