February 23, 2013

Dude!….Where’s my iPad? iPod? iPhone?

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 2:35 PM by kellyvansingel

February 23, 2012

Don’t you hate it when you can’t find something? Seems like every time something is lost you can’t find it until you stop looking for it.  Or as I read on facebook earlier this week…it’s not really not until your mom can’t find it.

In the case of iOS devices, there’s an app for that: Find My iPhone by Apple.  It’s the ‘mom’ of all useful apps when it comes to knowing where your devices are.

Find my iPhone

This is a must install app for any of your iOS devices.   As long as the device you are looking for still has a charge left and is pinging WiFi or 3G/4G you will have a smile so wide when you locate your iPhone, iPad or iPod.  Find My iPhone comes in very handy.  Whether a device is stuck between the couch cushions or left behind at school or the library, you can find it easily with this app.

The app allows you the see the location of all your iOS devices on any of your iOS devices.  From within the app, you can make the lost device play a sound, almost like a homing beacon.  You can also send a message to the lost device, remotely lock the device and even erase it if you think it has been stolen.

The other day I noticed that the iPad had not come home in the backpack.  I turned on the app on my phone and could see on the map in app that the device was located at our elementary school ….phew!   A very welcome sight to see.


Now granted it cannot be of help when the battery has died on the device.  But it still knows you are looking for it.  So even if the device is stolen and someone then later starts to charge it up, you can still be notified of its whereabouts once it again has power and is pinging WiFi or 3G/4G.

For almost a week we searched for our first ever acquired iOS device, our iPod touch 3G.  It was likely in the house somewhere and the battery was dead.  The mother of all apps could not help at this point.  And in true fashion it was found after we stopped looking for it.  It had been ‘stored’ for awhile in am empty shoebox at the top of the stairs.  Hmmm…I wonder who could have put it there?

foundBut the cool thing was I could see the find request was still received by the iPod touch as soon as I started to charge the device.  I also received a ‘found alert’ to my iPhone.   Reassurance that the mother of all apps does know.

So glad we found the iPod after we stopped looking for it.  And that ‘mom’ still knew where it was all along.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.


December 22, 2012

For the Love of “Larry”….

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Presuming Competence at 9:05 AM by kellyvansingel

December 22, 2012


New things keep happening with Larry.  Gilly is very attached to all things VeggieTales, especially Larry the Cucumber.  She is loving the keychain sized Bob and Larry and takes them everywhere…even to school.

Last week she spontaneously spelled ‘Big Idea’ using her Bob and Larry keychains and plastic letters.   This week she let her teacher know that she was very sad to not have Bob and Larry with her in the classroom.  Each morning Bob and Larry are left with the school secretary in the office for safe keeping so that Gilly doesn’t get distracted during the day.  There was a morning this week that she just was having the toughest time leaving them there.  This is what she spontaneously typed on her DynaVox a few moments after the difficult parting in the office:

Photo Dec 22, 7 49 16 AM

She also would not leave the office until she kissed Larry goodbye.  Her teacher sent me a screenshot of her AAC message via text message. It made me cry! So cool for her to express herself in that way about her sadness.   I had to share it with the hubby:


Earlier this fall, the class made little books to help others learn about their likes and dislikes called “In a nutshell–.”  Larry / aka Mr. Pickle was front and center on the cover of her booklet:


Gilly loves Bob and Larry.  She has them with her all the time.  “Mom! no paparazzi please!”…



“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

December 1, 2012

“Presuming Competence”….and “The Least Dangerous Assumption”….

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Presuming Competence at 11:16 AM by kellyvansingel

December 1, 2012

This morning I was enjoying a post called “How do you know?”  by Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP on autism-community.com. Sometimes knowing when and how a user should be a candidate for communication technology can be a tough question to answer.  Depending on who you ask– you may get a variety of answers.  There are two concepts that can help along the journey of finding the answer: ‘presuming competence’ and the ‘least dangerous assumption.’


What is Presuming Competence? (excerpt from source: Douglas Biklen: “Begin by presuming competence”).

Can you explain the concept of “presuming competence” and how it relates to inclusive education?

