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Animated Step-by-Steps® - A Flexible Resource

Of course I'm biased … but I love the Animated Step-by-Steps® format … its ability to flexibly address a variety of topics … in a variety of formats … for a broad range of children, both Regular and Special Education! This flexibility makes them great resources for differentiated instruction in mixed ability classrooms … and godsend for tele-practice!

Animated Step-by-Steps® are animated PowerPoints designed to address literacy, language, AAC and a host of academic goals. Each page includes a series of animations. Read the text up to the star … click … and see an animation of what you just read.

There are typically three versions of each resource (Regular, PCS, SymbolStix).

For some titles there is also a fourth high contrast version designed to better address the needs of students with visual impairments (VI). The high contrast version also appears to have advantages for some students on the Autism Spectrum.

If you are using a symbol-supported version, the symbols will appear AFTER all the slide animations have been triggered. This strategy is designed to promote a 'literacy first' agenda. When the grouped symbols arrive on the page, they can be used by the adult to perform Aided Language Stimulation and are readily available for AAC students to communicate. Since the symbol array is small it's a great way to introduce Aided Language Stimulation to Classroom Assistants and Parents. Educators do, however, vary in the amount of symbol support they prefer. Fortunately, the symbol array can be easily 'pruned' by first selecting the group, then holding down the shift key to select the 'surplus symbols' you wish to delete. (See this post for more info about adding/removing symbols)

There are currently over 260 titles reflecting Poems/Songs, Crafts, Science Projects, Games, Stories and Recipes. A free illustrated listing of all available Animated Step-by-Steps® is available for download through TpT.

A free companion listing of high contrast Animated Step-by-Steps® is also available, providing a visual reference of VI options.

As Animated Step-by-Steps® (ASbySs) are PowerPoint files, they have the unique advantage of offering a variety of display options making them a great resource for both the classroom and the home. They can be flexibly displayed on the 'big screen' (interactive whiteboard or a large screen TV using Apple TV) or the 'small screen' (computer monitor, iPad/Android tablet even your iPhone using the free Microsoft PowerPoint app specific to each).

These resources can also be accessed in a variety of ways making them a valuable resource for students with special needs. When using the interactive whiteboard the animations can be triggered directly by touching the interactive whiteboard or they can be accessed remotely using a Bluetooth/infrared switch. This 'remote switch option' allows students with physical challenges to take their turn without having to maneuver their wheelchair to the Interactive Whiteboard. In many ways the remote switch option functions as a 'secret weapon'. Students tend to be more attentive because they never quite know when they will be called upon to trigger the animations using the 'magic switch'. Several of these devices also possess a jack, allowing Facilitators to plug the child's personalized switch into the device. Now control sites, other than the hand (e.g., head, knee, elbow, shoulder), can be used to trigger the ASbyS animations. Visit this link for more information on establishing remote access. For a comprehensive listing of 'remote switch' options, click here.

When using the computer, the animations can be triggered using a mouse click or the spacebar! A Bluetooth or infrared switch can also be used in conjunction with your computer if your student requires a larger target for access, or a more personalized option for switch use.

Microsoft offers several FREE device-specific apps that allow you to display ASbySs on an iPad, Android tablet or iPhone. How flexible is that? The app will store about eight to ten ASbySs within the app itself (meaning no internet access is required to use them … handy when appointments are running late at the Doctor's office!) To import or change resources, however, you must be linked to the Internet and you must use a storage option such as Dropbox or Google Drive. For further information on linking your PowerPoint app (iPad/iPhone/android tablet) to a storage option please check out the following blog posts.

ASbySs are also amenable to early functional switch training, i.e., the student learning to physically move on and off of their switch. The student's switch must be connected to the computer being used to display the resource. This can be achieved in a wired format (e.g., the switch cord is plugged directly into the click setting of a device such as Don Johnson Switch Interface Pro) or wirelessly using a Bluetooth or Infrared switch interface. If the target student is 'coming up the learning curve' on switch access, you can use the 'safe zone' (built into each resource) to manage pre-mature or accidental activations. The safe zone appears in the upper right hand corner of each slide. On Craft, Recipe, Games and Science resources, it is the activity icon. The safe zone appears as the page number designation on Poems/Songs and Story resources.

