Assistive technology app helps students with special needs communicate

special-needs“I want chicken nuggets.”

Those were the first words Cassie Banda-Garcia’s parents Jojo and Sofia Garcia could clearly hear her say.

“The first thing she said was ‘I want chicken nuggets,’ not ‘I love you’ or anything like that, she said ‘I want chicken nuggets,” Sofia Garcia said laughing.

In the past few months, Cassie, who has difficulty speaking because she has Down syndrome, has been using the Proloquo2go — a symbol supported communication application that gives a voice for people who cannot speak — on her iPad.

“Without the iPad, she would get very frustrated with us,” Sofia Garcia said. “Her comprehension skills are there. She understands everything and she wants to communicate with us but she could not verbalize it and that made it very frustrating.”

With the financial assistance of Ability Connection Texas (ACT), a group that has been providing care and support to people with disabilities for more than 60 years, Cassie is able to communicate in a way she could never have before.

“I love my iPad,” Cassie said by tapping buttons with words or phrases on her iPad. “The iPad is for others to understand what I want. All my friends at school want one, too.”

The iPad and the Proloquo2go app allow Cassie to download natural-sounding text-to-speech adult and children’s voices.

“It has become a part of her; it goes with her everywhere,” Sofia Garcia said. “When she goes to grandma’s house, she takes it, when she goes anywhere, we send it with her in her backpack.”

Cassie received her iPad in September 2013 and spent several months learning how to use it.

“As she is getting older and becoming a teenager, she was getting more frustrated and would say, “Why don’t you understand me?’ so this is really relieving some of that frustration for her,” Sofia Garcia said. “Life has gotten a lot easier because we are able to communicate with her. It’s made life less stressful. We’re not having those communication issues like we had before.”

Cassie’s iPad, the app and the training hours cost ACT between $2,500 to $3,000.

Ray Hernandez, the life skills teacher at Morehead Middle School where Cassie attends, said the iPad has made it easier to teach her.

“Cassie is really high level,” Hernandez said. “She has a lot to share but sometimes she is not able to communicate that to others. With the communication device, she’s been able to tell us her wants and needs. She is getting very good at it.”

Jojo Garcia said its refreshing to be able to understand his stepdaughter.

“Me being new to having a child with Down Syndrome, it was really difficult to understand what she was asking for,” he said. “Our middle son David would have to interpret what she was saying. He could understood her because he grew up with her. Even our four year old Adara could understands what Cassie was saying.”

When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, Cassie said, “I want to be a nurse so I can give dad a shot in the arm.”

(c)2014 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas). Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services.


Top strategies for special education instruction

April is Autism Awareness Month, and with the latest data indicating that about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, the need for strong and effective special education tools is greater than ever.

eSchool News will observe Autism Awareness Month all month long, bringing you tips from experts, valuable resources, and best practices of special education teachers and leaders.

In addition to our month-long autism awareness coverage, join eSchool News for eSN's Special Education Week, April 7-11.

What strategies do some of the nation's best special education experts use in their own classrooms?

How can educators effectively address the varying needs of students with disabilities?

What are some of the top ways to ensure that students with disabilities are afforded every opportunity to learn?

Join eSN all week long, beginning April 7, for daily special education coverage and resources.

If you have valuable special education strategies or want more information, don't hesitate to eMail, or find her on Twitter: @eSN_Laura.

Join us for a Twitter chat!

Hashtag: #eSNAutism

During April's Autism Awareness Month, eSchool News is working to put education leaders and teachers in touch with experts who can help you and your staff best support your students with autism.

Join us for an interactive and informative Twitter chat focusing on the CDC's latest autism figures, resources for students and special education teachers, and expert advice.

When: Thursday, April 10, 7 p.m. EST

Who: Kelly J. Grillo, Ph.D. (Twitter: @kellygrillo)
National Center to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities (Personnel Improvement Center) &
IDEA Partnership @NASDSE
Technology Specialist

eSN Managing Editor Laura Devaney (@eSN_Laura) will also be participating in the chat but will be moderating from @eSchoolNews

To join the chat, please follow @eSchoolNews and use the #eSNAutism hashtag.

New Common Core resource aids students with special needs



Free Common Core resource for educators emphasizes that special needs students can’t be left behind

common core-students-special needsOne of the best non-profits for the advancement of education technology has developed a new, free Common Core website for educators that offers customizable resources to improve teaching and learning for struggling students and those with disabilities.

The website’s–PowerUp WHAT WORKS–materials focus on four key areas, including evidence-based practices, Common Core State Standards, technology in schools and classrooms, and personalization of learning through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction. Read more about the four key areas.

For most parents, regardless of the inevitability, watching their children go out into the world on their own is the stuff nightmares are made of. It doesn't have to be this way. You can rest assured that your children will be having fun and learning some valuable life skills in a safe and wholesome environment at these camps.


1. Cheley Colorado Camp, Colorado

At the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, this is an amazing summer camp offering various activities for the adventures lovers. Hiking, archery and horse Bach riding are just a few of the activities you can expect your child to take part in.

