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.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Spinner Activities

All-Turn-It Spinner (Made by Ablenet)

This is one of my favorite tools in a classroom and for the home. A spinner is great for random choice making. Place choices on a circular board, and the student presses a switch (or the button in the lower corner) to make selections. But it's RANDOM! 

While the selection can be responded to as if it is a choice it should be understood that the student is not actually expressing a preference but merely selecting or responding indiscriminately. It is best used to help a student to participate in the classroom environment with the goal of active participation and practice through accessing and developing an understanding of the purpose of a switch.

Examples of objectives:
  • The student will develop the ability to access a switch within a specified time frame
  • The student will learn to hit a switch when directed to do so
  • The student will take a turn
  • The student will learn to inhibit multiple impulsive switch hits
  • The student will actively participate in a class activity
This switch-controlled spinner lets students participate in classroom activities. The spinner can be a learning tool for basic concepts like numbers, colors, or skills such as matching, sorting and sequencing. There are accessory packages that can be purchased for golf, bowling, basketball, soccer, and bingo (but don't be afraid to get creative and develop your own) which makes it a great tool for providing access to age-appropriate recreation activities. Kids can use it for activities such as story telling or playing Simon Says.

It is easy to customize the spinner overlays which are available by either using the pre-made reusable vinyl stickers that can be purchased separately or by designing your own. The sticker sets of numbers, shapes and colors and blank overlays make it possible for students to participate in classroom activities by calling on their classmates, selecting topics for creative writing classes, colors or mediums for art projects (blue glitter, yellow watercolors, etc), or numbers for math quizzes.

You can place Velcro or magnet tape around the outside of the spinner so pictures, words, letters or numbers can easily be exchanged.  Consider making additional tag board circles for permanent selections that will occur more often. 

An example of a "spinner" activity and template for creating an activity as an AAC participation strategy: The student must spin the spinner and receive or do whatever the arrow lands on. A variation of this might be when the spinner lands on an item, the teacher then asks a yes/no question. For example- Weather spinner lands on "Raining" Is it raining today? Yes/No.

Spinner Ideas
Directing others to perform steps of an activity or to follow directions, examples:
  • Put the student's schedule on the spinner and let them spin to see what activity/task should be done next. Remove each one once it is complete. 
  • Building block tower (“Put a red block on.” Put a rectangular block on.)
  • Setting the table (Glasses. Silverware. Napkins.)
  • Cooking a stew (Potato cubes. Carrot slices.)
  • Treasure Hunt (“Find a pink paper.” Find a purple crayon.”)
  • Numbers to have the student direct a math activity. (“S will tell us what number we should multiply by 5.”) (“S will tell us what number we need to add to 1.”)
  • Have the student make the selections for a Bingo game (Can use 2 spinners, one with #’s the other with letters.)
  • Have a student decide what group of students will get their lunches or coats. (“everyone who is wearing red can go …”)
  • How many spaces to move in a game
  • Color choices - Have the student select the color of the crayon or marker to be used.
  • Choosing who will _____ first, next
  • Building collages – choosing what materials to glue on next
Have an activity for all the students to participate in (there is a button that can be used to activate the spinner or they can use the switch):
  • Find animals from the animal box that start with the letter (letters around the spinner)
  • Count out ____ objects (#'s around the spinner)
  • Count out money that adds up to ____ 
  • Classify objects by shapes (various shapes around the spinner)
Place the pictures of classmates around the outside to-

  • Select a buddy for reading, using the computer, eating next to…
  • Choosing who will clean up what – children’s photos and chores (“OK, JACOB, you clean up all the RED legos.”)
  • Select the person who will  _____ for the day. Place the students’ names or pictures on the outside.  Remove the student’s name or picture when chosen so that each student gets a chance.
Place seasonal pictures around the outside-

  • Select an object for a classmate to draw
  • Select a sticker for a friend or themselves
  • Select a picture to go on a card for a friend, teacher or parents
  • Select a picture to use as a journal topic
  • Large Group Direction:
  • Choosing song verse to sing next
  • Simon Says or similar games
  • Scavenger hunt – look for items with certain qualities (initial sound, colors, made of wood, etc.)
  • Provide the words for a spelling test
  • Practice multiplication facts
  • Be the giver of directions. Example, just saw this on E is for Explore! A little vocabulary activity...
If you have Boardmaker, you may want to use Boardmaker Picture Communication Symbols on your spinner. For Boardmaker files to use with the spinner, go to http://www.setbc.org/pictureset/resource.aspx?id=451

In your classroom, brainstorm ways to use the spinner throughout the day… once you start figuring it out, it is endless….

updated 2/2015