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Celluon Magic Cube (Celluon: www.celluon.com) This is an amazing alternative keyboard and mouse system – it is a very compact and portable full-sized "virtual" laser projection keyboard. Just connect the Magic Cube to your Macintosh computer, Windows computer, iPad, Android or iPhone via USB or wirelessly with Bluetooth (with no drivers needed). When connected, the Magic Cube uses a red laser to project the image of a keyboard onto a flat surface in front of the Magic Cube and the typist. To change between keyboard and mouse modes, users just hold down the FN key and tap the mouse cursor …

Learning Resources Reading Rods and Reading Mentor (Learning Resources; www.learningresources.com) Reading Rods are interlocking color-coded manipulatives designed to supplement phonics and reading programs. They are available for Phonemic Awareness, Word Families, Word Building and Sentence Building, turning reading instruction into a color-coded, visual, tactile and auditory experience. Kits include activity trays, activity cards and instruction and activity books with demonstration cards. Each activity card set includes 48 double-sided, cards with simple icons that help students find the Rods needed, build specific Rod sequences, say or read their work out loud and follow-up with an extension activity.Some additional Reading Rod kits …

With so many new iPad apps becoming available each month, it is getting difficult to keep up with them. Since iTunes does such a good job in presenting the description and screen shots of new apps, I am going to try out a new format ‚Äì the name of the app, the publisher and just a brief description. If the app seems appropriate for your needs, look it up on iTunes, visit the publisher’s website and even check You Tube for more details. In this way, I hope to be able to let you know about more exceptional apps each …

Apple has done it again – with the new iPad mini that brings a whole new experience to tablet users! It’s smaller than the original iPad but not too small to work well with 775,000 apps (as of January 2013), Safari, FaceTime, books, magazines and videos. The new iPad Mini is 7.87 inches high by 5.3 inches across, only .28 of an inch thick, weighs only .68 of a pound and is 53 percent lighter than the iPad with Retina display. The screen/display size is 7.9 inches, compared to 9 inches on the full size iPad (and it has the …

Interactive Learning: Paragraph Editing (Teacher Created Resources: www.teachercreated.com) This set of workbooks and CDs, one set for each grade from Grade 1 to Grade 4, is an excellent way to make grammar and spelling both interactive and motivating by providing interactive whiteboard activities. Each grade workbook and CD contains paragraphs that are divided into 25 units, with new grammar rules incorporated into each of the first 15 units. The activities meet one or more of the Common Core State Standards. In addition, the program teaches and reinforces the use of editing marks. Students can work on the paragraphs by writing …

eBooks are taking many forms now – digital storybooks, PDF files with special options like a Typewriter Tool and electronic books that have built-in tools for the SmartBoard and have the ability to read aloud. They seem to work well for both individual work at the computer and for group lessons on the SmartBoard since they are interactive, read text aloud and can be saved and printed. The range of learning material is growing each day, from very simple picture storybooks to complex workbook style learning materials for all ages. Watch for even more in the future. Following are some …

Did you know that you can interface your interactive entertainment system (Wii, Xbox) and connect it to your whiteboard?This will allow you to use the whiteboard screen to project the Wii or Xbox programs and to run them in the classroom. There are many Wii and Xbox programs that offer our students new and different educational and social-interactive experiences. These can include fun practice of early learning skills, activities for physical exercise and other goals in physical therapy, eye-hand coordination, participation in sports that wouldn’t otherwise be possible because of motor limitations, turn-taking skills and much more.In order to interface …

Apple’s new operating system for the iPad and iPhone has many new and exciting features, but the most impressive for those with special needs is the inclusion of switch control and scanning. This article is not meant as an instruction guide in using switch control (some references for that are included later). It is more of an introduction to the features that Apple has included. Switch control can be turned on by going to Settings General Accessibility and then scrolling down to Physical & Motor. Users first have to pair their Bluetooth switch interface with the iPad, a simple process …