When Anne Sullivan first worked with Helen Keller, she approached her with the presumption that she was competent, that Helen’s problem emanated from her not having an effective means of communication.   Even before Anne began to work with Helen, there was evidence of her desire to communicate—she used pantomime to show her interest in making ice cream or wanting toast with butter.  But it was Anne’s introduction of spelling and words that proved liberating for Helen.

The principle of “presuming competence,” is simply to act as Anne Sullivan did.  Assume that a child has intellectual ability, provide opportunities to be exposed to learning, assume the child wants to learn and assert him or herself in the world. To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world.  Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators. It is a framework that says, approach each child as wanting to be fully included, wanting acceptance and appreciation, wanting to learn, wanting to be heard, wanting to contribute.  By presuming competence, educators place the burden on themselves to come up with ever more creative, innovative ways for individuals to learn.  The question is no longer who can be included or who can learn, but how can we achieve inclusive education.  We begin by presuming competence.

What is The Least Dangerous Assumption? (excerpt from source: Kate Ahern: Living the Least Dangerous Assumption).

We live in a land of prerequisites and accountability, which leaves little room for “The Least Dangerous Assumption”  as pioneered by Anne Donnellan  and clarified by Rossetti and Tashie (2002).  The least dangerous assumption is, of course, the premise that (in the absence of evidence) we believe we not yet found a way to make it so a child or adult with a disability “can” instead of believing he or she “can’t”.

The issue, sadly, sometimes becomes that making the least dangerous assumption and thus presuming competence uses resources (time, money, energy).  We must come to understand that refusing to presume competence is, in the long run, more costly than making that least dangerous assumption.

A New Paradigm (excerpt source from Stephanie Ekis: How do you know?)

In an article written by C. Jorgensen (2005), she proposes a new paradigm in the area of disability and competence.  She found that often times if the child’s support team wasn’t sure what the child was capable of, it was presumed that the child could not (and never would be able to) learn to communicate.  Jorgensen advocates that setting high expectations should be the basis for decision making regarding educational programming.  In addition, Jorgensen believes that decisions made based on high expectations will lead to a higher quality of life in both school and beyond.

Check out this presentation entitled “The Least Dangerous Assumption”, Cheryl Jorgenson, Ph.D.:

Aim high with those expectations. Presume competence in those who are differently-abled.  A paradigm shift can make all the difference in long term outcomes.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 29, 2012

Grasshoppers, Apps and Alligators….Oh My!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 3:27 PM by kellyvansingel

November 29, 2012

One of my favorite app companies is known by names such as grasshopperapps.com, innovative mobile apps, photo touch apps and alligatorapps.com.  The apps they release are brilliantly simple, effective and all are customizable for the user you have in mind–and that user can be someone of any age or any ability.  This motto that is splashed front and center on one of their webpages says it all:

Highly educational and affordable. They hit this spot on.  Outstanding design and…..wait for it….most of their apps are FREE or 99 cents.

Let me show you some examples:

Photo Touch – Farm Animalsapp store – FREE

Use of real photographs on a simple white background make this app a model example of an app designed for children with autism or other special needs.  There are minimal distractions for the receptive language ID task at hand.  There are also visual and auditory cues that encourage error-less teaching.  As the user makes a correct response, the field of objects to identify are increased with each trial, so that the skill level is also increasing.  The customization options in each of their apps is also key: you can add your own pictures and sound bytes to build a personal experience.

Little Speller – Three Letter Wordsapp store – 99 cents

The dragging and dropping of letter tiles helps reinforce matching skills, phonic sounds, and letter order.  Like all of their apps, Little Speller can be customized to any user.  You can turn off sounds, hints and even remove the picture cue.

One of our favorites has also been

Sentence Makerapp store – 99 cents

The word tiles in Sentence Maker are similar to the letter tiles in Little Speller. Included in the app are over 500 phrases and sentences to reinforce language concepts and object attributes.  A  unique way we used Sentence Maker was by building a custom sequence of sentences that Gilly would use each morning on a morning walk around her elementary school.  The phrases included things like:

  1. “Good Morning Mrs. H!” (her teacher)
  2. “Go to the office.”
  3. “Let’s see the library.’
  4. “Time for a sensory break.”

