Developing the Commtap resources site for parents and carers

The Communication Consortium grants programme has awarded us a grant to develop the Commtap communication resources site for parents and carers of children with communication difficulties.

Commtap resources site

We will:

  • Make the site mobile friendly – so that parents/cares can easily use it on smartphones
  • Add 400+ new communication activity and strategy ideas for parents/carers to use with their children
  • Create 20 videos demonstrating key strategy and activity ideas
  • Work with parents to ensure the site meets their needs

Why we are doing it

The existing Commtap resources site has over 1000 activity and strategy ideas on it for supporting and developing communication. These ideas have a simple structure and are quick and easy to use. However, many of them are designed for teaching staff in schools to use:

  • they are matched to scales used in education
  • they use materials that schools typically have (so additional expenditure is not usually necessary)

The project will extend the site to better include families of children with communication difficulties. We will:

  • create a parent-friendly scale for finding the ideas
  • adapt and create more ideas to use at home
  • keep the same simple-to-use format as for the existing ideas
  • update the site so people can view it properly on smartphones as this is how many people outside of education will view the site

We will design the ideas for parents/carers to access with or without help from a speech and language therapist or other communication specialist.

We will add a spread of ideas across communication levels and types. The activities will include ideas for language comprehension, expressive language, speech, and social skills.

Timeline

What we have done already

  • Created the overall plan for the project
  • Secured funding
  • Recruited a speech and language therapist to write the new activity/strategy ideas
  • Developed the specification for the mobile design of the site and engaged a software developer to do the work

What we are doing now

  • Beginning to write the new activities ideas

What we are doing next

  • Create the new mobile version of the site (eary 2021)
  • Engage a group of parents/carers of children with communication difficulties to help inform development of the site (early 2021)
  • Continue writing new activity/strategy ideas

Find out more

If you would like to find out more about the project, please drop us a line.

Making the Commtap resources site easier to use on mobile phones

As part of our project to make the Commtap resources site more accessible to parents of children with communication difficulties, we are developing the site to make it work well on mobile phones.

Here we show you what the new mobile version of the site could look like. This is how the site would appear on small screens, we are not changing the site for larger screens such as desktops and laptops.

Have a look through, and please do send us your comments (positive as well as negative please!)

Home page

Mobile home page

Every page will have a new bar at the top with links to the home page, login, favourite a page (heart icon), search, and menu (three lines you tap on to get the menu).

Search

If you tap on the search icon, the search box will be shown:

Mobile home page with search

Search results

The search results will look like this:

Search results for "shout" in the primary section

You will be able to scroll down the list of results. You will be able to choose a particular section of the site to search in, or the whole site.

Tap on the “Quick start” link to get to a list of resources quickly

Quick start

You can select the age range, the type of thing you are looking for, and an alternative scale.

Example of a list of activities

List of primary activities sheets - first page

An example of a list of supporting resources

Primary list of supporting resources - first page

An activities sheet

An activities sheet with communication ideas

You can change the scale by tapping on “Categorisation”. You can find other activities sheets and resources in the same section (Primary in this example) by tapping on “Guided search”. Tap on the heart icon to add the page to your list of favourites (if you are logged in).

Hamburger menu

When you tap on the “hamburger” icon (three lines at the top right of the screen), you will get a list of links:

Hamburger menu - list of links

What do you think?

Send us your comments

    Supporting children with communication difficulties in mainstream classes

    Contact: Neil Thompson

    For immediate release: 27th May 2020

    Selected mainstream schools will have the opportunity to get free support in using communication symbols with children with communication and learning difficulties in class.

    We are conducting a short survey to look at the range of general strategies that mainstream teachers use to support children who struggle to access lessons. These include children with communication, learning or literacy difficulties.

    Specialist teachers and speech and language therapists often recommend using visuals to support these children, and recent research backs up this recommendation (1). However it is often difficult for teachers to use this strategy effectively in practice. We are particularly keen to find out about teachers’ use of communication symbols and what barriers lie in the way of their use.

    Following on from the survey we hope to offer selected mainstream schools free support and software for using symbols in a way that can be easily and painlessly integrated into existing lesson planning and delivery.

    Fill in the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JS629YJ

    More information about the proposed project: https://home.commtap.org/2020/05/18/commtap-symbols-in-schools-project/

    Background information

    • The incidence of special educational needs amongst children across the UK is around 15% (2) (3) (4).
    • A typical classroom will have 3-4 children with a known special need which in many cases will impact on reading and/or communication.
    • Accessing lessons through text for these children will be difficult and can lead to disengagement from lessons.
    • As children return to school after months at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be even more important that strong supports are in place to help them with the new routine – communication symbols can play a key role in strengthening this support.
    • About communication symbols: https://en.commtap.org/additional-resource/symbols-overview-and-sources.

    Commtap CIC

    Commtap CIC is a not for profit company which supports those who support children and adults with communication difficulties.

