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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Necklace Books - Project Writing # 1

WHAT:  Necklace books are a fun way to encourage beginning writers!  I have created a slide show to demonstrate how this could be used to support the full writing process.  I recommend NOT doing
this as a one-shot activity, but rather helping students to do the following:
Day 1:
Plan: pick the person to receive it, and brainstorm ideas
- Draft:  get down ideas on paper, but NOT on the final product;  encourage developmental spelling, and use alternative pencils if necessary to support student writing.  DO NOT just tell students what to write down - encourage them to guess, then give evaluative feedback

Day 2:
- Revise: Help students know that it's important to add more, ensure that sentences make sense, etc.  For students who are scribbling, this would be the time to give evaluative feedback on possible meanings of scribbling
- Edit:  Help students with correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization
- Publish:  Now students get to make the mini-book necklace!  It's more fun if you have:  colorful paper for covers, various yarn or ribbons for hanging the necklace, and stickers for the cover!

WHO:  This is perfect for students who are beginning to scribble with intent, up to students who are writing full sentences.  So it's a great multi-skill activity!

WHERE:  This project-based writing activity lends itself equally well to multiple settings.
- School:  Because of the multi-ability factor, this is great for many classrooms.  Be sure to use the attached powerpoint to share the lesson!!

- Home:  What a great project to help your child make something for Grandma or some other favorite person.  Note: Don't stress over all of the components from the Powerpoint if you are doing this at home - just make it a time for your child to see that writing is fun!

Link to the Powerpoint slides:  Necklace Books How To

FOLLOW UP:  Consider buying the Klutz book, Making Mini-Books as a holiday present for someone you care about!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving Memories - Open Ended Writing Prompts

WHAT:  These two writing prompts are designed to scaffold writing for struggling writers.  For beginning and early conventional writers, writing a personal narrative can be hard.  Paragraph frames can provide one support.  However, students should also engage in truly open-ended journaling, without frames!

WHERE:  These are two of hundreds of writing supports from the are from the Write to Talk CD (Light Tech Writing / Paragraph Frames).  To order the CD contents in dropbox, contact Caroline and say that you saw this blog post - you can get access to the dropbox for $10 (instead of $35 + p & h ordering online).

HOW:  Give as little 'help' as possible.  Encourage students to use the alphabet as much as possible.  Students who use AAC may also use their communication devices, but always encourage writing with the alphabet, to help students say exactly what they want to say. 

Thanksgiving Memory Short
This is designed for beginning writers.  Note that the prompts can have many different responses, including humorous answers.  For example:
• 'It was' - the response could be: feelings (happy, boring, crazy), describing words (busy).
• 'I got to' - this could yield action words (watch TV), EAT (lists of food eaten), SEE (lists of people), GO (places).
• ' My favorite part was' - might yield nouns such as (FOOD, FOOTBALL, FAMILY), places. etc.

This version supports students in writing a full paragraph, but includes transition prompts.



Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ASHA Handout: Poetry Power

Poetry Power:   From Emergent to Conventional Writing (Apps Included)
ASHA 2018 - Poster Session
Musselwhite & Wagner

Download PDF here: Dropbox Link

You too can empower students with a wide range of disabilities using poetry to support emergent writing, and to support older students with disabilities in using poetry to support learning writing traits.  This approach is based on poetry instruction following the four-phase approach by Lorraine Wilson (Write Me a Poem).  

Poetry reading and writing can be highly supportive to:
  • Emergent writers, who are practicing using the alphabet
  • Students who use AAC, including students with cerebral palsy, autism, and syndromes such as Rett and Angelman.

  • Even very short poems can be powerful.  This is an important feature for struggling writers, who may have difficulty with output.
  • Poems are an excellent medium for expressing the self.  They can also be highly cathartic.
  • Poetry can assist in generalization of skills learned in the classroom (e.g., summarizing a topic via a shape poem), speech & language therapy (e.g., practicing descriptors) and occupational therapy (e.g., using the alphabet creatively).
  • Poetry is an excellent opportunity for peer interaction, creating group poems, and discussing poems created by individuals.

A “smith” is a craftsman who makes things.  Ergo, making something with words can be called “wordsmithing.”  We see young children making words they haven’t been taught, even over-applying word-building rules as they figure things out.  Think about how a young child might say “eated” until he learns not to apply the +ed rule to every verb.  Likewise, children in bilingual homes may apply rules across languages to make up new words.  For example, adding “ito” in Spanish means it is a little one, so some bilingual households may hear words like “crackercito.” And people using AAC may substitute or combine words to make a word that sounds right.  For example, “soup” may be used as a name (Sue) or a drink may be called mountain + do (Mountain Dew).  Poets creatively combine sounds and words, and we can use wordsmithing in poetry form to systematically practice patterns and word combinations. 