Adaptive Equipment for Your Capacitive Device In the DISKoveries article in August 2013, I reviewed some exciting adaptive equipment by Ivo Beckers, available from Shapedad (http://www.shapedad.etsy.com). The review included several different kinds of styluses that work with capacitive touch devices, such as iPads and Android devices. These included the Steady Stylus (a T-shaped stylus in two different sizes), Strap Stylus (a longer stylus that is placed between the index finger and the thumb with a strong Velcro strap that holds it in place; it does not need to be grasped or held, but it moves in sync with the hand), …

With the current trends in software being in-the-cloud, online, network versions, etc., it’s sometimes difficult to find stand-alone software to purchase that will work with current computer operating systems (Windows 7 and 8 and Macintosh OS X). Some of our favorite classic software programs no longer work and are not being supported or upgraded. Some continue to work but are difficult to locate and purchase. Specialized special education software that continues to work with current systems and is supported by the producers include some of my favorites: JudyLynn Software (www.judylynn.com), Attainment Company (www.attainmentco.com) Laureate (www.laureatelearning.com), Inclusive (www.inclusivetlc.com, www.inclusive.co.uk), Marblesoft (www.marblesoft.com), …

The following two products have taken the iPad to the next step – children can now interact with their iPads, individually and/or in groups, by using and manipulating related physical objects – shapes, number lines, puzzle pieces, letters and more. Great for language learning, fine motor skills, visual spatial abilities, literacy, creative thinking and problem solving, as well as cooperative and/or competitive play. Osmo (www.playosmo.com) Osmo is a new gaming accessory for the iPad that is designed for ages six and up and comes with four games that work with an iPad Mini and iPad version 2 or higher. (Currently, …

The concept of literacy, in current times, goes well beyond the simple teaching of reading and writing. We need to consider the foundations that are built in early preschool the need to combine traditional literacy with digital media literacy and the continual integration of listening, speaking, reading and writing, along with skills needed to interact with others and with the environment. Literacy becomes even more complex when we teach learners with special needs, especially those with communication disorders. Following is a wide range of new technology products (hardware, software, Internet resources and testing material) that can enhance the teaching and …

Subscription software is now a common and often used software licensing and delivery model. Taking advantage of cloud computing and iPads and tablets, it allows the subscribed users to access the program at any time from any place, using their desktop or laptop computer, Mac or Windows, tablet or phone. Content is no longer static and confined to what is available from the traditional installed CD, DVD or download – it is constantly changing, updating and expanding. Again, being cloud-based, they have online tracking and record keeping options that allow teachers to monitor work done at school or at home …

Virtual Speech Center www.virtualspeechcenter.com This company has published a large group of excellent, well designed and motivating apps for speech-language pathology and special education, for children and adults and for home and school use. All have many built-in options, such as use with single or multiple students, data collection, ability to email, audio recording features and more. See website for additional information and for videos of each of the apps. Functional Listening This excellent new app features listening activities that contain everyday messages from different settings, including the store, the doctor’s office, school, etc. The messages are within categories, such …

iPads and other tablets continue to be an increasingly important focus of our everyday lives. This article takes another look at new products that help children of all ages interact with their iPads, individually and/or in groups, by using and manipulating related physical objects, such as letters, numbers, robots, coding tools and more. It also presents a group of Smart Toys that expand their learning and fun with related apps. Great for language learning, motor skills, visual spatial abilities, literacy, STEM, critical thinking and problem solving, the iPad, manipulatives and Smart Toys also set a context for turn-taking, cooperative and …

This issue of DISKoveries contains reviews of new software programs, adaptive computer equipment and related products, developed especially for those with special needs. If you are attending the Closing The Gap conference, visit the Exhibit Hall and the booths of many of these companies to see the products first hand. Thank you for producing the quality products that we use in our classrooms, therapy sessions and at home.Joan Tanenhaus Health Care Communication Board for medical, physical and emotional information by Green Publications. Health Care Communication Board for Medical, Physical and Emotional Information (Greenhouse Publications: 661-263-7661, <www.greenhousepub.com>) These two communication boards …