2. Four Winds Westward Ho camp, Washington State

This is a place for your kids to really get in touch with nature. It is situated on Orcas Island near Seattle.

3. ID Tech camps

You will find ID Tech camps, ID visual arts academy, ID gaming Academy and ID programming Academy at over 60 of the best Universities all over the United States. These are summer camps with a difference as they are held in universities. Stanford, Harvard, UCLA and Emory are just a few of the available locations.If your child is into technology, this is the place to nurture it at.

4. Virginia State Parks YCC, Virginia

Consider sending hour children to the Virginia State Park for a completely new and different experience. Here they will live in the park for 3 weeks, doing chores, making meals and enjoying all that nature has to offer.

5. Thrill Coaster tours

This is another very non-traditional camp location. Not much camping is done as the kids travel all over the country in a luxury tour bus and stay at the Marriott hotels in every city they go to. The goal you might ask, visit every amusement park and try out the roller coasters.

6. Camp in Medomak, Maine

Despite your best efforts, you were unable to let your precious child leave for camp all alone. Camp Medomak has the solution. On 200 acres in the mid-coast of Maine is this secular camp for families.They can host up to a dozen families at a time and provide activities for both children and adults.

7. Sanborn Western Camps, Colorado

Sanborn camp is on 6,000 acres of aspen, Douglas fir, spruce and ponderosa pine-filled forests. It is located an hour west of Colorado Springs. Horseback riding, fly fishing and community service projects are day to day activities to expect in this camp.

8. New York Film Academy Camps —Worldwide

Thousands of kids nowadays want to be movie stars and here is your chance to give them a taste of what it will entail. Film making, animation, editing and acting are some of the things your kids and teens will learn at this camp. Paris and Universal studios back lot are some of the locations they can be found, but just like the movies, these are worldwide.

9. Camp Shane — New York and Arizona

Child obesity and other weight related issues among youngsters have given rise to some great efforts and Camp Shane is one such effort. Kids can come here and shed some extra pounds by learning about a healthy lifestyle that is maintainable. Children will learn how to eat right along and exercise. They can take this back home with them and in addition can enhance their social skills as well.

10. Campus Kids — NJ and Minisink

This camp gives your child the best of both worlds. They are at the camp during the week and for the weekends they get to return home and be with their families and enjoy their break with them as well. While at camp, kids can participate in various team activities and sports. These activities include but are not limited to swimming, learning guitar, and participating in performance arts. Children in and around the area would most benefit from the convenience of going home on the weekends.

11. JCC Camp Chi, Wisconsin

Jewish children between the ages of 9 and 16 are lucky to have this camp being organized for them. This camp dates back almost an entire century. There are several activities that the campers can participate in while enjoying over 500 acres of beautiful land in Wisconsin. Summers can get pretty mundane and boring if children did not have different avenues to explore their hobbies, interests and talents. Now, there are several camps ranging widely in the activities they offer, and that is the ultimate choice for children of all ages. Whether you child likes music, or is a budding artist, whether your child is techie or has a keen interest in the outdoors, there are camps that cater to all interests within your reach.

It is now June 2012, and jobs are still hard to come by.  The San Diego Unifed district is rehiring the teachers they laid off.  I applied to by a substitute teacher.  I was finger printed (again) and had another TB test.  I turn in my paperwork tomorrow.  The earliest they can hire me is Sept. 4th so I plan to enjoy the summber.  I am in the middle of starting my own company.  I want to tutor special needs students, help improve test scores for SAT's, as well as help the seniors with technology.  I am am calling my business Point Loma Tutor. I also want to be available to go to IEP's with families who would like another opinion.  I am working on my website, having business cards printed up, and just need to buy a table to use for tutoring incase they want services in my home.  Any advice?


So far I have had an interview at UCSD to work on a grant to teach teachers a method for teaching mathematics to students with alcohol fetal syndrome but I did not hear anymore.

Then I had a call for an interview from a middle school 1/2 time resource position.  My dream position but the day for interviews was the day I flew out of town to visit my elderly parents in Florida.

So far I need to keep looking and be positive even through 1,200 positions are to be eliminated in the local school district.


I have applied to two positions.  One at the Charter School and the other at Coronado Island SD.  If these don't work out, I will be starting my own business as a tutor for special needs students.  I plan to drop off flyers at each school in the Point Loma area.  Any advice?


New to site

Posted by vickilrhonemus Aug 20, 2011

I am new to the site.  I just retired from teaching Preschool Special Education for 5 years.  My daughter is in the same field and I will be volunteering in her classroom and teaching some of the lessons that I have not had time to do in the past.  I want to keep up on what is happening in special education because teaching was so much a part of my life for over 30 years.  I have enjoyed reading what others think because I remember having the same frustrations in IEP writing and teaching disruptive children - yes I dealt with many violent 3 and 4 year olds, too.


Looking forward to communicating with other professionals.

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