Motivate students and teachers alike to use repetitions within poems, across types, and during performance/presentation.:
  • Core words when writing/drafting; find, copy/share message window from an AAC app with LAMP, Snap + Core First, Compass with PODD, Proloquo2Go 
  • Categories of words (to add more)
  • Poetry types
  • Performance with movement: apps to act it out (green screen apps, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, Kids Doodle)
  • Performance with sound: apps to speak recorded Poem (iFunFace, Funny Movie Maker, Morpho, Voice Changer Plus).
  • Performance with music: iMovie, Clips, Smule, AutoRap
  • Visual display: Word Art, PathOn


Poetry Immersion
During poetry immersion, teachers can support students in: 
  • listening to poems, including on-line readings by famous authors/poets (like Jack Prelutsky) or other AAC users (like Sami Kadah)
  • reading poems through choral reading or echo reading 
  • interpreting poems by talking, moving, group presentation, or painting

Sample accommodations for this phase include: 
• using communication devices 
• using synthesized speech (Natural Reader, iBooks, Siri, Google) 
• using gestures and on-screen (animated) playback 

This phase allows students to observe accomplished writers write poetry.  Modeled writing is of primary importance for this phase.  Be sure to show students how to use alternative keyboards and/or communication apps to write their words and make sure they can see the text being produced. This can be accomplished through:
  • live, in the moment teacher modeling (important for mini-lessons)
  • watching videos (playback of recorded instructional demonstrations, including screen capturing or screen casting apps like Explain Everything)

Students Write Poems
Key factors during drafting include the importance of writing without standards and use of temporary or developmental spelling. Teachers must beware of over-cueing during the drafting phase.  

Sample accommodations include:
  • Vocabulary/spelling/word choice supports such as message banks with words or images, word prediction or word completion, color-coding 
    • First Author, Abilipad, category and spelling pages on AAC apps 
  • Physical access accommodations that zoom in, swipe or scan for more letter choices by group, or can be selected by a mouse, joystick or eye gaze
    • Alternative Pencils, SuperKeys, MyGaze by TobiiDynavox 

A range of poetry types can be incorporated.  Sample poem types include:
  • List poems (adjective, noun, verb poems) 
  • Cinquain or Diamante poems, with focus on parts of speech (building vocabulary & syntax)
  • 3 x 3 poems, offering short models of writing (3 words to describe, 3 action words, 3 word sentence). Example at the end of this post is from Sidney. Her first attempt imitated word choices from others and the version pictured below includes personally meaningful choices
  • Color Poems, providing prompts that work for very emergent writers through high school students with learning disabilities.
  • Poems for 2 Voices:  offering an excellent opportunity for compare / contrast (ex:  Revolutionary Soldiers / British Soldiers).  (See Fleischman’s books and audio versions)
  • Shape poems, presenting a summary of a topic of study, such as oceans
  • 3 word bio poem (see example below from Katie)

Begin responding in the immersion phase by writing, drawing or acting out poems we hear or read.  Rate poems and talk about what makes them interesting.  Use parody to create a similar poem with different words.  

Remember to encourage drafting without standards so that students take creative risks in their writing. Use mini-lessons to help demonstrate how poems can be revised.  An example might be a lesson on over-use of some words with suggestions for other interesting choices.  Create visuals to move old words to the cemetery and replace them with words that sparkle.

Both self-evaluation and peer evaluation can be important elements in this phase. One recommended support is the TAG conference sheet (adapted from Rog and Kropp, 2003, The Write Genre):
• Tell something you like
• Ask questions
• Give advice
Sample accommodations during the revision phase include:
• Communication displays
• Question cubes 
  • Cards to support telling comments, asking questions, and giving advice

Encourage sharing of poetry, even during the draft and revision phases.  A range of options for publishing poetry are possible:
  • Creating simple chapbooks with paper versions of poems, shared as presents
  • Decorating t-shirts, banners, mugs, calendars, etc.
  • Visual Poetry - showing word clouds and word paths
  • Audio Sharing, including morphing the sounds during playback 
  • Video Sharing, including read-back using funny moving mouth apps 
  • Creating electronic storybooks with text and page-turning adaptations (such as Book Creator, Story Creator, Tarheel Reader) 
  • Adding personalized backdrops or backgrounds (e.g., Puppet Pals, Kid in Story) 

Clendon, S., Sturm, J., & Cali, K. (2004). The Vocabularies of Beginning Writers: Implications for Students Who Use AAC. Philadelphia, PA: American Speech- Language- Hearing Association Convention.

