Saturday, March 27, 2010

App Corner: Chronology, Countdown & Time Timer


Chronology lets you create up to 12 separate timers that can be started, paused and reset individually or as a group. The light version, Chronolite (free) lets you create up to 4 different timers. If you leave the app, it still runs in the background and will play the customized alert you selected. This alert sound that plays at the end of a countdown can play up to 30 times (about 2 minutes). Cost $2.99


Countdown tracks that dates that are important to you such as birth dates, how many days until school ends or starts, days to winter vacation, and more. It does not integrate with calendar but you have the ability to mail a countdown. You can also add a visual support from your Photo Library and make an event repeating. Cost $0.99

Time Timer

Brought to you by the makers of the visual time timer devices that help show the passage of time. This app “shows” how much time is left and helps teach the passage of time. This helps reduce anxiety for some learners. Cost $4.99

Product Spotlight: Cue Electronic Classroom Scheduler

The Cue Electronic Classroom Scheduler is a portable device designed to help students keep track of their own schedules and stay organized. Students can learn to program this tool themselves or parents and teachers can set it up to manage daily, weekly and monthly tasks. The Cue comes with over 70 pre-programmed common classroom and personal activities. There are two types of alarms that can be set for every event: either a light or a sound will alert the student to the event. The Cue also features a digital clock and calendar. It requires 2 AAA batteries and measures 5 ½” long by 3 ½” wide.

The Cue is sold by Learning Resources, and retails for approximately $18. This item may also be loaned in the Simon Technology Center library.

Web Spotlight: Autism Internet Module AIM

The AIM project is a collaboration of several organizations with the goal of providing information to parents and professionals supporting learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders ASD. By the time the project is complete AIM will contain over 60 modules on topics including assessment and identification, characteristics, evidence-based practices, transition to adulthood, employment and more. The modules take into consideration adult learning styles and are presented at a universal reading level with activities to support both those who are new to ASD and those who have advanced knowledge on ASD. The site is free but does require you to sign up for a username and password. To find out more information about the AIM Project or to sign up visit

Did You Know? The Coffee Klatch

Parents, are you looking for a place to connect with other parents? Are you looking for high quality resources to meet your need as a parent of a child with a disability? Did you know that parents of children with disabilities from around the country meet every morning over virtual cup of coffee? Meet The Coffee Klatch, a group of parents who meet over virtual cup of coffee. Using TweetChat as their virtual meeting place, followers interact with such speakers as: Temple Grandlin, Annie Fox and Carl Pickhardt.

The format includes a 15-minute introduction facilitated by moderators and a 45-minute question and answer session. All sessions and resources are archived. The Coffee Klatch has a Website that contains a calendar of upcoming events, a Facebook page that gives followers a chance to interact with the moderators and each other and Twitter Chat. Twitter Chat is an environment within Twitter. Guest speakers and followers interact in messages of 140 characters or less.

Not sure if this format is for you? You are welcome to “lurk” and quietly check it out. You will need a Twitter account which is free. You can sign up at Once you have a user name go to and enter the hashtag #tck to follow The Coffee Klatch. The meet every day at 9:00 a.m. EST and 10:00 a.m. EST. The are also adding some evening sessions. Information about upcoming speakers and sessions can be found at or on Facebook.

Tech Tip: Email Tools - Flags and Rules

Email has become so popular that for many people it is their main form of communication. That means many of us have to sort through countless messages every day! Let’s talk about two tools to help sort through and prioritize those messages.


Flags are a way of marking important emails that we need to respond to but can’t do it right away. In Microsoft Outlook flags can be found in the tool bar or in the right click menu labeled as “Follow up.” Simply click on or open an email and then click the picture of the flag. A little red flag will appear next to the email as a reminder that you need to come back to it later.

In Apple Mail you can flag an email by going to message in the menu bar or by right clicking (or control - clicking) and choosing mark - as flagged. This will also make a red flag appear to remind you to come back to that message later.


Rules are powerful tools that allow you to give your email program instructions on what to do with certain messages. For example you can create rules to alert you when you receive an email from certain people, automatically move an email to a special folder, or to automatically flag emails with specific words in the subject line. Rules can be become very complicated but here is a quick way to try them out.

In Microsoft Outlook right click on an email from someone important. In the pop-up menu choose Rules - Create Rule. The rules window will appear and you can tell outlook what conditions an email needs to meet to be part of the rule (i.e. From a certain person, words in the subject line, etc) and then customize the rule tell Outlook what to do with those emails (i.e. Move them to a folder, make an alert sound, etc).

In Apple Mail first click on an email from someone important. Then go the the menu bar at the top of screen and choose Mail - Preferences. In the Preferences window click on the rules tab and then click on the Add Rule button. A window will appear where you can name your rule, tell Mail what conditions an email needs to meet to be part of the rule (i.e. From a certain person, words in the subject line, etc) and then what you want Mail to do with those emails (i.e. Move them to a folder, make an alert sound, etc). There are also + and - buttons where you can add additional rules and instructions.

