Nov 13, 2016

Our Marvelous Family

Pun intended. Evie came up with the crazy idea for our family to do a joint Marvel costume. "Who US?!", I said. "No way!", I said. But as usual she pestered me until I gave in. The Incredible Hulk was the only Marvel character I could get into (I did love the show as a kid.).  But I have to admit in the end it was a lot of fun! (Despite the usual stress because everything is always more difficult than one would think: painting shoes, cutting wigs, ordering impossible to find items, modifying masks, altering costumes.) Somehow we pulled it together the last week while Steve was in California on business. Ainsley is Ant-Man for those who don't recognize her. Steve loved being Thor and Adrian tolerated being Captain America (he loves his sister). We wore the costumes to a Halloween party at the Rogue Brewery (all ages welcome) in Issaquah. Unbelievably we tied for first place in the group costume category which was a huge surprise since we didn't even know there was going to be a contest. We arrived quite late as we often do. I will never forget the look on people's faces as we walked into the party together and their mouths hung open. I heard many times that people couldn't believe it was me. The whole thing was really pretty fun!

Grandpa David with his Grandkids.
Adrian had the most fun of all the 13 year-olds and maybe even anyone else at the whole party. 
NOT! What can I say....he's 13?!

For those not up on comic book fandom, there is a rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics. Superman is DC not Marvel even if it is "Super-Dog" it's not Marvel but it was the cutest costume for a dog and she's still marvelous if you ask me! No she didn't get to go to the party or Trick-or-Treating.

Besides Halloween what have we been up to? A ton has happened since my last blog post 4 months ago, so much that I think I will have to follow up and write separate posts with more details* on some of these topics to avoid another one of my super-long mega-posts.
  • Ainsley went to Camp Korey
  • We went on a 5 State Road Trip to Yellowstone, amazing!*
  • Ainsley's school aide left. We decided to homeschool starting 9/20/16.*
  • My mom (adoptive) fell unexpectedly and got a head injury in late September. My medical experience with Ainsley all these years (17 surgeries and hospitalizations, multiple specialists) helped. I was at her bedside in the hospital for many days until she went into a nursing home (skilled nursing/rehab center) for a week before coming home. We are trying to reduce her care demands for my brother who has advanced Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. She's doing well and is slowly recovering her strength and energy. 
  • Evie got a part in the school musical, Chicago, and started rehearsals 5 days a week on top of dance and her regular stuff. With Adrian's school carpool changes this year (I pick up 3 days a week at the next town over.) it feels like I'm always in the car!
  • Ainsley turned 10! Wow! I'ts crazy to think about everything we've been through in that time! *
  • Steve and I celebrated our 20 year Wedding Anniversary! Wow again! 
  • Evie had Homecoming (2 of them). 
  • 3 Sick kids, doctor's appointments, late homework. Ugh!
  • Halloween
I'll finish up with more Halloween photos. Yes it's a little late, but that's the way life has been for us lately. I'm hoping you agree better late than never. 

Evie started out her Halloween day at 6:30am as Peter Parker.

Evie was awesome as Spider-Man. You would think it would be an easy costume and it is if you are a child or a man, or want a Sexy-Spider-Girl/Man dress thing, but if you are a young woman who wants to be an authentic Spider-Man you can count driving all over the city(s), ordering an adult hood and gloves. If you are the mom of said young woman you can count on altering every single piece of said costume the day of the party when your daughter cries because her vision fell flat.

Ainsley loved her Ant-Man costume! We had ants living under our patio stones and she would go out to feed them and watch them drag the crumbs into the cracks. She LOVED the idea of being able to shrink to the size of an ant! And the thought of being super strong! It was perfect for her!

She used her walker instead of her wheelchair this year and her talker to Trick-or-Treat and scored lots of candy! She's become such a great eater it's hard to believe there were years where I had to force her to lick a lolli-pop. It was truly joy filled for her this year! Though she came down with a fever that evening. She made it through and still had a great time!

For my readers interested in AAC.