Fleischman, P.  (1988). Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. HarperCollins Publishers Inc.  ISBN: 9780060218522

Fleischman, P.  (1989). I am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices. HarperCollins Publishers Inc.  ISBN-10: 006446092; ISBN 978-1-883332-70-9

Hopkins, L. (1998). Pass the Poetry, Please! New York: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0-06-446199-8

Kadah, S. (n.d.). Thoughts From A Room Without Doors.  http://samikadah.weebly.com/ 

Koch, K. (1970). Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching children to write poetry. New York: Harper Perrenial. ISBN: 0-06-095509-0.

Musselwhite, C. & Hanser, G. (2003). Write to Talk: Talk to Write, 2nd Edition. AAC Intervention, 916 West Castillo Drive, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340. www.aacintervention.com

Musselwhite, C. & Hanser, G. (2006). Write to Talk Suite CD. AAC Intervention, 916 West Castillo Drive, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340. www.aacintervention.com 

Musselwhite, C. & Wagner, D. (2006). Poetry Power: Jump-Starting Language, Literacy, and Life (A Make-It / Take It Book of Ideas and Adaptations). www.aacintervention.com

Musselwhite, C & Wagner, D. (2006). Poetry Power Suite CD. Available for purchase from www.aacintervention.com

Prelutsky, J.  Multiple titles available from Amazon, including New Kid on the Block, which can also be purchased as an iPad app by Wanderful Storybooks.  Check out Jack’s website for writing prompts (http://jackprelutsky.com/online-writing-activities/ 

Rog & Kropp (2003). The Write Genre. Stenhouse Publishers, ISBN: 978-155138-172-5

Williams, M. & Krezman, C. (2000). Beneath the Surface: Creative Expressions of Augmented Communicators. (also available in CD format). www.isaac-online.org

Monday, November 12, 2018

AAC in the Desert 2019!

WHEN:  February 27, 28, & March 1, 8:30 - 3:30 each day
Wednesday, 4 - 6   Vendor hall
Thursday, 4 - 7  Hands on session and pizza party

WHERE:  Ability 360 Center, Phoenix AZ

SPEAKERS:  Caroline Musselwhite, Gretchen Hanser, and Erin Sheldon

WHO SHOULD ATTEND:  Teachers, parents, therapists, administrators working with students who use AAC and / or are emergent readers and writers.

FLYER:  AAC D 2019 Flyer

Friday, October 19, 2018

Michigan POHI/SXI Conference: November 8 & 9, 2018

WHAT:  Michigan POHI/SXI Conference

WHEN:  November 8 & 9, 2018

WHERE:  Wayne State University
Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences
259 Mack Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

WHO:  Multiple Speakers

Keynote, November 8:  Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

MORE INFO:  https://www.michiganpohisxiconference.org/ 



Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Text Simplification - Simple Rules for a Complex Process

Text Simplification - Simple Rules for a Complex Process

What:  Presentation Handout

 Handout Link Here

Students who struggle with literacy, including students who use AAC, may struggle to comprehend texts (e.g., stories, chapters, articles, plays, and poems) because they don’t understand features including complex vocabulary words, complex sentences, and figurative language.  Text simplification is a useful strategy to support these students.  This session will provide an overview of strategies for text simplification (simplifying passages based on course requirements and student language needs), as well as, text summaries (providing a summary of the content of a passage).  Resources will be reviewed for text summarization, and specific rules will be described for text simplification.  Participants will be given a sample passage to simplify using rules provided.  Throughout the session, text resources will also be shared.

Who:  Dr. Gretchen Hanser and Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Where:  Closing the Gap Conference, Minneapolis, MN  2018

Nifty Thrifty Fifty Goes Viral! Supporting Reading, Writing, and AAC – Apps Included!

Nifty Thrifty Fifty Goes Viral!  Supporting Reading, Writing, and AAC – Apps Included!
What:  Presentation Handout -

 Handout Link Here
Comprehensive literacy instruction should include word instruction that teaches students to decode unfamiliar words (NRP, 2000).  The Nifty Thrifty Fifty (NTF) is a powerful approach to word instruction from Pat Cunningham (1998), typically used in the upper elementary grades.  NFT introduces 50 key words that teach patterns for decoding, spelling, and building meaning for polysyllabic words through understanding root words, prefixes, and suffixes.  Students learn to identify the 50 key words, develop a ‘visual checking sense’ when spelling, and cross check meaning with knowledge of word patterns.  Once they have learned the meaning of the prefixes and suffixes, they learn to transfer that knowledge to figure out unfamiliar words that contain those prefixes and suffixes.  As with Cunningham’s other work, this approach to phonics instruction doesn’t require speech, which makes it ideal for students who don’t speak, including those who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).  

