This webinar demonstrates a path to integrating assistive technology in an inclusive classroom environment so that it becomes part of the whole classroom experience, and not something limited to a few students. Learn to create an environment in which students who use AT do not feel as though they stand out in a negative way. Dr. Ray Heipp shares techniques to help teachers, therapists, administrators, and aides--from preschool classrooms to high school advanced placement courses--feel confident in creating your own inclusive activities for students. (Get the Presentation Slides)
- [Moderator] Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us today. This afternoon, our webinar is: Revisioning Inclusive Classroom Environments With Assistive Technology. Learn to create an environment in which students who use AT do not feel as though they stand out in a negative way. Dr. Ray Heipp will share some techniques to help teachers, therapists, administrators and aids feel confident in creating their own inclusive I'll go ahead and pass it on to Dr. Heipp and let him introduce himself and get started. Thanks again.
- [Dr. Heipp] Thank you, Anna Maria. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome. Thank you all for braving the weather conditions in your offices and homes, and joining us here this afternoon. I'm Ray Heipp and we'll be going through all kinds of ideas about taking AT and really helping to make all of our classrooms inclusive classrooms. One of the things that I'll be able to bring to the table is kind of a perspective about assistive technology over the course of time. Back when I started, and maybe one or two of you remember these days, assistive technology basically was scented magic markers and reel-to-reel tape recorders. Now, I know there are a few of you right now trying to Google up exactly what a reel-to-reel tape recorder is, but if this gives you any idea, we also used those to listen to Peter, Paul and Mary.
Now, if you have to Google that, too, then guess what. You're a lot younger than we are now. But assistive technology has come a long way, and as a matter of fact, a lot of people misunderstand what assistive technology is. We all use it. It is that type of technology that allows an individual to actually go through and live their lives on a day-to-day basis. So, you may not be able to tell from my picture, but I use assistive technology every day. They're called "contact lenses". They help me to see. We also have a variety of different things that are available to even typical individuals. Things like volume controls, and microphones and speakers when they're not able to hear things clearly or express themselves largely. You also have things like communication.
Something as simple as a pen or a pencil technically falls under assistive technology, when it's being used to help us remember ideas as we go through. Ironically, the biggest piece of assistive technology we have today is this thing called the cellphone. Now, one or two of us remember days when phones were rotary phones, and they were connected to a wall or a desk. The reality is our cellphone today is so much more. It's a way for us to communicate. It's a way for us to check our email. It's a way for us to see our scheduling. So we want to approach our inclusive classrooms and inclusive settings with that idea. That assistive technology is technology that helps everyone and allows for greater accessibility. Now, there's a lot of myths that surround AT. And we really do have to try and break that, those common perceptions that are out there. When I am presenting to groups or working with districts, I will often ask: what is assistive technology to you? And will oftentimes get a standard answer.
Something like: well, that big red switch, or an AAC device like the one Dr. Stephen Hawking uses. Well, yes and no. Those are pieces of assistive technology, however, there's so much more that we do with assistive technology, and we need to understand that. We need to move away from just that one perception, and most importantly, we need to begin training our younger students and those who work with our individuals with differing abilities that assistive technology is something that is part of the natural, day-to-day experience. When we are dealing with inclusive classrooms, it is essential for us to get as much AT in as early as possible. What do I mean by that? Well, we recognize that our students, when they grow up with those with differing abilities, really see those peers as someone who's one of them, but just operates in the world in a different way.
And so what we're trying to do right now is desensitize these typical students to things like switches, to things like AAC devices. Even to things like sensory items that allow people to calm down. That allow people to actually move away from escalating within the classroom. Those are all things that, if we start at a very young age, and that's what we'll be talking about in just a few moments, they will look at AT in a vastly different way. AT can be repurposed. As we take a look at our school shelves, oftentimes, again, we see 25 big red switches up there. Why? Well, we hear a variety of different things. We hear things like: that student isn't here anymore. Well, that switch, that device does not need to be locked into the mindset of "it belongs to one student", unless they purchased it. If the school purchased it, we can actually use that again, and use it in some very creative and fundamental ways.
Even AAC devices, even other devices that one might not think can be used within the general context of the classroom or the therapy room can be. So one of the things that you're going to see as we go through this is you want to be able to take an inventory of what is already there, and what is already available to you. We need to understand something: you don't need to go out and spend millions upon millions of dollars with assistive technology. As a matter of fact, the reality is: those pieces of technology that cost tens of thousands of dollars are more something that should be covered by insurance. Those things that we've bought for our schools can be used over and over again when we move on. We also have to be aware that there is no one size fits all; I know we hear that from time to time, or: this device will help all of our kids. Not really. We have to acknowledge the students as individuals.