Ainsley wasn't the only one to score big on candy. 
I was happy to see our 3 out together again. At 15,13 and 10 this might be the last time. 

Evie begged me to bake our Alphabet Soup in a Pumpkin from page X of this book when they were little kids. I modified it to be fully vegetarian for Adrian's benefit (it's been 2 1/2 years) and it was surprisingly really good (since the chicken really was the best part). This was the first year I had it ready to eat early. Ironic since I nearly couldn't find a pumpkin because I forgot until the night before to buy pumpkins and the only remaining pumpkins were huge or rotted except this one found at the 3rd store. Oops.

I stayed at the house to pass out candy to our 18 Trick-or-Treaters. I enjoyed the candles, wine and roasted pumpkin seeds while the rest of the family was out. Every year we do a graveyard with lights and spooky music so someone has to be home and I'm fine with it being me.

Evie's Teen Wolf Jack-o-Lantern (and Ainsley's cutie). We cut back on carving this year.

Every year I like to get a picture of my Trick-or-Treaters. It might be silly but it's tradition and we love our traditions. When the kids are young it feels like it will last forever but they grow up so quick. This year we've had a lot of family, family of friends or friends of friends pass away and I was really struck by the fact that change is inevitable and comes when you least expect it so it's wise to make the most of each day as best we can. 

Jul 10, 2016

Summer Learning, Talking and Special Delivery Messages

It's been 2 weeks since my last post.  I've been hitting the letters hard with Ainsley. We have altered her routine. She LOVES to watch videos first thing in the morning (Netflix) so we started using our old DVD's instead. Anything with letters, phonics, word building etc.
  • Leap Frog (Letter Factory, Word Factory, Amazing Alphabet etc. they're all good)
  • Sesame Street  Do the Alphabet, All Star Alphabet
  • Animal ABC's
  • Your Child Can Read
  • Richard Scarry's Best ABC Video Ever
  • Martha Speaks
After a week or so of this she decided she'd rather play with toys than watch her morning videos. A result that is just fine with me. Now she's motivated to stand in her stander for "real" videos.

In addition to reducing and modifying her video time we started:
  • Daily review of the alphabet sounds with flashcards.
  • Interactive electronic book reading (tap words to speak) like Little Critters or Berenstain Bears  from Oceanhouse Media
  • Reading of our own personalized stories that I made with Pictello.
  • Nightly reading of (actual paper) books using modeling with our new AAC system
  • Daily writing practice with writing/tracing or phonics worksheets (workbooks)
  • alphabet activities like: this, thisthis, this or this
  • playing old Computer Games on my sister's old laptop (Pooh, Clifford, Richard Scarry, Franklin, Madeline, Little Bear etc.), she's got great mouse skills
  • IPad games like: 
For awhile that was great but now she's back to sneaking her favored games like Cut the Rope or Clumsy Ninja. I have to watch her closely and not get distracted which is easy for me to do. I'm probably going to have to look for some new materials to keep things fresh.

I think the work is paying off. She appears engaged and interested most times I work with her. 

We've seen some super exciting attempts with the AAC at long sentences after modeling them that way. She may not use the correct verb and word order but they are LONG, like the 10 word sentence below that SHE MADE BY HERSELF (The word I was there but it was too long to fit!) after talking with Steve, while I was finishing cooking dinner.

Earlier in the week during meal time she used the following phrases and her message was pretty clear! There is no question that she understands exactly the purpose of these phrases.

Today she got out her AAC device and brought up the word Disney Infinity and tried to copy it onto a piece of paper (D, then Infnty it's hard to read because it was written on some dried glue from a previous "project") which she then brought to Steve out in the garage to lure him into playing with her.  Of course we had to reward her with some DI time for her efforts! She was so proud and so were we! This looks like the beginning of writing at a new level!

A video showing one of the personalized book I made with Pictello (DisneyWorld 2015). 