Before the use of this app, a low-tech flip visual schedule was used to help her learn the names of various places in the school building.  It worked–but eventually Gilly would ‘tune out’ on the morning walk and require numerous prompts to look at / point to items in the flip book.  After introducing Sentence Maker customized with the phrases describing the various stops along the walk, the prompt level decreased.  She could independently and purposely build very meaningful and related sentences to the learning activity.  The fine motor planning aspects of Sentence Maker helped Gilly to maintain attention and focus.

Bitsboardapp store – FREE

One of the latest and greatest from this developer is their new app: Bitsboard.  It is what I would call a ‘portal app’ if that makes sense.  Check out this review of Bitsboard over at SmartAppsforKids.com.  This app contains hundreds of different flashcard sets that can be downloaded within the app.  The developer has also added the first of many great features and updates to come: the ‘Photo Touch’ game setting: allowing your desired flashcard sets to become a receptive ID activity.  It would not surprise me if eventually games such as ‘Little Speller’ or ‘Sentence Maker’ are made available in future updates.  It looks like Bitsboard is eventually growing up to be the ‘Big Kahuna’ residence of many great apps from this company.  And guess what….wait for it….it is FREE.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 24, 2012

My favorite Facebook quote this week….

Posted in Aided Language Input, Assistive Technology, Autism at 7:58 PM by kellyvansingel

November 24, 2012

Earlier this week I ran across a quote on a friend’s Facebook page plucked from the brilliant blog by Robin Parker and Carole Zangari: ‘PrAACtical AAC’: “Let me just say this: My guess is that more kids have been harmed by us underestimating their abilities than the reverse…So, if you’re worried about them not understanding, there are two things you can do: Increase the amount of vocabulary instruction and increase the amount of aided language input. Both will help boost the learner’s comprehension.” ~ Carole Zangari

What is ‘aided language input?‘ Check out Carole’s helpful screencast explanation:

The concept of aided input was first introduced to me at a DynaVox training for communication partner techniques.  Within the training it was called PAI or ‘Partner Augmented Input.’ 

So what does ‘aided language input’ or ‘PAI’  mean for parents, therapists, teachers, and others interacting with a kiddo and their AAC device? It means the communication partner should also be touching the screen and the buttons–using the device to take a conversational turn, to model and teach language, and interact with the person who may not yet be using spoken words or may be unable to use spoken words.  The AAC device can be the medium of exchange in which each partner takes a turn to express an idea, comment on a thought, or make a request.

Be bold and take a turn. You’ll be sharing thoughts and ideas–while unknowingly and easily staging opportunities for teaching language at the same.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 11, 2012

You need to meet Carly……

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Autism Heroes tagged at 3:22 PM by kellyvansingel

November 11, 2012

I’ve got to introduce you to one of my heroes.  Her name is Carly Fleischmann.  She is a teenager from Toronto, Canada and she is living with autism and severe apraxia.  Carly is amazing.  She uses twitter, has a webpage, a facebook page and she has written a book along with her father.

Take a look at her story as it first appeared on 20/20….

What is her defining moment?  Have a look….

Her ability to type and communicate with assistive technology is amazing and inspiring.  It also demonstrates the value and importance of introducing and teaching typing  as another communicative layer in addition to a symbolic-based AAC system. There is so much we can learn from her writings and reflections on her experiences.  Carly can tell us why she sometimes she feels like she may want to bang her head.  Carly has an incredible wit and sense of humor. Her ability to type and communicate can help others understand what it may be like to be living with autism and a stressed out sensory system.  Let’s visit Carly’s Cafe….

It’s been my observation that the sensory processing and sensory overload issues of living with autism can be one of the hardest enigmas to understand about life on the spectrum.  The remarkable website: Carly’s Cafe and short film helps bring insight and intense reality to the daily difficulty that sensory issues can bring to those living with autism.  Each person’s experience is unique and different, but I appreciate Carly sharing her personal experience with others to help bring about increased awareness and understanding.  She gives me hope for what the future holds for my own girls.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 9, 2012

Some Favorite iOS Accessories…..

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, iOS, iOS Accessories at 2:04 PM by kellyvansingel

November 9, 2012

This week has been a busy week of talkin’ about apps!  Yesterday I gave a workshop for the Autism Society of Michigan at the ACC EMU.  I was joined by fellow iTaalk guru Kate! and my friend Carol! to talk apps for those with autism and special needs.  We had a fabulous group of about 20 parents, educators and therapists and had a great day.    Last night was also an iTaalk app happy potluck in Toledo on Proloquo2go given by my friend Brooke.