Who:  Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite and Dr. Gretchen Hanser

Where:  Closing the Gap Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monday, July 16, 2018

Digital Storytelling and Adapted Books: Creating Materials By, With, and For Students

Join us for one of our our Closing the Gap Pre-Conference Sessions.


Caroline Musselwhite
This workshop will begin with an overview of tools for digital storytelling and text-adaptation for emergent to conventional learners.  We will explicitly connect to UDL guidelines for engagement, representation, and expression.  Writing BY students – demonstrates creating materials ranging from personal memoirs to simple play scripts, then publishing them via graphic novel or play apps and tools.  Writing WITH students – covers emergent activities (e.g., predictable chart writing and poetry turned into text formats).  Sample tools will include greenscreen and picture insertion apps.  Writing FOR students – presents numerous adaptations to text to present materials in engaging, comprehensible formats and to provide full access for students with physical impairments, cortical visual impairment, attention deficits, and other challenges.  Text simplification will be included.  Expect hands-on practice using a range of tools (e.g., PowerPoint, GoogleSlides, ExplainEverything on multiple platforms – WIN, Mac, Chromebooks) and cutting edge apps and web-based tools (e.g., Clips, YouTubeEnhancements).  

Date and Time:

  • September 24, 2018
  • 8:00 am – 4:30 pm




Presenter Information:

Caroline Musselwhite, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is an AT Consultant, AAC Intervention, Litchfield Park, AZ;Deanna Wagner, M.S., CCC-SLP is an SLP and AT Specialist, TherapyOne, Phoenix, AZ; Gretchen Hanser, Ph.D., is the Director of Assistive Technology, The iHope Academy, New York, NY; Laurel Richardson Buell, M.S., is an OTR, AT Specialist, Assistive Technology Services, Mesa, AZ; Jeanmarie Jacoby, M.Ed., is a Special Education Teacher, Washington Elementary School District, Glendale, AZ.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Use Switches: Ready-Set-Click!

Join us for our Closing the Gap Pre-Conference Session

Students with significant disabilities struggle with using switches to access the critical keys to life: communication, education and self mobility. This workshop will describe and demonstrate frameworks, tools, a wide range of motivating activities and strategies for how to create a comprehensive plan to teach students to successfully use switches. Case examples of a variety of students with complex needs will be highlighted throughout the day to direct discussion of issues such as Cortical Vision Impairment, uncontrolled or limited range of movements, eye gaze and/or scanning, tangling of switch cords, Bluetooth pairing challenges, light tech and high tech scanning (including partner-assisted/supported techniques), and data collection.  There will be hands-on activity stations that target: switch and mount hardware exploration, setting up switch access on the iPad (using Switch Control with and without Recipes), making simple and complex toy adaptations, using PowerPoint to create switch activities, and commercially available switch software exploration.

Date and Time:

  • September 25, 2018
  • 8:00 am – 4:30 pm




Presenter Information:

Gretchen Hanser, Ph.D., is the Director of Assistive Technology, The iHope Academy, New York, NY; Deanna Wagner, M.S., CCC-SLP is an SLP and AT Specialist, TherapyOne, Phoenix, AZ; Laurel Richardson Buell, M.S., is an OTR, AT Specialist, Assistive Technology Services, Mesa, AZ; Leon Kirschner, M.S., OTR/L, is the Director of Occupational Therapy, The iHope Academy, New York, NY;Stephanie Hui, M.S., ATP is a Senior Occupational Therapist, The iHope Academy, New York, NY.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Self-Selected Reading for iPad Switch Users (CTG 2017)

Buell, Hanser, Musselwhite, Wagner – CTG 2017

 Google Slides link: https://tinyurl.com/CTG17iPadSwitch

Creating adapted books for the iPad involves manipulating multiple story elements (e.g., text, pictures, content). The focus of this session, however, will be on physical access. What does Independent Self-Selected Reading for Switch Users look like on the iPad? Participants will learn how to connect switches to the iPad and how multiple switches can be configured to extend the book-reading experience beyond just “turn to the next page.” Selecting from a collection of personally-meaningful books is critical to learning independent reading skills. This session will also cover how to configure bookshelves for switch-users. Apps included: GoTalkNOW, BookCreator, Pictello, and iBooks.

