Please share this blog with your friends and neighbors!!
Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cookie Twins . . . Better Late Than Never

Well, I started this post BEFORE the holidays, but . . . well, we all have more time now, right?

Anyway, here's a super fun 'barrier communication' game to play with students using AAC devices (or speech).

'Barrier Games' are activities that teach students to share information across a boundary.  In this case the two girls were on opposite sides of the table, and couldn't see each others' cookies!

1) Student who uses AAC directs a helper in making a cookie.  
For example:  GET PINK;  PUT ON;  The helper asks questions such as:  WHERE DOES PINK GO?
Other samples are:

2) Student who uses AAC directs the partner to make a cookie twin.
This must be a partner who has not seen the cookie.  The helper supports the student who uses AAC in giving directions (but ONLY if necessary).  The partner asks questions which the student who uses AAC must

Idea:  Use the app Cookie Doodle to make the cookie twin - it's much faster, and you can get more language in a shorter amount of time!

Link to Cookie Doodle in the app store below:
Cookie Doodle at App Store

3) After each step, partner shows cookie and asks for feedback.

4)  Now show the cookie twins and see how well you did!

Original Cookie                                  Cookie 'Twin' (Cookie Doodle)

5) Take pics of your cookie twins and eat the 'real' ones!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Carol Goossens': Blog About Animated Switch Activities

Dr. Goossens' has created a number of animated switch-activated 'recipes' for cooking, art, etc.

Below is a link to a great blog-post explaining how to maximize use of the activities.

Goossen's Blog Post: Cooking in the Classroom

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Links for Angelman Education Summit

FAST Gala Education Summit Presentations

On December 6, 2014, FAST (Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics) hosted an Education Summit, organized by Erin Sheldon.  Video presentations of each of those presentations are available at the following link:
FAST Literacy Videos

Monday, December 15, 2014

Handout - Angelman Education Summit - Erin Sheldon

Fast Education Summit - Results from Angelman Literacy Camp

Erin Sheldon, M.Ed.

Download Handout Below:
Angelman Education Summit - Angelman Literacy Camp

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Handout - Angelman Gala Education Summit - Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Rhymes, Poems, Raps, & Songs:  Supporting Phonemic Awareness for ALL Students

Download the handout below:
Rhymes, Poems, Raps, & Songs

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ruby Slippers Phonomenon

What Is the Ruby Slippers Phenomenon?

It's that situation when key factors coincide and students learn much faster than we'd expected.

For example, I recently saw fantastic growth in writing in a young student.  She always had the ability, but she needed:
Expectations:  those around her needed to believe that this was possible for her.  And, she needed to believe in herself!
Time:  she had many many chances to engage in phonics activities and to write for real purposes in the course of six weeks
• Teaching:  her teacher gave her informative feedback, helping her see when she was confused about how to blend sounds, etc.
Technology:  the teacher provided a simple Qwerty AlphaBoard, since the student was struggling to form letters.

VOILA - success!  While it looked remarkable, she always had it the ability - she just needed the right supports . . . AND expectations!!

What Is More Functional Than Literacy?

I've had many interesting conversations about literacy vs. functional skills training in the past few years.  Here are a few outcomes from those conversations:

• I firmly believe that all students should be provided with the time, teaching strategies, and technology to support the growth of literacy skills.  This will support students in their lives within their families, schools, and communities.

• Literacy vs. Functional Skills is a false dichotomy.  Literacy can and must be superimposed on all learning for students with disabilities.

• I recently heard the following from a high school special education teacher of students with disabilities:  "Many of my students will live in group homes at some point in their lives.  If they need to learn functional skills, that will be a great time.  However, it's very likely that they will have less opportunities supports in literacy instruction once they leave school - now is the best time."

• Moving from emergent to conventional literacy is a continuum.  Students can benefit from instruction across that continuum.  Any growth in literacy can greatly enhance the life of each student.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

We Give Books Website

We  Give Books Website

Thanks to Dr. Gretchen Hanser for suggesting this website.  It’s a GREAT way to make books accessible for multiple purposes.

This free website has combined We Give Books and First Book to provide hundreds of books.  The two organizations combine public and private resources to make books accessible online.  While you have to sign up and log in (yes, another pesky password!) you then have easy access to books on your computer.

Here are a few ways to use We Give Books:

Books for Shared Reading:  Connect your computer to a projector and your books are enlarged so that all students can see them
Easily Accessible Books for Switch Users:  This website uses right arrow to go forward and left arrow to go back.  Just add a computer switch interface (e.g., Don Johnston Switch Interface; Crick Switch Interface) and two switches, and students can turn the page and also go back
Paired Reading:  One student can turn the page while a partner reads aloud.  This could be a great combination for a student who uses a switch and another who is working on building reading fluency.