    It does this through:

    ###

    References

    1. Evidence for the effectiveness of visual supports in helping children with disabilities access the mainstream primary school curriculum. Foster-Cohen, Susan and Mirfin-Veitch, Brigit. 2, s.l. : NASEN, 2017, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, Vol. 17, pp. 79-86.

    2. UK Government. National Statistics Special educational needs in England: January 2018. GOV.UK. [Online] 8 August 2018. [Cited: 3 July 2019.] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/special-educational-needs-in-england-january-2018.

    3. Scottish Government. School Pupil Census 2013. STATISTICS.GOV.SCOT. [Online] 2013. [Cited: 03 07 2019.] https://statistics.gov.scot/resource?uri=http%3A%2F%2Fstatistics.gov.scot%2Fdata%2Fschool-pupil-census.

    4. Wales Government. Special educational needs. StatsWales. [Online] 2016. [Cited: 3 July 2019.] https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Education-and-Skills/Schools-and-Teachers/Schools-Census/Pupil-Level-Annual-School-Census/Special-Educational-Needs.

    Commtap Symbols in Schools Project

    We are looking for schools who would be interested in taking part in an exciting project exploring the use of communication symbols in mainstream schools.

    Are you interested in (or concerned about) any of the following?

    • Being more easily able to differentiate lessons to include children with communication and/or learning difficulties.
    • Being more easily able to communicate the schedule and routines for all children in the class.
    • Having worksheets that work for both more and less able children in a class.
    • Easing children’s frustrations or anxieties from not knowing what to do/what’s going on.

    What we can offer:

    • A method for easily adding communication symbols to lesson materials created in PowerPoint (a free subscription for one year to the Commtap Symboliser for PowerPoint for as many staff as would like to use it).
    • Free training/support for your staff in using communication symbols in school.
    • Working with your school to work out what is and isn’t practical for you in terms of communication symbol use.
    • Working with your IT department to help get things set up in a way that best suits your school.

    What we would like from you:

    • Feedback about what is and isn’t helpful in terms of communication symbol use.
    • How practical it is using communication symbols.
    • If and how children have benefitted from the use of communication symbols.

    Who we are:

    Commtap CIC is a not for profit organisation which is a member of the Communication Consortium (commtap.org/tct). It was formed in 2005 by a group of specialist teachers and speech and language therapists. It provides a free website for sharing ideas for supporting children with communication difficulties and software to assist in this process (commtap.org).

    Complete the survey

    Fill in this short survey to let us know your views on strategies for supporting children with communication and learning difficulties including using communication symbols.

    Register your interest

    If you or your school are interested in participating in this project or if you would just like to find out more, please contact Neil.

    Phone 07986 356634 or 01905 571008.

    Translating face-to-face courses to online

    Summary

    In this post I describe my experiences of translating a face-to-face course I run to an online course.

    I have been running courses to teach people to support children using key word signs for a number of years (Signalong). These signs are used with normal spoken English to support people who have communication or learning difficulties. The course typically has around 12 participants. There is a mix of teaching to the whole class as well as lots of participation and activities which can also take place in small groups.

    The idea of taking the course online was a little daunting at first because the face-to-face course is so interactive. However, with a bit of thought, I found that I could translate every activity I would usually do in the face-to-face version to the online version.

    Here I tell you how I did it – starting with the software I used.

    Choosing a platform

    For this course, I used the Zoom platform. There are other platforms which may perform equally well. I use the terminology relating to Zoom in this post – if you are planning to use a different platform there should be equivalent features and controls in that.

    The features that I needed a platform to have (and Zoom has) are:

    • A mode where one person (for example the trainer) is taking up most of the screen no matter who is talking – in my case for when I was presenting new signs.
    • A mode where you can have all of the participants on the screen at the same time (called “Gallery mode” in Zoom) – so you can see what everyone is doing (signing in my case), and don’t risk forgetting that someone is there.
    • The ability to highlight individual students so that they take up the main part of the screen.
    • A way of splitting students into small groups and for you as the trainer to move from one group to another to see what students are doing. Zoom calls these “breakout rooms”.
    • A message window (chat) for sending messages to the whole class or to individual students – this is good for putting links to resources required for the class, uploading a resource for students to use, putting in information from a document which a student cannot open.
    • Security features appropriate for your situation (discussion below).

    Document sharing

    For handouts and documents, you can upload these via the chat, however I find it more convenient to use a service like Dropbox. You can give people a link to a folder in your Dropbox (or OneDrive, or Google Drive or whatever) – so they can download documents from there. Make sure it is a “read only” or “view only” link so that people can’t edit your originals! It is then very simple to add documents in there as you go along, and people can also download the handouts after the class. You can usually set these links to “expire” – so you could have it expiring shortly after a course finishes.

    I have a main folder where students will find the documents for the current class, and a sub-folder called “previous classes” where students can find the documents from previous classes.