Many of you operate with your students or with your clients using the set framework, where we start with that student or that individual first. And thanks to Joy Zabala, we have a better recognition that we need to start with the individual, rather than start with the technology. We oftentimes get annoyed, too, because you'll come into a session like this and you'll hear someone say: well, we need to think outside of the box. Well, we do, but we don't wanna look at it as though we're in a box. We're actually kind of like horses with blinders on sometimes when it comes to assistive technology. And the reason for that is we've got so much we need to be doing, oftentimes we can't see the wide scope of what this technology can do. So, it's not as though we need to think outside the box as educators, as therapists. We do that every single day. But what we need to do is have a better understanding of how those things can be used in other applications. We also need to be able to amortize costs. We need to take a look at, okay, an investment, even if it's a $30 investment, that's an investment. But what is that going to bring to our students, to our clients, as we go through?
And those of you who know me know my two favorite words are: duct tape and Velcro, because in a classroom setting or a therapy room, those work great. And so what we want to do is incorporate the fact that there are so many approaches that we can take. But let's start with switches, because that's the most common thing we will see lying around our buildings or our therapy rooms. We need to understand that, switches actually come in a wide variety that we don't always have to press down with them. And that is significant, because there are kids that, and adults, that don't have that ability to press down on something. So we need to see that there are other types of switches out there. Another thing we need to understand is that the switches, even the ones that we do press down, have differentiated uses.
My favorite use of any type of a switch actually is in a classroom as an answer button. If you've got extra switches lying around, especially for our young kids, connect those to a dollar store light that you might find. Or connect them to something that will allow answers to be given, just like they were playing Family Feud or some other game show. Now, how can that be done? Well, one of the things you want to realize is that there are things called "battery interrupters" out there. Battery interrupters work for devices that have C or D batteries and they can be purchased for less than $15, and they allow switches to be connected to generalized batteries and toys that we are using within the classroom, then everyone can use them. So a battery interrupter is one way to go about things. Another way is to actually solder the wiring for a switch into the toys itself. And on the screen, you see my cursor kind of going around a little stuffed animal there.
We actually just did that for a group, and there's a lot of groups that will work with you on soldering; one of my favorite stories with this actually comes from those of you down in the Virginia area, if you are associated with the Virginia TTAC at all, Holly Nestor and her group down there, they did an event right before Christmas where they invited people in with toys, with the switches that they were using, to actually get the soldering and the soldering iron and the training to actually make toys to give at Christmas. But this is also something we can do within our classroom, too. There are other groups out there. If you're doing things, a couple of quick shout-outs, if you're not already following these people on Twitter, you definitely wanna follow Mike Marotta and AT Chat. As a matter of fact, later tonight they're doing an AT Chat on comprehensive literacy approaches to those with complex needs. There are a lot of great ideas that come out of that. Jennifer Edge-Savage, who is an OT, does a lot with inclusive classrooms, too. And many of you know individuals like a Kelly Fonner, or a Tech Access of Rhode Island.
These are all good groups to follow. But why? What goes on? Well, we see things like the pad-operated switches, those actually are great for training how to swipe, too. So even for some of our younger students, or our adults that don't understand swiping, they are able to use pad switches to begin to get the idea of how that can go on. Now I know that one of the questions that was asked already, within the chat that's going on, and I do want to address that, is: what about those students who don't wanna use the equipment that they've been given? Oftentimes, it's one of two things. It is that they feel as though they're standing out and are differentiated from their peers, and that's why it's so important to start young.
Have the kids doing things with switches and playing games at a very young age. That way, it becomes something that is fun. And so, perceptively, from the idea of the students, it's different; even using pad switches, that's something that's fun, that's out there, that's what they see on a tablet. That's what they experience, even on some of the newer laptops. The second reason a child may not want to actually use a device is they're uncomfortable with it, or they're frightened by it. And we need to work hand-in-hand with the parents and with the therapists, then, to really come up with a plan that will address that. But that, that goes well beyond what we're trying to do with our inclusive classrooms. Yeah, and you're right, Jennifer.
Middle school classrooms, middle school is a very unique age; when I was an administrator, I was an administrator at the secondary level. And those kids coming in from middle school, that was probably the one age where if students had not been acclimated to devices like this, they would shut down quickly on those individuals that were using anything different. That is a brutal age, when it comes to the social interaction time. And so trying to prep kids along the way is extremely important. Getting back to switches, though. There are other types of differentiated switches out there, which sometimes, again, alleviate that issue. Movement sensor switches. If you're not familiar with the movement sensor switch from enabling devices, it's absolutely phenomenal and less than $125. I have used this for individuals that can only flutter a pinky finger or can barely move their head, so they really can't use a typical cheek switch, but they can actually break, basically, the sensor that is within the movement sensor switch itself. And although this might look like a joystick, it's actually a flex pipe that allows a fiber optic cable to be moved to wherever that movement might be.