Interactive entertainment systems for learning Joan TanenhausColumnistInteractive entertainment systems are a very important way that children, teenagers and adults of all ages interact with their siblings, family and friends. With the older systems, like GameBoy Advance, Playstation2, and GameCube, players have a control pad to move characters up, down, left and right; and several other buttons to create special actions (i.e., jump, talk, start, pause, etc.) either on handheld devices or through the television. With the newer Nintendo DS, a handheld system, players can use a stylus to “tap” and “slide” and actually write (circle items, etc.) to control characters …

Special needs: New preschool and learning software, books, DVDs and professional resources Monkeys, Ducks and Frogs (Sherston, available from Tool Factory: 800-220-8386, www.toolfactory.com) You are going to love this program!! Built around three popular songs, there are 21 fun activities designed to improve counting skills, including counting to five, one-to-one correspondence, recalling sequences and much more. There is a sing-along activity for each song: Five Little Monkeys Sleeping on the Bed, Five Little Ducks and Five Green and Speckled Frogs. There’s a jigsaw puzzle with pictures related to the songs (four to nine pieces), a subtraction activity, a listening game …

Show Me AAC (Life Tools, available from Mayer-Johnson: 800-588-4548, www.mayerjohnson.com) This program is designed to help students learn and practice vocabulary and basic concepts, including about 350 words within 12 categories (clothes, food, vehicles, bedroom, etc) , colors, shapes, size, letters, numbers, and time. Pictures or PCS can be used. The program can be accessed with a mouse, touch screen or with scanning. Each activity has four playing modes – Practice (click to hear the name); Find (computer asks you to find and click a specific object/item); Memorize (computer asks you to find several cards in a row); and Recall …

Boardmaker Version 6 for Macintosh (Mayer-Johnson: 800-588-4548, www.mayer-johnson.com) Boardmaker Version 6 is now available for Macintosh in two different versions, Boardmaker Plus and Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically, with all of the features of the Windows versions. Boardmaker has always been the standard of excellence for creating printed classroom and at home materials with Picture Communication Symbols (PCS). Now Boardmaker Plus! for Macintosh lets Boardmaker activities come alive on the computer with voice, animation and video support, and with Boardmaker, more than 4500 PCS and over 300 ready-to-use templates for schedules, AAC and calendars. Some of the new features of Boardmaker …

Interactive entertainment systems are a very important way that children, teenagers and adults of all ages interact with their siblings, family and friends. The most powerful applications are cooperative play, social, recreational and whole body interactivity. They are also great for language (following a story line, sequencing, etc.), fine motor and gross motor skills, timing and coordination. Many games are targeted to improve memory and maintain “brain power” in older adults and seniors. The Wii is the newest and most innovative interactive entertainment system and is an excellent choice for children, adults and families. It works through your television system …

Switch Skills for Two Set 1 & Set 2 (Inclusive TLC Special Needs: 1-800-462-0930, www.inclusivetlc.com) This is an excellent series of new programs, for Macintosh and Windows, designed to introduce the use of two switches in a sequential order. Switch Skills for Two Set 1 has four different kinds of activities. In “Controlling Two Separate Objects,” users learn that the two switches cause different things to happen. The two activities are two cause and effect activities on one screen. Two objects are shown, one on each side of the screen. One side is controlled by one switch, the other side …

Interactive Entertainment Systems for Learning: PlayStation Portable (PSP) Over the past few years, I’ve done on-going reviews of the Nintendo DS handheld system, the PlayStation and the newer Wii. Recently, I’ve received some requests for more information about the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the available games for it. Following is a review of the PSP and some of the educational and entertainment programs that I have found that appear appropriate for individuals with special needs. The most outstanding use of the PSP that I have discovered is its use with the Plato Achieve Now Learning System (see below). It also …

This issue of DISKoveries contains reviews of some new software and related products, developed by companies especially for those with Special Needs. If you are attending the Closing The Gap conference, be sure to check your conference program. Many of these companies will be in the Exhibit Hall and/or presenting workshops on their products. Pulse Smartpen (Livescribe: www.livescribe.com) The Pulse Smartpen is an amazing tool for students who need help with notetaking and classroom lectures (and for many other applications too.) The pen records the lecture (or any selected audio) and links it to what you write. Students can just …

