Autistic Students and EdTech – E(special)ly SMART

This article originally appeared on the EDCompass Blog.  Click here for the original URL. Shared with permission.

Alison Rumball is a special education teacher in York Region District School Board located in Ontario, Canada. She teaches students with autism in an elementary school. We asked her to share her successful experiences with edtech in her learning environment and here’s what she had to say.

By Alison Rumball

For the last six years, I have taught in a transition classroom for students with autism. This means that I typically only have the students for one year before they go into community classes elsewhere in my school board.  My students vary in ages from year to year and in their abilities.  Over the years, I have taught Kindergarten up to Grade 8, and their abilities from ranged from preschool up to Grade 2 level on the Ontario curriculum.

When I first started in my current classroom, we did not have a SMART Board interactive whiteboard and my students would sit in a group for about 5 minutes.  Once I saw the SMART Board in the library, I borrowed it every morning for our group time and my students could now sit in group for 20 minutes.  I changed how I was delivering group lessons but the content was the same – same symbols, same songs, same order.

Once I realized how engaging a SMART Board was, I found a way to buy a SMARTBoard 680i for my special education classroom.  Over the years we have used a variety of assistive technology software (Boardmaker StudioClassroom Suite, Clicker 5, and WordQ) and websites with the SMART Board.   Some of our favorite website games have been: Early Mouse Movements by HelpKidzLearn, Let’s Play Builder by TJ & Pals, Club Roo by News 2 You, and  Coin Spot by TVOKids.

Assistive Technology and the SMART Board

In Ontario, WordQ (word prediction software) and Clicker 5 (word processor with picture support) are supported through OSAPAC and all Ontario schools have access to these, which means that my students will have access to them in their new classrooms when they transition out of my classroom.  To show my students how to use WordQ I modeled how to use it on the SMART Board.  My students were then able to do the same steps on the laptops we had borrowed for the lesson:

I did a similar thing for Clicker 5:

Unique Learning System and the SMARTBoard

This year we have been using the Unique Learning System by News 2 You.  This is a symbol based curriculum tied into the American Common Core Standards which address Language, Math, Science and Social Studies.  I have been creating a variety of interactive activities to use to support the print based curriculum.  In Boardmaker Studio, I create a set of activities to work on each month’s rhyming words, sight words, and beginning sounds.  Here is a screen shot of a rhyming activity we do each month:

Since October 2012, I have been creating supplemental material in SMART Notebook 11 to complement the files I create in Boardmaker Studio.  Mostly they have been working on beginning sounds and sorting picture with the Activity Builder Add-On.  Here is a screen shot from my April Unit:

Recently, I was able to obtain a class set of iPads for my students.  I have also been using the iPads and SMART Board in a variety of ways.  I will model how to use various apps on the SMART Board so my students understand what to do with it.  For an example you can go to my blog to read about how we use Abilipad.  We have also been using XC  Add-On Beta for SMART Notebook (a widget for SMART Notebook 11 software that enables connected activities between devices and the SMART Board). This has been very successful with my students and they are all engaged in the activities I have created.   Here is a screen shot of a rhyming activity we do each week with our iPads and XC Beta Add-on:

Alison Rumball, M.S.Ed., is a special education teacher in Ontario, Canada. She teaches students with autism in an elementary school. She has a blog at where she posts activities and ideas to support the Unique Learning System and the SMART Board.


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