That's a cool thing to set up, too, in your classroom or your therapy room, especially at holiday time, or throughout other periods of the year where you just wanna get a message where people actually just need to break that beam, or have that movement go in front of the switch, and then have some type of recording coming out of the back. You know, a happy Halloween. We see things like the movement sensor switch already in Halloween decorations, but now this is something that if you've got it in the classroom, you've got one lying around, continue to use it. Use it on a day-to-day basis. All the kids think it's cool; why? Because all they've gotta do is move their hand or move some part of their body in front of it. There are other types of movement sensor switches, like addressing kids with a twitch switch. Or a proximity switch. I love the proximity switch because of the fact that you only need to be within that quarter inch to activate it, and you can get that feedback even, again, using it as a cheek switch or a knee switch, as the kids are coming in, just based on where you have it mounted.
But now within a classroom, it's an easy way to activate phrases on a dry erase board or an interactive board, just by having that switch Velcro'd to the side. You could actually connect it to a computer so that a response is coming up. The nice thing about the proximity switch, too, that candy-corn switch, is there is a larger size that's coming out from AbleMet. They're formally releasing it at ATIA this year. So it's nice because now a child who has differing abilities and needs to use something like a proximity switch will have basically a three-inch pad that they can work with. But again, for some of those other switches you might see lying around, the smaller candy-corns, those should be used on a regular basis. Breaking down what we're trying to accomplish in the classroom. So there are a variety of switches out there. Don't be afraid of them; rather, incorporate how they're used to your potential strengths within a classroom.
Moved a little too quickly there. AAC devices, as we have them, we're gonna shift into AAC devices. AAC devices really are, can be used for so much more. When I say "so much more" what I'm talking about is communication as a whole, not just for those that can't communicate due to being unable to speak or having some other issues that limit their communication abilities. So we see a lot of times, things like GoTalks or QuickTalkers floating around a classroom. We can actually use those as literacy support mechanisms, in cross-pollination within other courses, too. This goes back to the whole idea of the middle school idea of what can be done. Because when we start to take a look at some of the different devices, they don't have to be just for words. So if we're teaching middle school science, have a GoTalk or have a QuickTalk, or have some of the other devices out there, and use them for things like the periodic table. Use them for math problems. And how that's used is very simple, and as you can tell, I get excited about this, because sometimes we don't think of these options.
When we put an answer, so just the number 12 in one of the cued segments, we can have, when they press that number 12, four times three. Two times six. We can be learning times tables as we go through, but hear that that answer goes for multiple things. You can have periodic table-wise, that little element. H-E, now, this is about all I remember from chemistry, but H-E is "helium", so we can have, when they press H-E, not just helium, but also talking about the atomic weight, and other information that might be pertinent to them. That's going to engage kids; why? Because it's fun, it's not just what we had to do in the good old days, and unfortunately, in some schools, the good old days are yesterday, where you've got that chart on the wall, and that's all you can use. No, we want the kids to be engaged, and by taking things like the GoTalk, the QuickTalk, or any of the Tech/Talks, you can actually play quiz games. But you don't need to have the teacher there to actually play the games. Have it as a small group break out. A couple of these that you might have found on shelves somewhere, yeah, program them so that each group has a different set of problems and answers that they're working towards. For younger kids, I love using these as core vocabulary review. Why? Because it's an easy way for us to have core vocabulary in a way that's similar to flashcards.
But, you don't need to have the teacher or someone else actually doing flashcards. Why do we use these in these different ways? Again, because it's desensitizing those typical students to these types of devices. You're not always going to see this basic of a device, now, for the middle school student, the secondary student, or even the adult or the transitional student. However, by seeing AAC types of devices used on a regular basis there is a different mindset that's used. As we move on just from these types of devices, you've got things like the ProxTalker, the ProxPad. My favorite anecdote I have of this, and a shout-out goes to this SLP, her name is Jackie Sirrah, out of Ohio, she actually was working with some children with a ProxTalker and took the book Goodnight Moon, basically made copies of the pictures on each page, and then did a scenario where she had tags made for the ProxTalker so that the kids could page through Goodnight Moon, and even if they could not read, they were able to hear someone saying the story to them.
So from a literacy standpoint, that's great. You also see, on that slide, this idea of the magic square. I've seen this with several groups where they'll take something like the ProxPad and for those of you who don't know, the ProxTalker and ProxPad, you may have seen these within your buildings already. They're devices that use IR tags to actually say words when they're either pressed on the ProxTalker or hovered above a ProxPad. The magic square is basically an area on a table where you've got a ProxPad mounted underneath it. And my favorite mounting mechanism for the ProxPad is duct tape, because it works well. And all the kids need to do, and as a teacher, you'd simply take duct tape or masking tape and tape off a square right above where the ProxPad is, and then have items with an IR tag associated with it sliding over, and that ProxPad will say what that item is, or say whatever information you've got.