We haven't had as much fun as we could but we did manage to get the kids to see Finding Dory and that was on Adrian's summer to-do list.  Evie and Adrian are off to camp today. Adrian was picked up by a friend and will be at Camp Colman for a week, returning just in time for his 13th birthday!

We made the road trip today to take Evie to camp. Sadly Evie's childhood friend chose ballet camp over horse camp this year but Evie still wanted to go. I'm proud of her for taking a chance and going anyway I hope she has a great time! Ainsley did awesome navigating the gravel trail in her walker!

Steve and I are very a bit jealous of these kids and their wonderful annual camp experiences! They've been going since they were SEVEN. 

It feels weird to have them gone but of course we still have Ainsley here. She goes to Camp Korey in 2 weeks. She is so excited! She had SO much fun last year! If you click on the link above you will see a picture of her riding on a horse on their website. 

I'll leave you with some recent photos of the kids that I took on the 4th of July. Hope you're having a great summer! Hopefully we'll get some sun soon here in the Pacific Northwest. 

Jun 25, 2016

Ainsley "Reading"

This post is a follow up to my post Schools Out For Summer. I wish! That's a metaphor, it has been 10 days since our last day of real school. However this summer I am running my own "summer school". I am working with Ainsley on literacy skills and AAC since I will have larger blocks of time with her. Why would I do this? Because after years of "literacy instruction" at school my 9, nearly 10 year old cannot read. Not even simple words like "me" despite having a 1:1 aide, an extensive IEP and daily time in the General Education setting since Kindergarten as well as a pre-school program before that. Sadly I think the school's goal is that she learn to read and communicate by the time she graduates High School. That is aiming way low. Let's presume competence give her good instruction and see what happens!

I think the intentions are good but the methods are the issue.The school's literacy curriculum (for special education) is not defined, it is not complete and has consisted primarily of picking the correct word from a field of three.  I think they hoped this activity would prepare Ainsley for reading since she would be recognizing the sounds in the words. I doubt this method would be sufficient to teach a neuro-typical child that is fully physically capable. It's certainly not engaging or fun (isn't engagement proven critical in learning) and though it's a way to collect data it isn't a very good method of teaching. Ainsley did not receive the same literacy instruction a typical child would during Kindergarten and 1st grade and beyond. Children like Ainsley need MORE than the normal instruction not less.

It seems the school thinks I should be happy with her "progress" because after several years of letter ID and this field of 3 activity she can now pick correctly 20-24 out of 26 times, an improvement from when she first started this activity.  Since Ainsley is non-verbal it is difficult to assess her level of understanding and they would like to believe the data they are collecting means she is close(r) to reading.

I wasn't convinced so prior to Ainsley's IEP I did an assessment of my own. It is far more accurate than their method and it shows pretty conclusively that Ainsley is not even close to reading site words or anything else. I'd forgotten that I'd recorded it, but happened to find it today after I'd been working on some literacy skills with her. I want to share it to show just how misleading field of 3 selection is, since for a child without the understanding of letter sounds and phonics it is literally nothing more than guessing. Prior to this video she got nearly all of the cards correct when choosing from a field of 3 but unfortunately I didn't film that and later she was too tired to perform as well. Toward the end of the video you see how she is able to identify the words with AAC when given oral instruction. Although this video shows Ainsley clearly cannot read I think it also shows that she is capable and interested in learning to read! 

Teaching her to read will be more difficult because of her CH and her dependence on AAC. That is the second piece of our efforts this summer, AAC skills. This year I researched AAC apps and equipment after having an AAC evaluation by a qualified SLP at Seattle Children's Hospital in December. The assessment was validating, confirming an IPad was likely the best choice with a bluetooth speaker regardless of how it was "funded" (IPads can be purchased by insurance as a dedicated AAC system).  The SLP wasn't able to make the decision on which app to use. After waiting for one company to put out a major upgrade that was supposed to be released in March but never came we sought input from the school team and settled instead on Gateway for ProLoQuo2Go a vocabulary design made by SLP Joan Bruno that runs in the ProLoQuo2Go app. It's loaded on a full size IPad as well as a mini and I plan to design a mini version for my cell phone for emergencies. There a lot of factors that went into the decision that I hope to write about in greater detail in the future.

