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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Saturday, May 1, 2021

How are you Celebrating this May

Posted by Deanna Wagner, Language AACtivist

Did you know that all Mexican Americans don’t celebrate 5 de Mayo? Here in Arizona it is popular among Americans and we have many places with parties and celebrations. My neighbors had a party last year because it coincides with the birthdays of two family members, and we had fun sharing tacos and different drinks from Mexican recipes. 

Here is a link to a Minspeak Channel video for aguas frescas. Debbie shares ideas for how to access words on an Accent communication device with their Unidad vocabulary (designed for use in both English and Spanish). 


https://youtu.be/2Qk46OlgXSs 



Just yesterday I was told by a family I was meeting with that it is more common for Mexicans to celebrate Day of the Children at the beginning of May. Right after our session a link showed up in my email for the celebration at the Phoenix Zoo. What a great chance to celebrate Mexican heritage and talk about the animals at the zoo!  

 

Here is the link:  https://youtu.be/XlMj1j4NtxE 


This month we can talk about celebrations for mothers and their children! And since May is also Better Speech and Hearing Month, we can interject some discussions about animal communication. Animals have their own way of communicating with each other, but can also learn to communicate with humans when we think of ways to show them how. Just like human children learning AAC, they need meaningful experiences with caring individuals who are guiding them through the learning process. Animals have learned to use tactile symbols, sign language, and even talking switches! I am particularly excited to learn about the core language systems that are being programmed on buttons to give our pets the opportunity to learn single words that they can combine in unique ways to get messages across to humans. I love this!  Look for Bunny the Talking Dog on TikTok and YouTube. They even talk about clustering core words according to the Fitzgerald key, like the AAC systems we use! And even though the dogs and cats can’t read the words, putting labels on the buttons helps the communication partners know what buttons are nearby in case they make a mistake and need some help finding a better word to express what they are thinking. I just love this! I am giving you a link for dogs because I am a dog lover, but people are teaching their cats to do this, too!


Here is a link to a video about Bunny the Talking Dog

Do you want to use a device with more than one language? It is easy and doesn’t cost extra to add Spanish to the Proloquo2Go app from AssistiveWare. Just like their peers, people who use AAC can learn more than one language. They can do this in bilingual homes or in classes with their typical peers. Most importantly they need guidance and experiences with knowledgeable communication partners. We can’t expect somebody to learn Dutch in this system, for example, if they don’t have any communication partners who are fluent enough in the language to be good models. 


Here is a link to instructions to add other languages to Proloquo2Go. Be sure to scroll down and read some of their other helpful blogs while you are there. https://www.assistiveware.com/support/proloquo2go/bilingual/add-second-language 


Now when we think about AAC systems for speaking with multiple communication partners in creative ways, we can also include our pets! Maybe they even have something they can teach us about attributing meaning to communication efforts and building experiences until multi-modal communication becomes more and more natural. Our goal is communication about everything and everyday stuff, not just school or therapy topics. 


Here is a link to one of my favorite songs to celebrate AAC and Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) http://everyonecommunicates.org/judybailey/voca.html

How will you use multi-modal communication as you celebrate children and mothers this month?




Monday, March 29, 2021

Readtopia® Getting Started Series

 WhatThis webinar series includes 8 sessions.  Each session will cover a different Readtopia®-related topic (e.g., Shared Reading, Interactive Read-Alouds, Informational Texts, Math, Predictable Chart Writing, and Assessment).  Each session will include:  75 minute presentation including interactive Try It activities, handouts and access to a dropbox with additional materials, a 15-minute Q & A, and optional extension activities (a.k.a. homework).

 

When:  Thursdays, 4 – 5:30 pm, Pacific, April 8th – May 27th 




 

Cost:  $150

 

Registration: 
http://bit.ly/RTCM21

Who Should Attend:   The series is intended for people who are just starting or planning to start implementing Readtopia®.  You should have a basic knowledge of emergent and transitional literacy goals and terminology.  We will use materials from Dr. Dolittle, as the first few chapters are available for free.   You will also see many sample materials and activities from other thematic units.  This will be a fast-paced, interactive training series.  Participants can include:

• Special education or general education teachers

• Speech-language pathologists who want to use Readtopia®, either privately or in classroom settings

• OTs working with students using Readtopia®

• Paraprofessionals who are working in a classroom or providing tutoring

• Parents who are part of a team using Readtopia®.


Link to Flyer:  Readtopia Flyer

 


 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

MARCH, MARCH, MARCH!!! (by Deanna K Wagner, MS/CCC-SLP)

We have so many reasons to celebrate this month.


Many of us are getting our vaccinations and we are able to spend more time together.  While we were separated, we enjoyed extra time outside walking in our neighborhoods and parks.  With March comes the start of Spring.  On the same day as Caroline's birthday! And there is something else to consider on March 21st.  The entry below was shared with permission from Pranoy's mom...


The United Nations honors March 21st every year (3/21) as World Down Syndrome Day. 

This year’s theme is CONNECT.


We CONNECT so that we can:

  • Share ideas, experiences and knowledge,
  • Empower each other to advocate for equal rights for people with Down syndrome, and
  • Reach out to key stakeholders to bring about positive change.

Meet Pranoy - an 8th grader who is into rock music, airplanes and all things weather. He was born with a chromosomal disorder commonly known as Down syndrome which simply means that he has 3 copies of chromosome number 21. Hence, the medical world named this error, Trisomy 21. What that makes him the lucky recipient of an extra chromosome (we have 46, he has 47).

This extra chromosome creates tension in his anatomy in ways that slows him down mentally and physically compared to the rest of the human species. While this might sound scary but it’s a common occurrence across the planet, being the most common genetic disorder - 1 in every 700 babies with Down syndrome are born every year per CDC - with efforts being made to include them in society - that reflects us all as one species.