So you're taking something that the school might already be using and using to another extreme. And again, the great part is you're encouraging those students who now use the ProxTalker, or the ProxPad, as their AAC device, you're encouraging others to say: wait a minute, that's cool stuff, that's cool technology. Because the ironic thing, and why I keep talking desensitization, is our kids don't look crossways at anyone who uses a cellphone or a tablet or an iPad, but they do look crossways at kids who are using some of these other devices, and the only reason why is they're unfamiliar with it. That's the bottom line. So we want to, again, grab these things that are already on shelves and keep using them in different ways. We've got some other devices that you are going to see up on your shelves and the center picture that I have there, I love the Easy Talk, because it also operates like switches.
And so if you've ever seen some of my presentations, you'll recognize my little chihuahua friend that accompanies me along. It's great because you can do simplistic exercises like "dog", and the child can press the button that would say "dog" in a little chihuahua, in this case who's switch-activated, would bark. The Easy Talk I've seen used, too, if you're seeing it, use it for classroom instructions over a daily activities chart. I've got the two-button one that I carry with me, because it's very easy. You can have AM instructions, you can have PM instructions. But all the kids can activate it, and it's neat because the kids don't mind pressing buttons. Our kids wanna do things. You can't see me right now, but those of you who know me know that I'm highly kinesthetic, and yes, right now I'm bouncing up and down on my chair, trying to behave as much as I can, but I do have fidgets that I have in my hands that I'm working with, too. Our kids want that.
Our kids want that connection because they're connected. We might say that, okay, using a cellphone and that, a touchscreen, is still somewhat of a passive action, and it is, but it's an action. And that's what we wanna create. Scenarios where we have these actions. You can also have instructions given when we're using anything like Talkibles or down here, this little guy is wearing a TalkTrak, and you may see a few of these lying around on some of your shelves, too. The TalkTrak is, something that's worn on a wrist and it looks like a watch. And the neat thing is, in today's day and age, kids are used to things like, you know, the Apple Watch or some of the other different types of smartwatches that are out there. The TalkTrak allows for two levels of four phrases to be spoken, just from the pressing of a button, coming from a watch; well guess what? It's an AAC device, yet it's a device that kids don't necessarily think twice about. Even at the middle school level, they would not be sitting there, making fun of their peers; why? Because in their minds, it's a smartwatch. The neatest way I've seen the TalkTrak used, and again, if you do have some of these, please feel free to use it this way, is with social interactions.
So you can program things on it like: hi, my name is. What's your name? Would you like to play? And that's important for all of our kids. Now, ladies, I'm not going to make any comments about "us guys" even in our 40s, 50s, and wherever we are, age-wise, needing social interaction skills along the way, but it's good for all of our kids to have this type of modeling, and when it's coming from something that's like a smartwatch, it's actually cool. It's actually a neat way to interact and learn about those social interactions, even if we've got children that can't make eye contact, or can't speak, or don't know what to say, or socially interact with one another. So social interactions are very, very important, as we go through with these, too. Computer access. And please forgive me, I know I am trying to get through a lot of information and for some of you it probably feels like you're attempting to take a sip of water from a fire-hose, but there are a lot of different ways that we can actually go in and approach creating these inclusive classrooms by using the AT that we already have, or maybe bringing in a new idea or two.
I do have my contact information at the end of this presentation, so you'll be able to please contact me and we can talk through some other ideas that you might have. Computer access, though, means creating an inclusive environment with things you might already have. What we have to be cautious of is the whole idea of well, if we just have a switch or a wireless keyboard or X, Y, or Z, everyone will be able to be granted access. As I work with different groups throughout the world, different people have asked me my opinions on some of their things, and I was at a library down in Sydney, Australia, and they were very pleased, and they really did try very hard, in this library, to create an accessible area for individuals. They had wireless equipment, they had some switches available, however, they had everything on a table that was not wheelchair accessible. You know, so sometimes we don't think about all of the ideas of accessibility.
Well guess what: there are products out there that allow for greater accessibility, and again, half of them are sitting on our shelves right now, and by getting our kids to understand this, we're able to move forward. It's ironic because we get so focused on things like wireless keyboards, we forget that in this day and age we're seeing, research is showing us that we are now at a point in time where less than 60 percent, less than 60 percent of all of our keyboard interactions are actually done on a physical keyboard. What that means is most interactions with a keyboard are actually starting to be done on a touch keyboard, a digital keyboard, a keyboard that really is just on a screen or even just on a desk. And so we want to keep that in mind, too, as we're going through. We don't have to get too locked in, sometimes, to oh, I need X, Y, and Z.