Part 1: How do switches work for reading books on the iPad?
 • Options for a few switch interfaces and with multiple switches

  • Bluetooth interfaces: Inclusive TLC or Ablenet are major vendors Comparison chart http://www.inclusive.co.uk/switch4apps-p5978 
  • Avoid Bluetooth: Hook from Ablenet or Tapio from Origin Instruments 
 • Set up recipes using Accessibility – Switch Control Settings

  • Set up switches first (give an assignment, like advance or select item) 
  • Select recipe to launch – e.g., tap middle of screen or turn pages 
  • Create custom gestures and assign to switches for a new recipe if needed 
  • Indicate “Launch recipe” before turning on Switch Control 
  • Add Switch Control to the Home button (triple click to turn on/off) 
 • Quick examples using “turn pages” recipe

  • Swipe forward/backward to read; during conferencing ask student to move forward or backward to find his/her favorite page 
  • Take pictures using the camera and have student silently read from the photo album 
  • Read a book from www.tarheelreader.org 

Part 2:
Choosing a book from the bookshelf – how can a student use switches for this?
 • Use a computer switch interface with SPACE-ENTER to scan Favorites in Tarheel Reader.

  • Unfortunately, this does not work on an iPad because it uses the browser, not an app.  The switches can be used to Swipe Right to Left and Tap Middle of the Screen.

 • Use SPACE ENTER switch interface (switch control OFF) to use switches in Pictello (read or turn page forward).  Once again, the bookshelf doesn’t scan, unless you scan the entire iPad.

 • Use same  SPACE ENTER switch interface (switch control OFF) to scan in GoTalk NOW

  • Create bookshelf/menu pages in and step scan with auditory cues and visual zoom. Your scan can include left/right navigation buttons as well as Home (start over) for multiple pages
  • You can make multiple books in GoTalk NOW. Jump can go to a specific page in another book. Buttons can also play videos from the iPad library. 
  • A button action can launch a specific URL. Use for www.tarheelreader.org or other websites your school uses for libraries of books 
  • Books can be exported as PDF and opened in iBooks.

 • iBooks bookshelves are problematic – you will need to turn ON switch control. To scan the bookshelf, Recipes = none; to read a book, Recipes = Turn pages.

Part 3: Using custom recipes with a multiple switch interface (e.g., Hook or APPlicator)

 • Pictello Converter can open a TarheelReader book in Pictello

  • Use "turn pages” to go forward and back, and “tap middle of screen” to read text 
  • Activate 3 switches and create a custom recipe in switch control settings 

 • You can also use all 4 switches in GoTalk NOW

  • Single Button pages – program custom gestures for tap middle of screen, arrows, and home button 
  • Visual Scene pages – create a page with 3 hot spots, (for arrows and tap middle of screen). If you make hot spots instead of using navigational arrows, you can add voice feedback for page turning as well as making another page with 3 images in these locations for selecting a book
 • Using all 4 switches in iBooks

  • One switch = swipe right to left, 2nd switch = swipe left to right, 3rd and 4th switches can activate hot spots programmed to speak messages using the Book Creator app 
Part 4: Creating and sharing your books – Don’t forget that students need access to easy books, including books with alphabet or other patterns to support learning literacy skills.

 • All books shared as PDF can be opened in iBooks and read silently with the standard recipe for turning pages
 • Books created with Pictello Wizard result in consistent layout, switch access, and sharing features (for others who have Pictello)
 • Books created using Book Creator can be shared as eBooks (iBooks). Be sure to copy pages rather than create each page from scratch to keep hot spot locations consistent. Tip: use a large invisible hot spot for reading the text
 • To Share GoTalk NOW books, keep the number of pages small, locate the file in iTunes (app documents) and always share in .zip format Tip: No WIFI? No computer with iTunes? Broadcast to another iPad with GoTalk NOW


Erickson, K., and Koppenhaver, D. (2007). Children with Disabilities: Reading and Wri0ng the Four Blocks® Way. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa. 64–65.

Musselwhite, C. AAC intervention - Tips of the Month http://aacintervention.com/


Angelman Syndrome Foundation Communication Training Series Webinars
#14. Reading as Communication: Selecting Books with Caroline Musselwhite and Erin Sheldon
#27. Independent Reading: Text Types, Paper Books, and Digital with Caroline Musselwhite