Pranoy also has a speech disorder called apraxia. Is that extra chromosome responsible for his apraxia? Could be. That’s common too among individuals with Down syndrome but again, not every person with this genetic diagnosis has apraxia. So it’s another population sample size to consider, without natural voices using ASL and/or AAC to communicate and navigate their lives.

The good part about augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is that you can use it swiftly in a fast-paced environment like a restaurant or on the plane or at school. Pranoy advocates for himself and his disability community on Capitol Hill every year using his AAC device. That’s what he uses to communicate with friends and family. That’s what he uses throughout his school day every day to answer, question, and make meaning of the instruction. That’s what he used recently at the local science fair while working on his project when he was interviewed by 3 judges via zoom.

This was also Pranoy's first time participating in a science fair in a virtual environment handled with precision by SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research Engineering Fair). The admin team took care to make it accessible, inclusive, and humane. Now you would expect a parabolic equation or Bernoulli’s principle in Pranoy’s project, but he was only presenting his findings in weather patterns by making a simple barometer to study pressure differences while measuring the rise and fall of temperature. That’s as far as he could go with his understanding this time.

Then came the interview which was moderated by his Speech Language Pathologist (all middle schoolers were assigned moderators), where judges went off track to check his aptitude, and then came the surprise recognition from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) acknowledging Pranoy for “taking the pulse of the planet”.

Sweet!

If I could sum up 8th grade for Pranoy in one word, I would call it adventurous. The pandemic worked wonders in giving us all a deeper understanding of the education system in a rigorous remote learning environment, and how best a middle school student with an intellectual disability without a natural voice gets his slice of the equitable pie.

Learning 21st century skills and for once, not being singled out for using specific technology like his AAC as his communication aid, Pranoy rose to the challenge and pushed himself harder to navigate his virtual school day independently. He learned how to troubleshoot, got in and out of classes and meetings, pulled his assignments to work on, printed his instructional materials and sorted them, typed his answers resulting in ease and speed - the little things that come naturally to us, that he needs a step by step understanding of to program his brain.

When the right people do the right thing, individuals with that extra chromosome are driven to find meaning and purpose in the world for everything that we take for granted. A reminder that as one species, we are all capable of spreading our wings by helping each other thrive. With technology evolving at breakneck speed, I read this wise man’s words often - “the future ain’t what it used to be.” Amen to that!

Thank you for connecting with Pranoy’s world today. Thank you for lifting someone who needs a little help in your world every day.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!


Check out Pranoy's video here...








Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Poetry Power Permeates Language, Literacy, and Life with AAC

Poetry Power Permeates Language, Literacy, and Life with AAC

What:  A webinar by Deanna Wagner, Caroline Musselwhite, Katie Yonker, and Mary Anne Barno

Where:  Zoom Webinar

When:  Monday, March 8th, 5:30 - 6:30 pm, Mountain Time

How Much:  $15 (reduced!), which includes

- Poetry Power Overview book from TPT

- Certificate

- Drawing for a 1:1 Poetry / AAC coaching sessions with the speakers / moderator

Poetry Power Registration Link 

Download the flyer here:  Flyer Link








Thursday, February 11, 2021

Wheel of Names

 Wheel of Names.  

 by Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

 

  What.  Who doesn’t love a spinner?  And I especially love a spinner that you can quickly change, that includes customizable music, and shows the choice clearly!  That’s what you get with Wheel of Names.  For FREE!!

 

Who.  I’m using this spinner with a range of students from very young to adults.  The music makes it a joy to use!

 

How.  The most important feature is to customize it!  Here are some features you can change:

 

1.Make Your Wheel:  Add your own choices.  Remember to save your list to use again.  Yes, you can use names, but you can also change to include:


a.     Core Words.  For example, you can quickly type in your 10-12 core words for the month, then save the list to use multiple times (Read more about this in Core Word Fun, coming soon to Teachers Pay Teachers).  



b.     Character Names.  We have done activities where we compare characters, describe characters, etc.  This is a fun way to pick the characters to talk or write about.

c.     Categories.  Pick a category for device practice, on-the-fly Mad Libs, etc.

d.     Words to Sort.  This is a great follow-up to Making Words, but can also be used for phonological awareness activities such as judging rhymes and odd one out. 

e.     Activity Choices.  Sometimes you have multiple activities that you will do during a class / session.  You can put them on the wheel and use it to pick the next activity.

f.     Actions for a Song:  We added visual choices to the actions of the song, I Have a Friend (Musselwhite, 2019, Singing to Learn CD/dropbox).  Students spin to pick an action. 



2.  Customize Your Wheel.  This is where the engagement features are set up.  Choose many features such as:

a.     Dark Mode.  I always keep dark mode on because it blocks out distractions, and makes a dark background on which I can make annotations such as typing words.

b.     Music to Play During Spin.  The default sound is ticking (boring!)   Luckily, there are many interesting music choices to pick from.  


c.     Length of Spin.  Another ‘during spin’ choice is the length of time.  The default time is 10 seconds, but I typically prefer 5 – 6 seconds.  That’s enough time to enjoy the music without eating into my teaching time!

d.     After Spin Choices.  You can set up choices for after spinning.  My default choices are shown in the picture.  I typically keep these and do not reset them. 

e.     Background Colors.  I have chosen primary colors, as seen on my image.

 

f.   Image in Center.  You can use an image from their gallery or upload your own image.  For example, I uploaded a picture of a car for the middle of a wheel to play ‘judge the rhyme’.  Spin a word, then judge if the new word matches ‘car.’



3.  Enjoy Your Wheel!  I’m finding that this helps to add engagement and ‘zing’ to our sessions, plus modeling print.  Hope you enjoy it too.  Leave a comment!