No, we need things that will help our kids, number one, support them in granting access, but two, get them prepared for the future. When we start to create these things as early as pre-K, it's great because our kids then can become advocates out of the community, and it's always intriguing when you have some fifth grader coming up and telling you what you should be doing. But that's a good thing, too. Those are the middle school discussions you want to have, not some of the other ones that go on. Some of you may see a device like the TAPit floating around, in your classrooms. If it is, please use it. It's a device that, unlike a lot of other interactive devices, it actually can be adjusted for kids in wheelchairs, it can go down for our wee little ones, and still have that touch interactive capability. Too often we get people saying: well, wait a minute, I don't know how to use that. You connect it to a computer, that's how you use it.
You know, it always amazes me, because a lot of interactive whiteboards that are on the wall are wonderful pieces of equipment, but they aren't accessible. Something like the TAPit is. So if you've got one of the big purple things floating around, please use it. Oh my goodness, and if you have, need some ideas, again, contact me, I've got plenty of ideas about how you could be actually using something like that as you go through. Specialized styluses. We don't realize there are specialized styluses out there, but I'm going to start with the second item that you see there on that: pencil grips. I love pencil grips, because pencil grips, aside from being something that'll enable us to hold onto a pen or a pencil or a stylus in a better way, are also fidgets. And for some of our kids who don't have a propensity to stick things in their mouth, because it could be a choking hazard, but for some of our kids, a pencil grip becomes the perfect fidget for them.
Why? Because if their peers actually look at them and say: what do you have there? And they say: a pencil grip. There's no questions asked. Because a pencil grip is something of the norm, in the minds of that typical student. And so that's what we wanna be aware of, too, that some of these devices are multipurpose. When we're putting that in there, in an inclusive classroom, pencil grips are essential. Have them on every pencil, pen, stylus, have them on, I know this is really gonna sound bad, but have them on the pointers that we used to have, back in the old days; have them on anything, and have them available for our kids. We can go to the dollar store and buy a bag of them, for goodness sakes.
But they're good, because when a child needs something more like a stylus, that has to be attached to their wrist or a stylus that needs to be weighted, what we start to see at that point in time, is the fact that other kids are more accepting of it, and maybe we find out some things about some of our kids who, perhaps, had various forms of apraxia, yet just have not been diagnosed with that, up to that point. Bluetooth connected devices. You know, we've already talked about some of the things that are out there; one of the misnomers that is out there is nothing works with the iPad except for the Bluetooth switch. The Bluetooth switch is a great switch, if you've got one, please use it with the iPads. However, there is something called the J-Pad, which is a joystick, that can also be used with an iPad.
We are also in a day and age where there are multiple devices out there; there is something that a couple of professors at Georgia Tech have designed called the Tab Access, that allows any switch to connect to an iPad or a tablet. There's also a device called the App-licator. I know, it's a corny name, but hey, you know what, it works. And it again, allows any switch to be connected to that tablet or that iPad, and that's an important thing, because some of our kids get used to their switches. But what that also means is that, in the context now of an inclusive classroom, we could have different iPads connecting to these switches so, again, we're not saying: oh, that child needs a switch, the rest of you don't.
No, we could have multiple students using a switch, or switches, and connecting that way, again, taking away from the stigma of having to use a switch. The picture on the far-right side is a newer device here within the US. It's actually only been in the US a little over a year, right now, and that is called: Glassouse. That, folks, is amazing and has been a game-changer for some of the individuals I've worked with. So this is a, I guess, a plug for a product, but it is so cool, if you have not seen it. It is worn like glasses, but you see something that looks like a microphone that's coming down from the top. And that is actually not a microphone. That's a bite-click, so it actually allows for a left click, and this device, the Glassouse, connects via Bluetooth to any Bluetooth-accessible device. I've been working with several students who are connecting to different devices that they are using.
There's this beautiful young lady from the northeast who's using it, she's got severe CP, but she is using that device to connect to her laptop, and her teachers are amazed. She's a ninth-grader, and it has allowed her to demonstrate what she knows, because she really can't speak very well, and she can't use her hands like other students would be using, to type. Now, the question might come into play: well, wait a minute. You know, what do the other kids in the classroom say? They think it's the coolest thing ever and they want one. The cool story behind it is it was actually designed, originally, by some teenage Russian gamers because they didn't wanna leave their seats while they were playing games. So kids get something like that. It's a cool piece of technology. If you've got some of those lying around, then don't let them lie around; use them. You don't always have to have the bite-click. It has something that you're biting down on, you can have it come straight down the side and just have the kids pinch-click it, then, too. But it's a great way to interact with the devices we're going through, and something that, again, in an inclusive classroom, allows all the kids to interact.