Rules can be a very useful tool in helping you sort and organize emails! To find out more about how to use them check out the following resources:











Try Visual Social Supports to Improve Children’s Challenging Behavior

By Meghan Kunz

For some children with disabilities, new situations and transitions between activities can trigger challenging behaviors and anxiety. A strategy called visual social supports can help deal with those issues. Also called story boards, social scripting, and Social Stories,™* these short, illustrated narratives help a child understand, interpret, or ease into situations that might be new, confusing, or challenging. Proven effective at decreasing inappropriate behaviors such as hitting, screaming, and grabbing, such stories provide a visual means to understand otherwise non-visual information.

Whether you’re a parent or professional, you can create your own visual social supports. This article explains how to do it and looks at a sampling of software programs that can help you implement them for your child or student.

How to Begin

To identify where a visual social support might be helpful, look at the child’s day. When and where do behaviors and anxiety arise? Once you have that answer, you can begin creating the structure for your story.

Carol Gray, an educator who developed the concept of social stories, recommends including the following elements:

Descriptive sentences are objective sentences that identify the most relevant factors in a social situation. They often answer “wh” questions—who, what, where, why, and when.

  • Today we are going to see a movie at the movie theater.

Perspective sentences refer to other people’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, or beliefs. They help the child learn how others perceive various events.

  • Many people think seeing a movie in the theater is fun!

Directive sentences present positive responses to a situation.

  • People at the movie theater wait quietly in line to buy their tickets. If the movie is popular, the line may be long. I will try to wait patiently.

Affirmative sentences clarify statements and may convey values that most people hold. They also can emphasize key points and refer to laws or rules.

  • We will arrive at the theater early so we do not miss any of the movie, even if there is a long line. After buying our tickets, we can also purchase popcorn and juice. Adults may have popcorn with soda instead of juice.

Control sentences identify personal strategies the individual will use to remember and use the information. These sentences are written by the individual after reviewing the social story. If the child cannot write, he or she could draw a picture instead.

  • Sometimes the line may not be long and we can be seated right away. When seated right away, we may have to watch commercials until the movie starts. During the movie we need to sit nicely and be quiet so everyone can hear the movie. The theater lights go off and just the screen lights up the room.

Cooperative sentences explain how others may help the child.

  • Many people will watch the movie in the theater. If I need to use the bathroom or take a break, I can ask an adult in a quiet voice so other people can still hear the movie.

Partial sentences encourage the child to “fill in the blank,” suggesting what will happen next or how someone will respond. Any of the above sentences can be written as a partial sentence.

  • If I want to come back to the theater to watch another movie, I (need to sit quietly through the entire movie). Going to a movie in the theater (is fun)!

Tools You Can Use

Once you have the structure for your visual support story, you can add images and other features using one of several software programs. Here are a few options.**

Kreative Komix

Does your child like dinosaurs? Super heroes? Fairy tales? You can create visual support stories using those and other popular characters with Kreative Komix. Available in a range of genres, this comic book–making software tool offers a variety of layouts and the ability to add thought and text bubbles. The program has text-to-speech capabilities, so the words can be spoken out loud., $39.95/title

Microsoft PowerPoint

Although not intended as a tool to create visual support stories, PowerPoint can be used for just that. It offers several templates and accepts a variety of file formats, including image, sound, recorded speech, and video files. It also includes page-turning buttons that can enhance navigation., $229 as a stand-alone program or $399 as part of Microsoft Office Suite

Tar Heel Reader

With Tar Heel Reader, you can create visual support stories and illustrate them with your own pictures or royalty-free images from Flickr. An invitation code (available through the Simon Technology Center) is required for to create books. Tar Heel Reader also offers hundreds of accessible, easy-reader online books (no invitation code needed to read books) on a variety of topics. It is ideal for older students who could benefit from easy-to-read, repetitive books but have interest levels outside of early-reader topics. Users can read or have books read to them online., free


TheraSimplicity is a collection of tools, illustrations, symbols, worksheets, and reference materials you can use to create visual support stories. Stories are converted to PDF format and are accessible on both Mac and PC., $189/one-year subscription; a free 30-day trial is available.


This tool allows you to create comic strips complete with characters, backgrounds, and text bubbles. For children who want to create their own visual support stories, this tool can provide a new mode of expression. Because ToonDoo is a public domain and users have access to a large library of already-made comics, safety for children using the site independently could be a concern., free


Vizzle includes a variety of tools for creating visual support stories. Using the Build-A-Book feature, for example, you can add voice, images, video, and more. Interactive hot-spots, for example, provide a greater level of support. Vizzle also has tools for creating games, matching boards, token boards, timers, and more. You can save your creation on the Vizzle Web site and access it from any computer with Internet access., parent memberships are $25/month; teacher and professional memberships are $78/month; clinician memberships are $100/month; a free 14-day trial is available.