I think it was a good decision. I have learned no system is perfect. Each has advantages over others. I had some work to do with equipment and customization but we made the switch in May so school staff could familiarize themselves with the new features of the app and hardware in the last month of school so it isn't all new in September. I've been working hard to finalize the vocab and hope that with a combined approach on both literacy and AAC we will see some real gains over the summer. We will be meeting at the end of the summer to amend the IEP and my hope is that the school staff will receive some instruction on Aided Language Input (aka. Aided Language Stimulation or ALS, or modeling) so they can incorporate that and other practices throughout the school day to increase Ainsley's ability to communicate and thus access an appropriate education.

In the mean time we will keep on keeping on doing what we can while still trying to have a fun summer. Wish me luck. We'll need it.

Jun 18, 2016

School's Out For Summer! I wish.

Having 3 kids in 3 schools can be difficult to manage and by the end of the 2015-16 school year it became overwhelming. Ainsley had her annual IEP meeting scheduled and I advocated for a literacy program with phonics geared toward non-verbal AAC learners (on the recommendation of an AAC specialist and yes programs like this do exist) as well as increased AAC support and training (it's a specialty). In addition we implemented a new AAC system. I lost, but the fight advocating isn't over. Things were going on at Adrian's school and I ended up being elected onto the PTSA board as well as needing to tie up loose ends as Photography Chair for the year (which is still not done). Evie despite doing well first Semester had a particularly bad grade and missing work that needed attention and I had to get her some help since High School Grades are for keeps. It was like I'd wandered into the Bermuda Triangle of education and was sucked in.

Looking back I'm sure as a child I had Inattentive Type ADHD, I really struggled to complete tasks and am easily distracted by new ideas and thoughts or external stimuli and still am. Managing my time has always been a struggle. I wish that someone had helped me because I could have done a lot better in school with more support. Because of my experience it's really important to me that my children do well in school. I want them to have the best opportunities to do what they want in life and a good education is the foundation.

Most people fully understand this for my two neuro-typical children but I want this for Ainsley as well.  People with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) have historically been underestimated. It wasn't that long ago that people with ID were not permitted to go to school and parents were fighting simply for the right of their children just to be allowed to go to school. In 1973 FAPE happened and things began to change, you get the IDEA. Although things have improved there is still a great degree of difficulty in teaching, assessing and serving the needs of non-verbal students. This is something that I want to see change. The better an education a person with ID receives the more they will have to contribute to society. We must aim high not low.

I personally believe that all non-verbal students should be taught to use AAC devices as young as possible. In early special education this is a lot of students. I believe that some of the behavioral problems we see are related to a child's frustration with being unable to express him/herself. Imagine having no way to express your thoughts feelings or desire and the loss of control that would come with that. In addition when a child has no way to express what they know or inquire about what is going on around them they lose lots of opportunities to learn along the way, every single day. That can lead to a compounded affect as well as holes in their learning.  I could write more on this idea but Emma, a non-verbal young woman with Autism did that so well here in this article.

When Ainsley was very young I believed that she would speak. She had a tracheostomy which impacts the ability to vocalize because of the redirection of air flow. What took me some years to figure out is that her brain condition, Cerebellar Hypoplasia, affects the bodily capability to make speech. (Though many CH patients do learn to speak but may be difficult to understand.)  The Birth To Three School started her on PECS cards when she was still 1, we moved to a switch and then later a simple Go Talk device before they provided a Vantage and full support with a specially trained SLP when she moved into the Seattle School District at age 3. She steadily made progress with each new system. Later an IPad with TouchChat when we moved to Redmond, then a NovaChat dedicated device in 2012. Along with Ainsley I learned. I took on some of the programming and eventually did all required customization for the school when our insurance bought the NovaChat.