- [Todd] Sorry to interrupt. I wanted to let you know we're about 35 minutes in.
- [Dr. Heipp] Great, thank you.
- [Todd] 10 or 15 minutes.
- [Dr. Heipp] Great, thank you; appreciate that, Todd. Now, Dee, great question about: anything that reads back as you type, like the old IntelliTools used to do? There are some things that are being worked on right now. I don't have anything solid to give you, but I do, I have been working with a couple of manufacturers that have assured me they're trying to come up with some things. You know what, the old IntelliTools stuff was great stuff, and we need ideas like that, because in today's day and age, unfortunately, we get this, we're stuck in a world where everybody says: well, you know, our tablets or iPads can do it, right? And sometimes they can, but sometimes they can't. And the issue that we run into is just how many apps are we going to have to have for something to give us the outcome that we're looking for? So I am trying to stay on top of the IntelliTools things, as best as possible.
Like I say, there are several different manufacturers that are working on things, and once they've actually done research with what they've come out with, I'll be sure to get that out to everyone as best I can. Going back to some vision assistance, if you've got some of the vision devices that are lying around, and it could be things like a GoVision, or an Ebot or anything else that allows for items to be magnified and presented out, even in high-contrast formats, use them for all of our kids. We sit, as adults, and laugh sometimes, saying: oh, we need larger monitors. Well guess what: our kids might need larger monitors, too. You know, I mentioned earlier that I wear contacts.
It wasn't until fifth grade that they figured out that I was having issues with my vision. And that was because I couldn't read what was on a film-strip projector. And again, for some of you younger folks, you're going to need to Google that. What was on a film-strip projector. Well, guess what, if we'd have had a device like this, it would have been easier for me to read, but also easier, then, for others to understand how vision assistance is something that can benefit everyone. So, again, within that context of the classroom, please make sure you're taking a look at that. Sensory feedback. I do want to spend a couple of minutes here on sensory feedback for you, because there's always so many questions. Here is the beautiful news about sensory feedback: it's good for everybody. We all need sensory feedback in some way, shape, or form.
As you were introducing yourselves at the very beginning of this, guess what, one of the set pieces of sensory feedback we need is the fact that we all want to, if we're in our office now, head home, or if we're in our home, head over by the fire and get warm. Except for you folks in Orlando, and we're insanely jealous about that. So, sensory feedback is important for all individuals. But we have to understand some things. Not all fidgets are created equally. And although sensory feedback can aid in learning and attention, it's how we're using it, and how we're introducing it, otherwise, it becomes disruptive. And we need to get out of the idea that playtime is simply for recess. Even as adults, the best way we learn is by doing, by playing, why is it? Why is it that most of us guys don't wanna ask for directions? Because we think we can get there. But that direction idea comes in when we're putting things together, too, doesn't it? Yes, it does.
So, it's the idea that: oh, I'll learn all about this if I put it together. For all you guys out there, it is better to follow the directions, otherwise we always end up with spare parts that probably should have gone in somewhere. But again, perceived play. What are these things, how does it work? Well, let's talk about fidgets in the classroom and in the therapy room. I'm gonna talk about the not-so-much first. Because it's something that people ask me about all the time, all across the country. Fidget spinners are cute toys. And that's it. I have only seen two occasions, two, where a fidget spinner was used appropriately, and both times, the individual had actually received training on how to use the fidget spinner from an OT.
One time was about a 24, 25 year old male on the autism spectrum who had actually attended one of my presentations, sat in the third row, had his fidget spinner in his hand, but was able to almost precisely repeat back to me things that I had said and he had great questions. I asked him about his fidget spinner, and he said his OT had worked with him in order to make it something that wasn't disruptive to him and his focus. The other time was a middle school student, down in the south; an OT had worked with her, how to keep it under her desk, and have it as something that could be positive for her to focus and pay attention. Otherwise, kids are not trained in it. They don't work; they become disruptive. And I've seen too many instances where they've actually enabled negative behavior. So what is appropriate that you might be finding things along the way? Guess what, if you've got little things that allow the kids to squish and not make sounds, things like the finger squash that's up here, those are good things to have for every child. For every kid in that classroom. Something like this ruler-looking thing.
And actually, it's called the Desk Buddy. It's actually got different textures to it, but you can use it as a ruler, also. Guess what, that doesn't stand out in a class, because kids have rulers. Now, for those of us who've been around for a while, we worry, especially at that middle school and secondary level that the kids might hit each other with rulers, this is soft, so they can hit with it and they're not doing any damage. But there are appropriate fidgets that can be used in the classroom. The critical things we need to remember are that they should be soft, they should be something that we work with the entire group on to discourage negative behaviors with them. And to discourage it, the best way is to treat those items with value. And we're gonna talk a little bit, real quick, about stones first, sensory stones. I love sensory stones, whether you're using the actual sensory stones or letter stones, number stones, emotion stones.