Range of Books:

This website has a wide range of
Genre:  Nature / science;  art / music / dance; family;  friendship;  history, etc.
Age:  0-3; 4-7; 8-10;  11-13
Author: A wide range of authors is included, with many titles from the DK series

Note that many of the nonfiction books would be age-respectful for older students.  For example, a page from the DK book, Snakes Slither and Hiss is shown below.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Brain is a pattern detector quote

The brain is a pattern detector quote

'The brain is a pattern detector, not a rule applier.'

This great quote from Patricia Cunningham reminds us to STOP with the drill and kill!  STOP with the flash card craziness.

We need to teach students within interactive, hands on, authentic activities to support real learning and generalization.

Dance With The Girl You Brought Quote

Dance With The One You Brought Quote

The original quote comes from many sources:
• Traditional Southernism:  'Dance with the one what brung you.'
• Country music song:  'Dance with the one that brought you' (popularized by Shania Twain)
• Book by Molly Ivans:  Dance With Them What Brung You

Each of those referents shares the concept of being loyal to people who have supported you.

My version is totally different. To me, 'Dance with the one you brought' means many things, including:
• Start with a student's strengths, and move forward
• Don't wait until that 'perfect' high tech solution comes along – jump in and see what you can do today!
• Figure out environmental supports and use them.  Samples include peers (so often under-utilized), motivated siblings, eager aides, etc.
• Choose a few great apps such as Sticky, DoodleBuddy, Pictello, PicCollage, Word Wizard and use them in many creative ways; learn a few apps well rather than many apps a little bit.

Please share your own interpretations of this quote!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Warning - Closed Vocabulary Sets Quote

Warning!  Closed Vocabulary Sets Quote

This quote is a caution against excessive use of 'closed' vocabulary sets for writing.  These refer to sets that have a limited # of words or symbols, chosen by another person.  Limiting students to these sets do not support their growth as writers, as they do not learn to:
• Generate their own ideas
• Translate those ideas using their own words
• Expand their spelling skills

So be sure that students have access to more than closed vocabulary sets.  ALL students must have access to the full alphabet!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Keeble Accessible iPad Keyboard

Keeble Accessible iPad Keyboard

This keyboard works across all iPad apps.   
Here are just a few of the features:
• Word prediction
• Customized layout
• 3 color themes 
• Hold on Duration
• Switch on Release


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing Feedback Quote

Writing Feedback Quote

This quote is a 'takeoff' on the quote by Jo Phenix, "If you can read everything they write . . . they aren't writing enough." (1999). 

Many of the students I work with are using alternative pencils designed by Dr. Gretchen Hanser (download a flyer for the CD below):
Writing With Alternative Pencils Order Form

It is crucial to provide informative feedback to the letters that they scribble in response to prompts such as pictures. 

For more information on giving informative feedback, see the handout on iPad Video Feedback by Dr. Caroline Musselwhite and Erin Sheldon:
Video Feedback Handout

Jo Phenix Quote, 1999

Jo Phenix Quote, 1999

I remember the first time I read this quote, from her 1999 book,  Teaching Writing.  I literally gasped out loud, because the students I worked were doing 'real' writing (using the alphabet) rarely if ever.  Pati King-DeBaun had completed our book, Emergent Literacy Success, and were really pushing writing.  But this quote threw down the gauntlet, showing me that we were simply not writing enough. 

For our emergent writers who are scribbling with the alphabet, and getting informative feedback either live or through a video that they can watch over and over . . . here's how I would re-write this quote.  If you can give informative feedback to everything they're writing . . . they're not writing enough.

Hey, I think I feel a new Visual Quote coming on!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Beware Quote

Beware Quote

This quote reminds ALL that – as facilitators – if we want to give a verbal prompt to a student who uses AAC, we MUST whisper the prompt.  Otherwise, the potential communication partner hears the prompt and there is no need to share the message.  Why?  Because we have just stolen their turn!

Drill & Kill Quote

Drill & Kill Quote

Sunday, October 26, 2014

3-Word Bio Poems

3-Word Bio Poems

Bio Poems:  We had been describing characters, and were trying to come up with concise summaries for students who use AAC, and decided to write our own personal summaries.  Three word bio poems include:
• Adjective
• Adjective
• Noun that describes your essence (might be made from verb + er, such as hiker, reader, etc.)