When reading the ASbyS, the cursor is moved on to the safe-zone where premature /accidental activations are made inert (i.e., they do not trigger the animation as they are set up to deliver an inert sound effect … a moment of silence). When it's time for the student to activate the next animation, as indicated by a star in the text, the cursor is moved off the safe zone. This simple strategy allows switch practice to proceed smoothly … without triggering the increased body tone that frequently accompanies unexpected activations.

Within a classroom setting, an iPad app called Splashtop Classroom can be used to simultaneously display what can be seen on an interactive whiteboard, on an iPad, up-close and personal for the child that has visual or attention challenges.

When engaged in tele-practice (e.g., Zoom, Skype, or Team Google), the ASbyS resource can be displayed in slide show mode using the share screen feature of the app. Although it is the therapist/teacher that is activating the animations on their device as they read, there are many simple ways to engage students remotely. For example, the ASbyS can be used to pace the child at home through a Recipe, Craft or Science Project, the parent might be asked to assemble all the materials needed for simple projects such as making pudding or instant oatmeal. The clinician/teacher reads the ASbyS page then the child and the parent carrying out that step with an emphasis on nurturing language development and/or AAC use. Many of the ASbyS Songs/Poems have repetitive components so it is easy to encourage collaboration by simply inserting an 'expectant pause' to nonverbally invite the child to read /fill the pause using natural speech or the voice-output of their AAC device. It is important to ensure that the necessary fringe vocabulary is resident within the AAC student's voice-output device. For emerging verbal students using AAC to help 'make language more visible', consider incorporating resource-specific PowerPoint-based core + fringe displays with voice-output. This Core-48 resource (available through TpT – PCS/SymbolStix versions) provides several color-coded formats for each symbol set. It is relatively easy to 'harvest' (cut and paste) symbols from an ASbyS PowerPoint and arrange them in the fringe zone on the far right of the slide. As a final step, add and resize the cover page to serve as a visual reference.

If you are short on time you can add a simple 'feedback' click to your placed symbols or ideally, you can use a free program called Audacity to create and add voice-output to your fringe symbols. As an added benefit the program allows you to change your adult voice into a child voice by simply increasing the pitch! Collectively creating and saving activity-specific Core + Fringe displays can be a valuable school/agency-wide project. When several clinicians/teachers create and store their displays on a shared drive, it can lighten everybody's workload.

Some ASbyS resources use a button array to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge using a three-choice array. To facilitate the use of such resources in tele-practice, the buttons are numbered allowing students to indicate their choice by selecting the button's corresponding number using natural speech or a number page on their AAC system.

It is also possible to personalize select ASbySs using photo faces of your students and their family members. Personalization is a great way to heighten engagement, especially when using tele-practice. To personalize a resource (designated as 'Can be personalized') you must first create photo faces for each person that you wish to include in the resource. These photo images must be created with a transparent background and must be saved as a .png . After creating your photo face files, you will use the Change Picture command to substitute your photo faces for the illustrated faces in the downloaded resource.

As you can see, ASbySs offer a plethora of creative strategies for making learning fun. For more information on the creative use of Animated Step-by-Steps® please visit the Animated Step-by-Steps® Blog and don't forget to follow us on Instagram

About the Author

Dr. Carol Goossens’ is currently living in New York City where she continues to enjoy the challenge of creating educational resources (e.g., Animated Step-by-Steps®) that simultaneously address the needs of both regular and special education students. She has been able to draw on over 40 years of ‘in classroom’ experience working collaboratively with parents, teachers and therapists to conceptualize and design these resources. As she has worked with a broad spectrum of students (children with developmental delays, physical challenges, visual Impairments and children on the Autism Spectrum) her resources are well suited to delivering differentiated instruction in ‘mixed ability’ classrooms. She is passionate about making learning fun, interactive and inclusive! Dr. Goossens' has co-authored eleven clinical books regarding her work in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and is known for her ability to provide trench-proven classroom strategies.

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