I love using those for a variety of different purposes and you'll probably see some of these in your classrooms. Use those for everything. People will often ask me: wait a minute, aren't you worried about kids throwing those stones back and forth? Research; so research, sorry, I'm big on research. I don't believe these people who say: oh, yeah, it works for everybody. No, it doesn't. But research has shown us that if we put value on things, even like stones, kids won't throw it. You might have a child escalate in a class and pick up a chair and throw a chair, but they won't throw their sensory stone, if they believe that it is something that works for them. The letter stones, my favorite story, and many of you have heard me say this before, is actually just these basic little stones were used once, actually are now used every semester since then, because of the results, were used once in an advanced placement United States government class to spell out the first three lines for the preamble for the United States Constitution.
Guess what, we need to, and that's where we need to expand those blinders we talked about early on, we need to understand that things that even look simple, aren't. They can be as complex as we want them to be, when it comes to actually having some type of activity. So stones are great to use. There are different types of sand. Please don't get locked into the idea of sand, oh, oh, wait a second; I don't like the touch of it. Well, you might not but the child next to you might. And that's what we wanna be aware of. Sand works well, but there's other types of sand, too. Not just regular sand or kinetic sand. You have things like, and some of you have seen me with it, the green stuff over there: Sands Alive. A little less gritty, but really feels more moist than anything. Or, up at the top, Bubber. Bubber is awesome; Bubber is like an aerated Play-Doh that never dries out. I use that a lot with my secondary students, my transitional students, and recommend it to adults, too.
Since it doesn't dry out, they can carry it with them in a pocket, they can put it on a desk and put it into a shape. Believe me, you can make any shape out of it. I travel a lot with my assistive technology from place to place, and TSA went through one of my suitcases and they had a blast with the Bubber. They made a perfectly shaped die, they made a sphere, a pyramid, they had all kinds of things, but guess what, those were adults playing with it, saying: hey, this is cool stuff. Guess what in an inclusive classroom: it's cool stuff. But it's still giving us sensory therapy feedback. Still use our rice tables, use our corn tables. Just make sure once a year you're changing those out, so that we're not dealing with black mold or dry rot.
So keep using the sensory things as we go on. Keep going through, using play. There are different things that are out there. Something like the Zip-Ball, and I've seen groups using the Zip-Ball or the Bungee Jumper, those actually increase the ability for any of our students to pay attention while still doing some OT-like exercises, and the kids think they're playing. Well guess what, they are playing. And that's the beautiful thing. They're playing but they're getting the type of proprioceptive feedback that they need, so that they can concentrate, they can move forward. Within the context of our classrooms, and before we move to questions, I'm going to wrap up with this idea, within the context of our classrooms, people will often ask me: well, what should I have in a sensory area? And my response to that is you should not have a sensory area.
Everything should be sensory, everything should be accessed. Everything should be the ability to connect and communicate. Those of you who've studied anything about technology know that there are three stages to technology in the classroom or a therapy setting. The first stage is transmission. The second stage is generative. And the third stage is transformative. And if any of you have ever followed Ian Jukes, who is another great follow on technology, he explains it this way: if you ask one question, you can tell where an individual is within the context of technology in their classroom. And that question is: if I took your technology and assistive technology out, today, what would you do tomorrow? If you're in a transmission stage, you look back and say, oh, I just teach class like I normally teach class. We don't need that stuff. If you are in the generative stage, you'd say: well, I'd have to make a few adjustments.
But we'll get by, because, you know, we only use it for this activity or this area or this special thing. We'll just change things around. But if you're in a transformative classroom, with technology, and that includes assistive technology, and someone says they're gonna take it out of the classroom, the response is: what, are you crazy? How are my kids going to function and learn about life? Because that's what our classrooms are. So, taking these things off the shelves that are already there and just thinking of how we can use them in a different way. Not just to desensitize our typical students, but to get them understanding that we are working together, and those individuals with differing abilities simply approach the world in a different way, each particular day. So that's what we wanna look at, and again, you know, as we're coming in, I realize that we've gone through a lot in the last 50 minutes, and I appreciate that, but if you do have other questions, please take down my contact information. Please get in contact with me.
