Friday, September 28, 2012

Flickr for Severe Cognitive Impaired Students

Sometimes it's difficult to think of activities for students with severe cognitive disabilities.  You have to get creative.  You have to think of abilities.  And you have to think of ways to keep the activities age appropriate.  That can be the tough one.  When I go into classrooms for speech therapy, I model and show the other staff how to create and use simple activities.  Every once in awhile I stumble upon an idea that ends up working out pretty well.  Over the past two years, our schools have been fitted with SMART Boards and Tap Its (mobile, adjustable SMART Boards for students with limited mobility).  As with just about all technology, not only do you have to figure out how to work it--you have to figure out what to do with it and how to incorporate it into everyday lessons.

So, what can my severely cognitive students do?  Participate in a group activity.  Activate a one- or two-button switch.  Make choices.  Enjoy everyday activities.  Have fun.  With that said, one activity that I've been showing teachers is to access a slideshow on Flickr by searching the key terms in their current lessons. For instance, one class was discussing farms and farm animals.  We went to Flickr and typed in "cow horse sheep pig chicken donkey" and an instant slide show was created.

Super Switch

In order to use the Tap It (or SMART Board) remotely, I use one of a couple of devices.  The best way, in my opinion, is to get a wireless one-button switch or a switch adapted remote control.  The wireless Bluetooth switch is easy to use.  You need to plug in the dongle (the little USB remote stick) in order for the switch to interface with the computer.  Once they are connected, then the switch becomes the mouse click.  The other way to do this (and not a bad idea) is to get a remote control (like the kind presenters use at conferences to control PowerPoints).  The only difference is that you need one that connects to a switch.  Lucky for you, they are on the market and reasonably priced with all things considered.  Enablemart sells the SAM-Cordless Switch Interface for $99.  You can plug in your existing switch right into one of the ports and begin using.  The nice thing about the remote is that you can control your computer screen (Tap It or SMART Board) from across the room.  Alternatively, you can just purchase the Super Switch for $149.  It resembles a Big Mack switch, but is completely wireless.  It is strictly a switch and not a recordable communication button.
SAM-Cordless Switch Interface

In the classroom with the "farm" theme, we ended up playing the slide show in one tab and adding music from Pandora in another tab.  We picked the "Laurie Berkner" station.  The kids and the staff really enjoyed it--even for such a simple activity.