Ross High pupil, Fiona Scott to present at ICT workshop

6th year pupil, Fiona Scott will be demonstrating her excellent use of speech recognition software at and ICT workshop tomorrow in Edinburgh.  Originally Shirley Lawson was going to present the case study but Fiona has agreed to come and do a live demo – no mean feat!

Is Speech Recognition software finally beginning to realise it’s potential for learners with additional support needs?

This free workshop run by CALL Scotland and SQA will consider this question. Speech recognition systems are now freely available on Windows and MacOS computers and in mobile devices such as the iPad. At the same time, speech recognition is becoming of greater interest to schools as an alternative to scribes, given that scribes cannot be used for assessing writing in National Literacy assessments.

In this workshop we will review the tools available, including Windows 7 Speech Recognition; Dragon Naturally Speaking; iPad Siri; Google Voice Typing, and share experiences (both positive and negative) and, we hope, good practice.

The timetable is as follows:

  • 9.00: Coffee and registration
  • 9.30: Windows 7 Speech Recognition
    • Liz Fraser, Selkirk High School, will talk about a trial of the free built in Windows Speech Recognition that is currently running in Selkirk High School.
  • 10.00: Dragon Naturally Speaking
    • ​​Shirley Lawson, East Lothian, will present a case study about a pupil in S6 using Dragon Naturally Speaking.
    • Dianne Youngson, Dunblane High School will present a case study about a learner using Dragon in Higher assessments and exams.
  • 10.50: Comfort Break
  • 11.10: iOS Siri
    • ​​CALL staff will introduce this session and demonstrate Siri. There will be input from Emma Slavin from Balfron High School about using Siri with iReadWrite, and from other colleagues.
  • 11.40: Google Android
    • ​​​Craig Mill from CALL will give an overview of Google Now and Google Voice Typing.
  • ​12:10 Plenary Discussion

Information from this workshop will be reported back on this blog.

Apps for students with Austism Spectrum Disorder



When looking for apps for students on the autism spectrum (ASD), it is important to look at all educational apps and not just those that are tagged as autism apps. They have many of the same learning needs that other students have. This list was developed to provide apps based on common learning characteristics and traits that are typical for students with ASD. It is important to remember that all students learn differently and selecting apps should be based on the unique learning needs of the student. This list is only a sampling of apps available for each skill area. This is not, nor is it meant to be, a definitive list. It is intended to give you a starting place and a rationale for picking certain apps.

Click here to see the wheel in detail.

Developed by Mark Coppin (Oct 2012) – based on Allan Carrington’s Pedagogy Wheel, modified by Cherie Pickering


Autism Film Club – free viewings

To celebrate World Autism Awareness Month in April, Ambitious about Autism is bringing some of the best and most recent films about autism straight to your computer screen.   The programme will feature four online film screenings on our website during April 2012.  Click here to get the Autism Film club password  to see the films.

The two remaining films to be shown are:

Animating Autism

USA / 2011 / colour / not rated / 63 mins:  Streaming  on Wednesday 18 April 2012  

Animating Autism is a feature length documentary on autism that follows seven individuals on the spectrum as they collaborate to create a short animated film. The documentary follows them as they learn how to turn their sketches into movies and form lasting friendships.

Loving Lamposts

USA / 2011 / colour / not rated / 84 mins:  Streaming on our website on Wednesday 25 April 2012

LampostIn Loving Lampposts, we witness this debate and meet the parents, doctors, therapists, and autistic people who are redefining autism at a moment when it’s better known than ever before. Motivated by his son’s diagnosis, filmmaker Todd Drezner explores the changing world of autism and learns the truth of the saying, “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”

Teaching pupils with Autism

 Hacking Autism is a web site which brings together a volunteer group of software developers and specialists in autism with the intention of creating apps for iPads and other touch-enabled devices that can be used by people with an autism spectrum disorder. Parents of children with ASD are invited to suggest features they would like to see in future apps.

 What are your ideas? Submit them and get feedback. There may already be an app or a piece of software that exists that could be very helpful for your autistic pupil.  Please leave a comment on this blog if you find out any information.  It’s important that we all keep sharing our findings.

Symbolising the environment: Using symbols to aid communication

LTScotland reports on an interesting region-wide project to incorporate symbols into mainstream schools in Fife.

Fife Assessment Centre for Communication through Technology (FACCT) is a Fife-wide service supporting clients for whom speech is not their main means of communication.

Symbols are images which are used to make meanings clearer and easier to understand by providing a visual representation of a single word or a concept. It is important to understand that symbols are different from pictures. A picture conveys a lot of information at once and its focus may be unclear, whereas a symbol focuses on a single concept and by grouping them together more precise information can be conveyed.