When used appropriately, visual support stories can help children with disabilities decrease challenging behaviors and better manage social situations. These stories can be created easily using the tools listed in this article. Repetition can help your child use these stories successfully.

For more information on visual social supports, contact the Simon Technology Center at 952-838-9000 or at

*Social Stories™ were first defined in 1991 by Carol Gray, who continues to do work on social supports for students with autism. This article incorporates several of her strategies and findings. Learn more at

**Inclusion on this list does not imply an endorsement. PACER Center does not assume any responsibility for the content on any of these sites.

App Corner: IEP Checklist

App has been used as a shorthand term for applications and has recently become popular to indicate specifically a mobile application. App as a term grew more popular with the opening of Apple’s App Store which can be accessed through iTunes. In our new feature of Tech Notes App Corner we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet the needs of a specific learning style.

This month we have chosen to highlight the IEP Checklist developed by the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) in Virginia. The IEP Checklist is a tool for parents and educators to use as they develop the IEP. The app is free, easy to use and available in both English and Spanish.

Web Spotlight: is a free Web-based resource for teens. It is a place for teens where all youth are welcome. Designed by staff at the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, located at the University of Minnesota, it was created to help youth make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Aptly named rooms, such as The Hangout and The Community Center, help youth think about their future. This free resource contains one portal for students and another portal for adults. Most teens will use the site with an adult. This person is called the Youthhood Guide. Registration is not needed to visit places in the community; however, registration is needed to access personalized parts of the site such as the Life Map, a goal planning tool. To check it out, visit

Did You Know? Mentors Change Lives

Research has shown that mentoring can motivate youth with disabilities to build skills and take the steps needed to transition successfully from high school to adult living. Mentoring can take the form of personal meetings, e-mail exchanges, telephone conversaitons, leters, or any other form of correspondence. Mentorying relationships can concentrate on specific topics, such as career awareness, social skills, or technical skills. (Source: NCET:

There are several ways to find good mentoring opportunities for your child. Many mentor programs are Internet-based, enabling students and mentors to build a relationship online. To learn more about how mentorship programs work and might benefit your child, contact the following organizations:

DO-IT Pals

The University of Washington DO-IT Program (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) hosts an electronic community of teens with disabilities planning for college and careers. The program offers mentorship opportunities between students and professionals in common fields of interest. Many DO-IT mentors have disabilities themselves.


Phone: 888-972-DOIT (3648) (toll free voice/TTY)


Ability Online

This is a free online community where children/youth with disabilities and their parents find role models and mentors. Online support 24/7 and ongoing monitoring makes this a family friendly experience.


Phone: 416-650-6207
Toll Free: 866-650-6207

Connecting to Success

Connecting to Success is a nation wide electronic mentoring program, begun in 1999 by National Center on Secondary Education and Transition at the University of Minnesota (NCSET). This program is designed to promote successful transition of youth with disabilities to adult life. Electronic uses a combination of e-mail and face-to-face meetings to facilitate mentoring relationships between young people and caring adults.


For more information, please contact:

Joe Timmons
612-624-5659 phone

Sharon Mulé

612-626-0335 phone email

Tech Tip: Handling Email Attachments

Most of us may already know what email attachments are, but don’t know what to do when we can’t open an attached file. Attachments are files such as Word documents, pictures, and PDF’s, that are sent through email. Always be sure you are opening files from a trusted source. Learn a few tips that may help you with files you have a hard time opening.

For instance, opening strange emailed attachments can be a quick way to get a virus. In fact, email is one of the number one causes of infection! But you can keep your computer safe by not opening emails from people you don’t know that have attachments. Also if you get a strange email from a friend with an unexpected attachment, be sure to contact that person first before downloading it, just to make sure it was really from them. And of course always keep your computer up to date and use virus protection software if you have a Windows computer.

When you receive an attachment but then can’t open it:

1) The computer says it doesn’t know what the file is,

2) the computer tries to open the file with the wrong program (i.e. The emails says it’s a text document but the computer tries to open it with iTunes) or

3) you get an error message that doesn’t make sense.

First, check the file properties (called file info on a Mac). On a PC, right click on the file and choose properties. On a Mac, control click and choose Get Info. Look at the file size: if it is 4KB or smaller, then something may have gone wrong when the file was sent so ask the sender to try again (most files are much larger than that, even simple Word documents tend to be 10KB or larger).

If the file size isn’t a problem, the next thing to check is the 3 letter file extension. Most files have a 3 letter extension at the end of the file’s name that tells the computer what type of file it is. This also helps the computer determine which progtam to use to open the file.

Example File Extensions

.doc = Word

.mp3 = audio file

.avi = video file

.rtf = rich text file

.pdf = portable document file

.ppt = power point

Sometimes the extension is missing and the computer gets confused. By selecting “Open with” in the drop down menu, you can tell the computer which program to use to open the file. You need to know what the file is for this to work. If you are not sure, then ask the sender or check the initial email for clues. When you think you know what type of file it is, click “change” (Mac: use the pull down menu) and choose the appropriate application.