Creating Poems: Students use various resources to create or co-create their poems.  For example, one student used her AAC device to choose words, while another first chose letters then had a partner suggest possible words. 

Samples from our Literacy Group include: 
-       sporty stylish martial-artist
-       sparkly bright-eyes friend
-       silly red-headed knitter
-       sweet brown-eyed gazer-reader
-       nice blond-hair dreamer

Using Poems for a Guessing Game:
1)   Put each poem into a hat
2)   Read off the first mystery poem, one word at a time.  Students guess who it could be.  For example, after ‘nice’ the group decided that that could be any of the students
3)   Read the second word of the mystery poem, and have students guess who it still could be.  For example, nice blond-hair might only apply to two people in the group
4)   Now read the 3rd word and guess who it is
5)   The poem author then claims authorship

Publishing Bio Poems
Many fun apps can be used to publish these bio poems.  See sample apps at the following location:

Since they are so short, the TypeDrawing app is especially great for publishing 3-Word Bio Poems!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Don't Limit Me Quote

Don't Limit Me Quote
by Bethan McCutcheon

Beware of the Flyswatter!

Beware of the Flyswatter

Students with significant disabilities often get handed single-message devices or switches with inauthentic messages.  Students MUST be allowed to make a real choice before making it their voice!  See the related Tip of the Month, below:

Make a Real Choice

Shel Silverstein Videos

Shel Silverstein Poem Videos

Check out these well-done versions of eight Shel Silverstein Poems!

Shel Silverstein Videos

Jack Prelutsky Poem Videos

Jack Prelutsky Poem Videos

Follow this link to get to 200 videos of Jack Prelutsky poems!

Jack Prelutsky Poem videos

Note - as always, preview videos before showing them to students!!!

Musselwhite's 30 Second Rule

Musselwhite's 30 Second Rule Quote

'Nuf said!!

Good Literacy Instruction - Martine Smith Quote

Good Literacy Instruction:  Martine Smith Quote

This wonderful quote by Martine Smith is from:

Literacy in Ireland. The ASHA Leader, 12(10), 14-15. 

Also see the Tip of the Month by Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Shop Quote by Kelly Fonner

Shop on Your Own Computer (or Tablet) First

by Kelly Fonner

This quote reflects tow Big Ideas:

1) Saving money:  Assistive technology is often delayed or not used due to funding issues.  Kelly's quote reminds us that often we HAVE the tools we need on our computer, iPad etc.  Here are a few examples:

a) MS Word can be used to speak text, create multiple choice boxes, offer fill-in-the blanks, etc.

b) Many school districts do large buys of software such as Inspiration or Classroom Suite - teachers may only need to ask to have this software 'appear' on their classroom computers

c) Apps such as Keynote may come free with the iPad, and  PicCollage is a free app widely used by many school districts.

2) Comfort Zone:  Most people have 'fallback' software or apps that they are comfortable using.  Samples include MS Word, Keynote, Sticky and PicCollage.  If we show parents, educators, and therapists creative ways to use these tools to provide access or scaffolding for students with disabilities, they are far more likely to follow through.

So, please think about
using already existing software and apps, to save time and money!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Motivate, Model, Move Quote

Another great quote from Kate Ahern!

Be A Detective, Not a Director

Be A Detective, Not a Director

Students with significant disabilities often have trouble responding 'on demand'.  This can happen for several reasons:

1) Students have neurological problems such as apraxia or dyspraxia that make responding on command (signing, speaking, indicating a symbol on an AAC device or app) difficult if not impossible

2) Students respond better to authentic prompts and naturalistic situations - we can be 'detectives' and look for these meaningful interactions

3) Students have tired of 'dancing for Grandma'.  A student who has shown that they understand 'point to _______' requests multiple times may be unwilling rather than unable to respond to the request.

Use this graphic to remind your team to be a detective, not a director!!

Make A Choice Quote

Make a Real Choice Quote

Download Tip of the Month below:

Heckerty Cooks - Character Description Activity

Heckerty Cooks - Fun iPad AND Android App!

Dlownload app here:
Heckerty Cook

This interactive story is fun for multiple purposes:
1) Encouraging Requesting - BEST app ever for this purpose
- Many pictures have multiple actions.  For example, on the last page, patting the cat's full tummy, results in:
- burping
- meowing and stretching
- farting!

