Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adapting Classrooms

If you haven't seen the movie Including Samuel, you should.

Dan Habib's documentary looks at how including children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms can enrich everyone's education.

One thing is clear, though. Including children with a wide range of abilities is work. Hard work. I applaud any teacher, but especially teachers who sign up to the challenge of including children with special needs.

I think technology is part of the solution. My daughter's class does cooking every two weeks. The teachers use a fun activity the children relate to as a way to sneak in lessons about math, science, nutrition, following directions, and all sorts of other subjects that could be dry when not drizzled with a raspberry glaze.

But part of cooking is interacting with the physical world. At www.switchamajig.com, there's a video of Jackson helping his sister make cupcakes. He uses the Switchamajig to control a mixer, blender, and can opener. But that's only part of cooking; what about measuring out the ingredients and pouring them into the bowl?

As children get older, the subjects get trickier. Cooking gives way to chemistry, which has a lot of things in common with it. Can we adapt chemistry class for the motor impaired, like what Cory Supalo does for people with visual impairments? I'm thinking tubes with switch-controlled solenoid valves.

What about other sciences, like biology and physics? What other classes do you think we should adapt?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bringing A Fire Truck Costume To Life

We're getting Halloween costume catalogs in the mail, so we asked Jackson what he wanted to be this year.

"A fire fighter."

Who could blame him? San Jose Fire Station No. 15 is just down the street from our home, and they are always happy to see Jackson, who probably thinks that fire fighting involves spraying water from a big truck and handing out stickers.

I figured Jackson would be all set with a yellow raincoat and a plastic fire hat, but that didn't seem like much of a costume. A child in a wheelchair wearing a raincoat wouldn't look too much like a fire fighter.

Unless his wheelchair was a fire truck. Preferably, a working fire truck.

The whole family worked on the project. We found a big cardboard box and bought some spray paint, and in a day we had a fire truck. A pretty cute one, too.

I've seen some cool costumes that used a wheelchair - one of my favorites turned the chair into a Star Wars TIE fighter. But with a Switchamajig, Jackson's truck came to life.

I found some flashlights at Home Depot that can be white, red, or green. They were trickier to adapt than I expected - you're probably better off with single-color flashlight and a battery interrupter. I also bought a Nurf Super Soaker Thunderstorm, a battery-operated squirt gun, and adapted that with a battery interrupter.
Jackson Fires the Squirt Gun with the iPad 

We created a switch panel with the Switchamajig App 2.0 (now in beta.) We downloaded some pictures of a fire hose, siren, and lights, and recorded a siren and bell sound. Then we put the iPad in front of Jackson, and took him for a "drive" around the neighborhood.

We noticed several people doing double-takes while driving by. Jackson ran the siren and bell the whole time, and emptied his squirt gun in just a few seconds. I'll post a video on the Switchamajig web site.

Fire Truck Control Panel
I think there's a lot of potential to make some really amazing Halloween costumes with wheelchairs.
My daughter came up with a long list of ideas:
Police Car
Race Car
Pirate Ship

And of course, you can't go wrong with a Star Wars vehicle. No matter what you choose, you can add lights, action, and sound control with Switchamajig.

Send me your comments with your own ideas! Better yet, post your own videos of your costume in action! Let's Switchamajig Halloween!

Here are a few shots of the innards of the fire truck. I taped almost everything to the inside of the box. For the flashlights, I put 1/4" bolts through the cardboard with washers, and then taped the flashlights to the bolts.
Switch-Adapted Squirt Gun
Switch-Adapted Flashlight
Switchamajig Controlling
Lights and Squirt Gun

Monday, August 6, 2012

Using GoTalk Now With Switchamajig

My own app will soon function as a simple AAC app, but if you're looking for a full-featured app, GoTalk Now from Attainment Company is popular and reasonably priced. They even have a free version!

I'm partial to GoTalk Now because it's the only AAC app that supports the Switchamajig Controller. Just like you define buttons to speak, you can program them to activate switch-adapted toys and other equipment. Their support is only experimental right now, which means they reserve the right to change the way it works, but it's nice to have everything in one app.

To turn it on, you need to open their settings menu. Down toward the bottom you'll see the Switchamajig Support switch under Experimental Features. Turn it on.

Then when you're configuring a button, for Action you can choose Switchamajig. You then set which switches you want the button to toggle, and choose which Switchamajig Controller you want to talk to.

Then when you activate the panel, you can speak and control equipment on the same screen.

 Give it a try and tell me what you think. I have some ideas for ways Attainment can improve the support, but input from people using it is much more valuable than either their or my guess about what you want.

And I'm willing to support anyone who wants to add the same support to their AAC app. If you're a developer, email me. If you have a favorite app and want it Switchamajigged, point the people who wrote it at this post and tell them to get cracking!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beta Testers Wanted for Switchamajig App 2.0!

I'm getting close to releasing version 2.0 of the Switchamajig app. I won't bore you with all of the technical details (I'm really pleased with my increased use of XML), but with the new version you'll be able to:
  • Create and edit your own switch panels. You can customize almost everything about them: size, color, and position. You can also make the switches activate or deactivate any combination of switches on the Switchamajig controller.
  • Show pictures on the switch.
  • Record a sound to play when a switch is activated.
  • Set up the app to be navigated by a person with special needs, not just a caregiver. (My original view of Switchamajig was mostly just for toys, so I made it difficult to change switch panels.)

For example, you can take pictures of a switch-adapted lamp and fan and put them on buttons. Pressing the lamp button will turn the lamp on and say "lamp," while pressing the fan button will turn on the fan and say "fan."

You can also use the app as a simple AAC device, with or without the Switchamajig.

I'm excited that this new version of the app will meet the needs of a lot more people.

I'm looking for beta testers for the app. If you're interested, email me at support@paw-solutions.com. Please let me know how you plan to use the app and if you already own a Switchamajig Controller.

I'm also always open to hearing suggestions from you even if you don't want to beta-test the app. My top three features to add in the future are:
  1. Support for a new product I hope to announce shortly.
  2. Switch scanning support.
  3. A turn-taking feature to allow two iPads to share one toy and help with socialization.