Initially, staff became aware that using symbols consistently in a mainstream class was not only supporting a child with an identified learning disability but was meeting the needs of many children who had no recognised learning or communication impairment. Symbols packs were developed and offered to classes throughout the school and were quickly taken up by other members of the teaching staff as they realised the benefits they brought to pupils’ overall development.

There is a consistent approach to the symbols used in all the establishments involved. This ensures that pupils transferring from one environment to another are familiar with any symbols in use, no matter which establishment they are in.

The chosen symbol software package used to create the resources was Mayer-Johnson’s ‘Boardmaker’.

Examples of the use of symbols include:

 • anti-bullying materials •

rights respecting schools information

• conflict resolution methods

• ‘goal -plan -do -review’

• The Mathematics and Home Economic Departments began using symbols to help pupils establish a routine once they entered the classroom. This supported a positive ethos within the classroom.

• Directional symbols are being developed to help S1 pupils and any visitors to the building

• Symbols are used in the main reception area of the school

• Pupils use personalised symbolised timetables.

Latest on the Scottish Autism Bill

Hugh O’Donnell, MSP’s Scottish Autism Bill has now reached its most crucial and important stage- its first parliamentary vote this month. The Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee has decided not to support the Bill, believing that sufficient legislaion already exists.

For details about the latest on this bill have a look here

Framework for Inclusion

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that a new initiative in teacher training – the National Framework for Inclusion – aims to ensure better classroom support for pupils with additional needs, such as dyslexia.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop launched the Framework which offers advice to encourage student teachers and qualified teachers to be inclusive in their teaching.

The Framework was funded by the Scottish Government and developed by the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), the body for the seven Scottish universities who provide teacher training.identifies the values and beliefs, professional knowledge and understanding and the skills and abilities, in terms of inclusive education, to be expected of both student teachers and qualified teachers. A further web-based resource will give support by providing relevant, high quality materials and documentation.

The document proposes under each of the headings (Student Teachers, Teachers, Advanced Professionals) what should be regarded as minimum expectations of teachers at each of the levels rather than as a hierarchical approach to anticipated engagement by teachers.

It aims to place a clear emphasis on the essential role played by the values and beliefs (Professional Values and Commitment) of each teacher in their commitment to the development of inclusive practice.

The Framework Document aims to be comprehensive but not prescriptive. It is question-based to encourage teachers to accept a shared responsibility for researching answers – and further questions – with the support of the web-based repository. It would be good to see staff in schools thinking about these questions in relation to all their pupils.

I really welcome the fact that it promotes inclusion as being the responsibility of all teachers in all schools and has tried to identify and to address the needs of teachers at all stages of their careers. It recognises and emphasises the need for career-long and life-long learning

Support for children with autism

A new resource to help schools meet the needs of children with autism has been launched.
The Autism Toolbox, which has been sent to every school and education authority in Scotland, draws on practical examples, literature and research to give guidance to councils and support to schools. It is funded by the Scottish Government and developed by the National Centre for Autism Studies at the University of Strathclyde.
Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, said that young people with autism deserve the opportunity to gain the most they can from a supportive education system.
The Autism Toolbox is available on the Scottish Government website and hard copies can be ordered through Blackwell’s Bookshop.
The Autism Toolbox is the output of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Education Working Group, which was established to take forward the recommendations in the Education for Pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorders report from HMIE and the National Autistic Society Scotland report, make school make sense – both published in October 2006. The Working Group included representation from HMIE, the National Autistic Society Scotland, the Scottish Society for Autism, Initial Teacher Education Providers and the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Music Therapy project at North Berwick

What a great workshop I participated in at the weekend! The Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy team were excellent and had us singing, clapping and trying out crazy musical instruments like Boom Wackas!

We were there to:

  • find out more about the benefits of music therapy
  • get an update on the NB project (working with youngsters in North Berwick schools), and
  • to meet other supporters and interested parties

We found about what music therapy actually is, about how Music Therapists are trained, who can benefit from therapy and how music therapy can help. The videos of the children during a session were very emotional to watch and the benefits obvious to all.  We were laughing and crying as we watched. 

The music therapists showed great skill as they improvised on the piano whilst interpreting our actions. I’ve been singing ‘Belle Mama’ ever since!


More support ‘needed’ for children with learning difficulties

Holyrood reports that according to a new study Scottish children with learning difficulties are not receiving an appropriate level of educational care and support.

The study by charity Mindroom estimates that nearly a fifth of Scottish school children have a recognised learning difficulty. This would put the figure at around 120,000 affected pupils, much higher than the official figure of 30,000 children receiving learning support.

Mindroom believes that many children are suffering from a lack of expert supervision, particularly if they have disorders on the autistic spectrum. As part of a proposed package of reforms, the charity is calling for greater training for staff and more investment in learning difficulties research.