Something fun yesterday at the workshop was to share favorite iOS accessory tips and tricks.    One of my favorite iPad helpers that we use everyday around our house is a stand that I first saw on Martha Stewart’s ‘good things.’

The stand is actually a plate rack for displaying items around your kitchen, .etc.  But, it totally rocks as a device stand.  You can get them in acrylic or bamboo from the Container Store.  I also added bumpers to the bottom of ours to make it non-slide on table tops.  We at first had one in acrylic and it fell and broke apart.  I then tried the bamboo and its been even more indestructible and is very light.  What I like about it most are the little feet on the front of the stand.  It helps to prevent iPad slippage! especially when your kid uses the device while dining out or at the kitchen table.

Another favorite for my iPhone/iPod is BONDI.

Bondi is a clever little gadget for hanging your phone on the rear view mirror while in the car, very handily ‘on’ an outlet while your device charges, or even use as a door stop in a pinch.  I love my Bondi. 🙂


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 5, 2012

Social Stories with GoogleDocs and ‘Story Creator’…..

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, iOS, Social Stories at 1:28 PM by kellyvansingel

November 5, 2012

Often there are certain places or situations that create a barrier for a child with autism.   Specific places, happenings or times can actually trigger difficult behaviors and reactions.

Recently, Mags was having a terrible problem when arriving at her tutor’s house.  At some point in August, she had begun bolting out of her tutor’s basement office (which is in a private home, but has a separate entrance). She would run out of the basement and up into the house.

We tried to deter her with child door lock, which worked for a few times until Mags figured out how to get around it, so what to do? Time for a social story.

Social Stories TM is a trademarked term used first by autism specialist, Carol Grey in 1991.  However, most folks use the term ‘social story’ in the same way we used terms like Kleenex and Xerox, to refer to a scripted literal story that can help an individual with autism or special needs overcome a problem behavior, serve as a guide to navigating social situations or to help learn a new task.

So I took a few pictures with my phone or found others easily online with Google Images.  I used the pictures to make a presentation slideshow for Mags in GoogleDocs (for a nice example and how-to on making a social story in the presentation maker in GoogleDocs, check out this blog entry from Savvy Advocate Mom and More). GoogleDocs is an online-based software suite, very similar to Microsoft Office, that is FREE. With it you can create spreadsheets, word processing documents, slideshow presentations and more.

You can also create a social story on iPad with an app like Story Creator, which is also currently FREE.  Story Creator allows you to use images from your Photo Album on iPad and insert them right into the story.   Here is a great review and how-to of Story Creator from another one of my favorite blog sites: OTs with Apps.

How do you decide what the story should contain?  My experience has been to make the story script as literal as possible. Here is the social story that I created for Mags who was struggling with an escape behavior at her tutoring sessions.  We read it several times the night before her tutoring session.  Her teacher and speech therapist also read it with her and school.  When she arrived at tutoring…no problems!  We were all amazed how well it had worked and helped to correct the escape behavior.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 4, 2012

60 Minutes ‘Down Under’…..

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, iOS at 4:46 PM by kellyvansingel

November 4, 2012

Do you remember the “Apps for Autism” segment that aired on on 60 minutes in October 2011?

Did you also know there is a 60minutes show in Australia?  They also recently did a segment on apps and autism called “First Words”. It is almost like a ‘part 2’ to the original US segment giving an update on the some of the technology users.  You can see the clip at the link below…

Video: First Words

It is never “too late” to begin using technology for those are ‘differently-abled.’  It can make a huge difference in the ability to have improved regulation and communication. I am so impressed by Joshua Hood, a 28-year iPad user with non-verbal autism in both of these clips…amazing and inspiring.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 3, 2012

“Mags & Gilly: Bloggin’ It” is now on Facebook…..

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, iOS at 10:25 AM by kellyvansingel

November 3, 2012


Facebook here we come! Why not? Facebook has been an instrumental networking, teaching, learning and support tool for our family over the past few years.  For everything from app ideas, advocacy strategies, and meeting other ‘differently-abled’ families, Facebook it is.

You can also follow blog posts and other tidbits at the Facebook page:


See you on Facebook!


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

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