2) Playing Guess Who Characters
a)  First, do a picture walk
b) Next, have each student choose a character from the pictures
-   Note, I put the 5 main characters on notes in Sticky app (see below)
c) Read the story, with each student listening for information about their character
d) Have each student write 3 clues about their character, with the first clue more subtle, and the last clue more obvious
e) Remaining students make guesses after each clue
-  Note, I made text notes for each set of clues, again using Sticky  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

iWrite: Conventional Writing Workshop

iWrite:  Can iDevices Support Conventional Writers with Disabilities?  APPSolutely!

Austin, TX, Region 13 Education Service Center
Thursday, November 13, 2014

Link to Registration Below:
iWrite Conventional Writing Workshop

iWrite Emergent Writing Workshop - Austin, TX

iWrite:  Can iDevices Support Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities?  APPSolutely!

Workshop for Region 13, Austin, TX

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Link to workshop description and registration below:

iWrite Emergent Writing Workshop

Balanced Literacy Club Workshop - Lethbridge, Alberta

The Balanced Literacy Club for Students with Disabilities - Apps Included

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
November 3, 2014

Click below for more info and registration:
Balanced Lit Club Workshop info

AAC in the Desert Conference!

AAC In the Desert:  February 17-19, 2015

3-Day Conference in Phoenix, AZ

Speakers include:
Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite
Dr. Gretchen Hanser
Erin Sheldon, MA

For more information, follow this link:

AAC In the Desert Information

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Communication Circles PLUS CTG handout

Scaffolding Conversations Through Communication Circles & Social Scripts:  Apps Included!

Download Handout Below:

Communication Circles Handout


Phonics Phun – Without the Drill!  (Apps Included)

Download Handout Here:

Phonics Phun CTG Handout

Interactive Alphabet USE CTG 14

Interactive Alphabet USE:  It's Way More Than Just Letter Identification!

Download Handout here:

Interactive Alphabet USE Handout

Sign In, Sign Up, Sign Off Handout

CTG 14 Handout:  Sign In, Sign Up, Sign Off - Authentic Name Writing PLUS!

Download Handout Here:

Sign In, Sign Up, Sign Off Handout


Preconference Handout:  Getting Started with Writing for Students with Significant Disabilities:  Mission IS Possible

Download link here:
Getting Started with Writing Handout

Digital Texts CTG Handout

Digital Texts Handout - October, 2014

Download handout here:
Digital Texts Handout

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video Feedback Handout

Video Feedback:  Closing the Gap, 2014

Download handout here:
Video Feedback handout

The Writing Pyramid Handout: Closing the Gap 2014

CTG Handout - The Writing Pyramid
Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite, October, 2014

Download handout:
The Writing Pyramid CTG 14

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Names Book: – 10 Years Old and Still a GREAT Resource!!

The Names Book:  Using Names to Teach Reading, Writing, and Math in the Primary Grades, by Dorothy Hall & Patricia Cunningham (2004)

Names are powerful for all of us.  I am always thrilled to see how many students who are considered to have significant intellectual impairment are able to recognize the names of so many of their classmates.  This is likely due to two factors:
1)   Names are important to all of us
2)   We actually teach names, even if incidentally, using name cards during Circle Time/ Morning Meeting, for schedules, etc.

If students are able to learn to recognize their names as sight words, how much more could we do using their names for instruction?  Hall and Cunningham have done this, using names to support emergent and early conventional writing (e.g., Predictable Chart Writing), phonemic awareness and phonics, and math skills.  This book is clearly written and presents ideas in a way that will support teachers, aides, therapists, and parents.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Eye Gaze Alphabet - Heather's Version!

Eye Gaze Alphabet

My friend Heather is a brilliant SLP and great Mom!  She modified the typical 2-movement encoding alphabet eye gaze for her son.

Each block contains letters as in typical Etran board.

Letters are on a colored background.

However, she noted that some students may find it confusing to first look at your letter, then look at the block that has the border the color of your letter.  That may be confusing, as you are actually needing to IGNORE the letters with your second look, and just focus on the background.

Therefore, her version presents the five colors as separate squares (hers are velcroed on, so they can be placed on a separate choice board, if necessary).

Thus, the student looks first at the block containing his letter, then at the separate color square.  Thus, to choose N, you look first at the N block, then at the blue square.

Note also that vowels are on circles, while consonants are on squares.

It's great to have multiple versions of materials, so that you can find the one that is the best match for YOUR student.  Thanks Heather for your creativity and willingness to share!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting Started with Writing for Students with Significant Disabilities: Mission IS Possible!

CTG Workshop, Monday, October 13, 2014

Dr. Gretchen Hanser, Erin Sheldon, MA, and Dr. Caroline Musselwhite

Click here to check it out!
CTG Preconference Workshops