Email is always going to be the easiest way to get ahold of me, as I am on the road a lot, doing a lot of traveling. Some of you going to ATIA or CEC, you'll see me at those places. So feel free to stop by if you have questions. But whatever I can do to assist you, I will. And I don't have all the answers, but you know what? Altogether, as a community, we do. So let me turn it back to you. I know there's been some, and Alexandra, I see: what is the name of the special Play-Doh? It's called Bubber. B-U-B-B-E-R. You can get a tub of it, a tub of it's about 11 or $12. And the great thing is because it doesn't dry out, it's not like you've gotta keep going out and buying more and more, and more of it. That's another thing. Don't forget, I'm a former administrator, too, so I'm gonna sit there and go: well, wait a minute, where are these costs going to, what's going on? We can design fully-inclusive classrooms in such great ways without having to break the bank in any way, shape, or form. Some other questions.
- [Todd] Dr. Heipp?
- [Dr. Heipp] Yeah.
- [Todd] I'm sorry to interrupt, but very early on you were talking about Mike Marotta and Jennifer Savage and there was a third name you were recommending, and a bunch of us missed it, including myself. I was hoping you could tell us who that was.
- [Dr. Heipp] Yes, ah, and some of you may have actually seen her present before. I think she'll be at ATIA, too. Kelly Fonner, F-O-N-N-E-R. She is absolutely tremendous about, you know, getting AT and how to use the AT. I also mentioned to make sure everybody had it, from the Virginia TTAC group, Holly Nestor. And then one of my favorite groups, if you're up in the northeast and you've got questions, or you want to get some good evaluations, AT-wise, contact the Tech Access of Rhode Island group. They are absolutely phenomenal. You know, it's great because in different parts of the country, we've got such wonderful groups, and if you haven't already gotten onto Twitter folks, get onto Twitter; start following these things. Start with some of the names that we've got out there, but attend the AT Chats, or even just look at the archive versions, because there's more great ideas out there and things that we just wouldn't have thought of. But there is that ability to have those people give us those ideas. Thank you for bringing that up, Todd.
- [Todd] There's also a new question here about elaborating on apraxia and pencil grips, if you could?
- [Dr. Heipp] Yes, so, when we're looking at students with apraxia, obviously there are, there are issues with trying to get to the three-point hold sometimes. So I've seen a lot of different things go into play. When it comes to styluses and using pencil grips, there's so many different types of pencil grips out there, and what you may wanna start with is thicker pencil grips to begin with, and I have also seen some groups do this. And this is an intriguing one, as long as, again, when you're doing it in an inclusive classroom, you are doing it and allowing it for everyone. If you go to the dollar store and buy a whiffle ball, take a larger pen or pencil, and put that pen or pencil through the whiffle ball, and again, just use some duct tape, duct tape both ends, and have that as something that you loan out to students, and students use on a regular basis.
I know that sounds strange, but the great thing about those whiffle balls is that a child can not only hold the whiffle ball, if they can hold a ball, if they can't even hold the ball though, they can put their fingertips into the holes, and get a little more of a grasp that way. And the ball actually then will serve as a stabilizing force for the pen or pencil. If it's more a situation where they're just learning to get that grip, a pencil grip with usually either a ribbed or kind of the, ah, little pointed tips coming out, are good for them because it gives a little more sensory feedback and they know how to hold. Pens, pencils and styluses are too smooth for many of our students, especially those with apraxia. They really can't get a hang of it, and as they're trying to learn and trying to move towards that, they just need some things to support them, along the way. Oh, great, Alexandra; I love that. The stylus key chain pen works, too. Awesome. Anything else, Todd, that we want to grab?
- [Todd] I think we answered all the questions. I'm just trying to look through, the chat box, here. Ah, we're just a couple minutes away from wrapping up the webinar, so if anybody does have a question, please put it in the chat box. There's been a lot of information here. Plus, Tampa is really cold today.
- [Dr. Heipp] As you're going through, Todd, one of the things I will let the group know, too, is that I'm often asked if I come out to schools and districts and talk about some of these things, too. And the answer is yes, and there's no cost associated with that. I'm an educator, first and foremost. So I wanna make sure that we are able to understand things. The only caveat I give with that is because of my travel schedule, it's something that does need to be, to be booked a wee bit in advance. But there is that opportunity, too, if there were some things that you heard today, and you'd like more of your teachers or more of the therapists to hear about it, I'd be more than happy to work with you on that.
- [Todd] Well, I don't see any new questions in here. It's been a, I think everybody's really happy with the webinar; I know that we are. We do have this survey at the end. It really helps us if you'll take that. You can also get a certificate of participation if this is a continuing ed or professional development thing for you at work. If you take this survey, you'll get the link to that certificate at the end. Certificate of participation. We'd love to, ah, we thank Dr. Heipp for his webinar, and all of his information today. And we will be posting this on the CTD website, within 24, typically within 24 hours, we'll have the video of the webinar up, as well as the PowerPoint on the CTD website, in the Cafe Webinar section. And, ah--