We had been previously teaching Ainsley some sign language which was also difficult for her because of her challenges with motor skills. For years she'd been signing "all done" with a single hand because a nurse(T) taught her that way, and we thought maybe she was stimming (though she doesn't have autism). Poor kid. Having a child that is non-verbal is difficult. We play a lot of guessing games and fill in the blanks. Really she is quite patient with us typical learners who don't always recognize what she tries to communicate to us non-verbally.  Back then, in addition to speech/vocalization/AAC/ASL we had feeding issues, a trach to care for, surgeries, OT, PT and educational goals.  We did our best to juggle all these but I know that if we'd had a better plan Ainsley would be much further along in her ability to use AAC. There is no doubt in my mind that the ability to communicate more complex ideas with AAC would also equate to greater learning and abilities. Who knows what she would be doing right now if she had been taught to fully communicate with AAC years ago. 

Luckily in 2014 an SLP specializing in AAC (from an on-line support group) was determined to convince me that Ainsley should be using a word based system instead of phrases. I thought the buttons would be too small and the number of words would be overwhelming, especially considering her use of the current phrase based AAC system was minimal. I thought she wasn't ready.  Then I learned that things had changed in the world of AAC and word based systems were recommended by SLPs Specialists for nearly all AAC users because when the user learns these systems they can communicate for a much larger variety of purposes and say things that are important to them. A limited phrase based system can only be used for limited communication.

Even with a robust word based system often well intentioned adults ask AAC users to say things that are not motivating and obvious like: The dog is brown. The girl is happy. or I am hungry (when they may not be). Using AAC takes time. It takes a lot of effort for a child with physical disabilities who cannot read to find and push the buttons. The child has to feel that it is worth their effort, that is human nature. That means we need to believe learning AAC is worth the effort and prove it by leading by example. If the neuro-typical adults find AAC too difficult and time consuming to use for simple sentences, how can we possibly expect it of an Intellectually Disabled child who can't read, who has to teach herself?

Having a good AAC system (hardware and vocabulary) is just the beginning. Then, like any other language it takes exposure and practice. Lots of it. School is the ideal place to use AAC. It is a content rich environment with opportunities for meaningful AAC use all day long. Specialists in the field of AAC know this is critical. My hope is that I can get the school district, school and staff to understand the importance and that they will willingly step up to do their part with consistent modeling or Aided Language Input because they care about Ainsley's success as a student.

Unfortunately there is not a standard curriculum in special education nor agreed upon standards for teaching AAC across districts. The importance of the IEP cannot be overstated, particularly for the children with high needs. In isn't easy to teach literacy to a child who is non-verbal. It also isn't easy to use an AAC system when you can't read. We want to break this cycle and unlock Ainsley's world. Unfortunately I also learned this year that if all the details aren't spelled out it in the IEP it can lead to miscommunication which can have a negative effect on the relationship between parent and school.

We will be meeting with the school at the end of summer to try to get things sorted out. In the mean time I am going to be doing what I can to teach Ainsley both AAC and literacy skills myself while still trying to have a "fun summer". I see in my on-line support groups other moms doing similar things over the summer, creating a "summer home school program". I'm not alone. This is the way it is for families like ours. Summer is an opportunity for surgeries or catching up on skills. For us it's not all about fancy vacations. The far away destinations are walking, talking, reading, writing, eating etc. It was only a few summers ago I was on a mission to get Ainsley eating orally.  That was tough but it beat spending the summer (with the 2 other kids in tow) at the hospital in an intensive feeding program. That work paid off and these days she does so well eating. It was so hard-won that I still find myself watching her in amazement like I did on the first night of summer as she enjoyed her meal and then cake, a previously hated food.

As we sat at the dinner table she shrugged, her "sign" for "I have a question". I've been trying to use opportunities like these to direct her to ask a full sentence with AAC. I knew she'd heard us talking about how Evie and Daddy were in a rush to leave for Evie's vocal lesson. She pushed the button for mommy and I showed her (modeled) the sentence below and then verbally coached her through it the second time, and by the 3rd time she was able to do it by herself. The more we do this with her the faster she will learn. She loves being able to ask a question to get information. Just like everyone else.