Read Outloud (Don Johnston: 800-999-4660, www.donjohnston.com) Read:OutLoud 6 is an independent text reader that works with any electronic text, including the Web. When the program is launched, it uses its built-in Web browser. Enter the Web site you want to visit, highlight the text and click the Speak button. The text is read aloud, highlighting each word as it speaks. Text size can be enlarged; there are options for different voices, rate, pitch and volume. Background, text and highlighting colors can be selected. You can correct pronunciation and enter abbreviations, insert notes, etc. If you highlight an individual word and …

Webber HearBuilder Following Directions (Super Duper Publications: 800-277-8737, www.superduperinc.com) This is an excellent new software program designed to give students a systematic way to improve their auditory skills, especially those for following increasingly more complex directions. For both Macintosh and Windows, for Grades PreK to Grade 3 (ages 4-9), the program has a toy factory theme, which is present in all activities. There are five separate modules with 14-20 levels in each. In Basic Directions (The Tool Room), students follow one-step directions with one element through one step directions with six elements (i.e. click on the large blue dog that …

Tenth Planet Literacy Bundle (Sunburst: 800-321-7511, www.sunburst.com) This is an excellent literacy series that has motivating hands-on activities that help learners to increase reading, spelling and writing skills. Age appropriate for older students and adults, it has phonemic awareness activities, activities for letter-sound relationships and vowel and word-parts, and helps develop awareness of patterns of letters and sounds and awareness of larger units of meaning. Letter Sounds: This is the first in the series, designed for Preschool to Grade 1 skills, and stresses sound symbol associations of consonants. Users sort words based on sounds, build words with letters that represent …

Learning Resources Reading Mentor (Learning Resources; www.learningresources.com) The Reading Mentor is a stand-alone electronic device that contains visual and auditory output, as well as groups of reading rods (little blocks that can be strung together). These little blocks can be manipulated to make words and sentences. Students then place the reading rods on a track on the device and they are read aloud. They then hear the letter name, word or sentence they have built and can also read it on the screen. Students can hear individual phonemes or hear the word spoken aloud. They can press either the Read …

In April 2010, Apple Computer launched its iPad. Within the next few months, it became apparent that it was going to be an excellent assistive technology tool for children and adults with special needs. In the past months, hundred of applications (called apps) have appeared, many of them free and other ranging in price from $.99 to $200. Just to give you an idea of the growth in this area – in September 2010 there were over 250,000 apps, and at the end of October 2010, the number is estimated at over 300,000. The iPad is 9.5″ by 7.5″, just …

Editor’s Note: Part two of DISKoveries: Apple iPad and Apps for Special Needs will appear in the June/July, 2011 edition. Switch Skills 2 & Switch Skills 3 (Inclusive: www.inclusivetlc.com) Both of these excellent new programs from Inclusive are designed to practice and improve switch timing skills. They include simple activities to use with a single switch – great for those who have cause and effect concepts but need to practice switch timing and understanding computer cues. They are also excellent to use for attention and focus. Activities will appeal to a wide range of ages and visual and cognitive levels. …

The Apple iPad continues to be a powerful force in special education, both in schools and in homes. The growth in the number of available apps and the growth in capabilities continue to amaze and astound us.On March 11, 2011, Apple’s new iPad2 became available. It contains two cameras – one front facing and one rear facing. Other differences from the first model include size and type of processor (iPad has single core, iPad2 has dual core and about double the speed), amount of memory (256 vs. 512), color (iPad is black, iPad2 is either white or black) and slight …

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Wireless Version 11 Premium (www. nuance.com) Every version of Dragon gets better and Version 11 is no exception – it has been redesigned to be faster, better and smarter. The Dragon user interface now offers a new Sidebar, showing tips, as well as many commands, so it’s easier to remember and access features and options. New Recognition Analytics continuously monitor audio quality and alert users when there is an audio issue. Dragon 11 is more accurate out of the box than version 10 – it learns better too, from existing documents and dictations, as well as from correction …

For Mac OnlyAs assistive technology specialists, we are used to seeing "Windows only" on software. This section will describe some Mac only software, as well as some new Mac versions of programs that previously were Windows only.Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac (www.parallels.com) Parallels Deskto