The last day of school was our busdriver's last day. He's retiring and will be missed! We gave him the "Best Busdriver In the World" award (it's inscribed on the copper tag), a flower statue for his garden made from a recycled school bus. It happens that yellow is Ainsley's favorite color.
I hope he thinks of her when he sees it.

We made him a card. The drawing we did with hand over hand support and some verbal instruction. Last school year the school wasn't working on handwriting and had keyboarding goals instead. They bought her a stamp for her name instead of teaching her to write it. Despite the doctor agreeing with them that perhaps it was too difficult (which angered me since I'd seen how well she did tracing) I pushed for it in the IEP and asked for tracing homework. Look what she's been able to do with practice! See the name Gene? She copied that with no help. Her name she can write from memory now after writing it together on her homework every night using a model I made. And the rest of the writing she did with hand over hand support for letter positioning. 
I'm so proud and so is she! 


Don't you agree?!

May 12, 2016

A Good Mother

A belated Happy Mother's Day to all my mother friends and readers! I've been feeling bad that it's been so long since my last post. I'd intended to write a nice post prior to Mother's Day but my "mothering" duties prevented that from happening. There have been some challenges this year but we're doing okay. This year on Mother's Day I made my kids suffer through a photo shoot since I know it is something I won't otherwise take the time to do and they would complain loudly on any other day. I hope you enjoy the pictures and that you had a wonderful day spent just the way you like.

I was going to write about what it means to be a "good mother".  This is something moms care about even after Mother's Day so here goes. Better late than never I hope.

Every woman I know who is a mother or acts as a mother wants to do a good job. There are so many ways to parent and tasks to juggle that we can sometimes be left wondering how we are doing. I know I do. I'm going to share a little secret ritual I have. It might seem a bit silly but when I'm feeling a bit down about my mom job or off target (we all have those days or weeks don't we?) I sit down with breakfast on a special plate I have and reflect. Since I often forget to eat breakfast, or eat standing in the kitchen while doing chores which is hardly any better, this ritual is in part about taking care of myself too.  What makes the plate special is that it has a message on it that simplifies the mission of this difficult job of mothering into an ideal that is easy to understand, "A Good Mother Makes a Happy Home." That's it. Simple.

That's not to say that I believe it's the mom's job to make everyone else happy.  It is also true what they say "If Mamma 'aint happy, 'aint nobody happy." but taking a few minutes to recharge with food and think about my intentions while I manage the affairs of my home and children's lives, as increasingly busy and complex as things are in these times, helps me get back on track. This plate was made in 1979 when life was a whole lot simpler, but I find it's just as true today, a simple barometer so to speak. Is your home a happy one? Ours is sometimes and sometimes it isn't. I use this ritual is a reminder when I need it. You can find these plates from time to time at thrift stores.

Of course you don't need a plate to reflect about whether your home is a happy one. And how you go about making a happy home may be completely different from how other people do. It's about looking at the things in your life that you might want to change. Lately I am trying to listen to what my emotions are telling me. They too are a barometer, one that is with us every minute of every day. Often we ignore our emotions but they have important things to tell us about whether our spirit is satisfied with the way we are living our lives.

This year has been a hard one. My birth mother passed away too soon from kidney failure as a result of acute pancreatitis. Her birthday was also in May, right before Mother's Day.  I miss her. As an adopted child I also missed the chance to grow up with her. My childhood home wasn't exactly a happy one. For a long time I have been searching for the answers to what it means to be a good mom. When my time here on earth is over my greatest wish is that my children will remember me as a good mom. To me that means we had a happy home together, and also that they know in their heart of hearts that I loved them unconditionally.  I know they will also remember me as someone who tortured them with a camera. So be it. I can live with that.

Mar 10, 2016


My single most favorite thing for the computer is the Snipping Tool, a super fast and easy way to capture images off your computer screen for all kinds of purposes. I use this ALL THE TIME. (A huge thank you to the person who told me about it! You changed my life!) The Snipping Tool comes free with Microsoft Windows. If you haven't heard of it, trust me you want to pay attention. What might you use it for? A million things, but here are some ideas:
  • to capture part of an image to paste into an e-mail (kids wish lists for birthdays, items you are shopping for or design ideas that you want to e-mail to your spouse or friend,  etc. )
  • to capture a portion of a Website as an image for sending feedback or ask a question
  • to copy a portion of an e-mail or text document and then highlight parts of it
  • to capture a face out of a group shot to use for your Facebook profile (or for an AAC image)
  • to copy part of a Facebook post to e-mail to a friend who isn't on Facebook
  • to make a quick edit, like cropping for posting online
  • add to an AAC symbol or clipart to make a different symbol that doesn't exist
  • to capture a page from your AAC device to e-mail, post online or print for a low tech version
  • to quickly capture an image and black out portions for privacy before posting on-line (name and/or medical ID's, school name etc.)
  • to capture a portion off your computer screen like an error message
  • to capture portions of a screen for creating "how to manuals" 
It's probably already installed on your computer. Not sure? Type snipping tool in your search bar.

If  it doesn't easily show up, check on the Microsoft website for your operating system (how to access it is slightly different in each OS). I have the Snipping Tool pinned to my Start bar because I use it that much!

1) First make sure the image you want to capture is visible on your screen before opening the snipping tool otherwise you won't be able to get to it.

2) Click on the scissors icon or open the Snipping Tool and click New. It will default to the type of snip you last used (unless you click on the arrow to open the other types). 

Most of the time you will probably use the rectangular snip but there are other types of snips. Window snip is for one window when you have multiple windows open and you don't want all of them, and full-screen is, well....your full-screen, which I rarely ever want and why the Snipping Tool is so much better than just using the "print screen" button.

Free form is like a real pair of scissors, see image below.

These snips can be saved as .JPGS or also can be saved as a .PNG file. This is important because it allows the image to be oddly shaped (not rectangular/square) without filling in the background so it can be use in other computer programs (Think digital scrapbooking or using in an AAC device when you want another background color for your button. Or for pasting the face of one person onto someone or something else, like for example maybe Trump's face on a donkey). 

3) Drag the X cursor around the portion of the screen you want to capture. When the bounding box is surrounding the portion you want let go. Didn't quite get it perfect? That's okay, just click new to try again. Congrats, you've now captured your snip. What now?

4) If you want to make edits click on one of the tool icons or Tools button, if not skip to step 5.

In addition to the standard red, blue or black pen you can customize the pen color, thickness and style in the drop down menus, shown below. There is also a highlighter. If you make a mistake with any of these use the eraser. 

Examples of Edits

This snip shows LtoR second row from the top: the "a" whited out, "to" highlighted, "the" with black legs and eyes (modifying a symbol), and a pink circle.  I made these just so you can see all in one image, but actually I kind of think I like the spider "the" and might use that.

All of these type of edits are super quick and easy to do! I promise!

5) When you are ready to use your image you can either save, copy or e-mail.

Save will open a dialogue box where you can choose the location and file type. 

Copy, then right click to paste the selection into another already open program like e-mail, Word or Photoshop.

To start an e-mail click the e-mail button and the snip will be inserted as an image in the body of the e-mail.

Curious what the "Delay" feature is all about? It's for capturing menus that disappear before you can snip them. A video explaining how that works here

Here is an example of a document I created for school using Microsoft Word and the Snipping Tool (and of course our AAC Editor). It's Ainsley's "Daily Write" that tells us about her day at school (since she is non-verbal and can't tell us herself). It helps her to learn the AAC symbols, reinforce date concepts and emotions (which has not been successful because she ALWAYS circles happy). She was also working on "circling" which you can see she's pretty much mastered now.

I hope you find a bunch of ways to use the Snipping Tool!