    Preparing the course

    I strongly recommend trying everything out thoroughly before running a session. Try it out with friends or colleagues, or you can experiment by setting up a meeting between whatever devices you have and check out what it looks like from the point of view of the student and the trainer. In Zoom, you can switch who is in control of the meeting (the host) – so if you say have a phone and a laptop, you can experiment switching the host between each one so that you can see what it will look like for the respective roles on each device.

    What device should I use?

    I needed to see clearly what students were doing (their signs) – so if you need to see all your participants clearly you need to use something with a decent sized screen. In my case I needed to see people signing properly – that is from the waist to the top of the head: for a typical laptop, this means sitting around two metres or so away from the screen. I plugged a large monitor into my laptop when I ran the course so that I could get a really good picture of each person. I find with my set up with up to 12 people on a screen I get a good view of what people are doing (signs) and can correct them in the way I usually would. In fact one benefit is that as you don’t need to scan around as much as you would with a face-to-face course you can pick up more on what people are doing. If you don’t think you are going to get a good enough view of everyone in a class you might want to reduce the number of students.

    As a trainer, I wouldn’t recommend using a phone or a tablet (unless it’s a very large tablet) as you won’t be able to see your students properly.

    What device should your students use?

    A laptop is definitely preferable, if not, a tablet should work reasonably well. Even phones with good screens can work – as long as they can get a good view of you. They are not ideal if you want your students to have a clear view of what you are doing.

    Further comments about viewing students

    You may need to ask students to move themselves or their device so that you get a better view of them – but mostly I didn’t need to remind students to do this.

    In general lighting wasn’t an issue, however you should make sure you are lit clearly enough – and properly in view – so check your image in the gallery as well as the students.

    If you are running an interactive course like mine, and for a good screen – that is a large screen or screen with good resolution, I would suggest having up to 11 students in your class at one time (you will have 4 x 3 people on your screen). If you don’t have a large screen, I would suggest limiting it to 8 students (you will have 3 x 3 people on your screen including the tutor). I was typically getting 9 students on my course and that was fine – I also have a large screen which I plugged into my laptop. This of course depends on the type of course you are running and how much you need to be able to see your students properly – so you might be able to accommodate many more students in your class.

    Instructions for joining the course

    These are instructions I gave to students coming along to my course. You may of course want to vary it for yours. Some instructions are specific to Zoom, so modify to whatever platform you are using. I have added some comments in italics.


    It would be good if everyone could have a go at using Zoom before the course starts – so we can get going as quickly as we can.

    Use this link to join the class – it will be the same link each week:

    https://example.com/link-to-your-meeting

    Please do not share this link with anyone else.

    You *could* use a different meeting link each week, but that will almost certainly lead to confusion.

    On a laptop, it should walk you through downloading and installing the Zoom app.

    I highly recommend that you use a laptop, however, if you are on a phone (a tablet may be similar), it will probably ask you to open the URL with a browser (e.g. “Samsung Internet”). On the web page it takes you to, it will probably have a box at the top of the page for getting the app. If you are given a choice, Zoom meetings is the one you want. When you have got the app, it will probably ask you if you want to join a meeting – the meeting number to enter is 123456789.

    Test out joining the class in advance as a student to see what happens and create these instructions.

    Test it out!

    You can click to join the class at any time to see if it works. You can try it out with someone else who is also on the course so you can get a feel of what it’s like. If you want to test it out with me, message me and I will join at the same time.

    I gave the students the opportunity to try it out with me before the course. No-one needed to take me up on the offer however, and they all managed to join the course for real.

    If everyone is using the Wi-Fi at the same time at your place

    If there are a lot of people on the Wi-Fi at the same time where you are then the video may slow down. If you can, plug your device directly into the internet.

    Particularly during the lock-down, there is a lot of demand on Wi-Fi – especially in more densely populated areas. Lots of neighbours also on their Wi-Fi will also limit bandwidth. I recommend to all students to plug their device directly into the internet. For a laptop, this will require a LAN cable to connect to the router and LAN to USB adapter to plug into the laptop (if there is no LAN connector on the laptop). These are widely available.

    Position your device

    This might not be applicable to your course.

    I need to be able to see all of your signs – so make sure your device is just far enough away so that I can see all of your sign. (You will need both hands too).

    Any problems

    If something goes wrong, you can ring/text me on 01234 567890 (during the class as well).

    It’s always a good idea to give students another way of contacting you if things go wrong.


    Ensuring your students can get to the course

    This discussion applies to Zoom, but it will probably be similar for other platforms.

    You can set up a link for your class, email it around to your students, and they click on the link to join. The process is simple and it will step you through setting up any software – which takes no longer than a minute or two.

    Security

    There are different levels of security that you can apply – you should apply the appropriate level of security for your situation. Remember that the more security you apply, the more difficult it may be for some people to join – particularly for those who find IT challenging.

    At its simplest, the link you send round enables anyone with the link to join the course. If you are inviting specific people and you are only giving them the link, that should generally be fine. I have not needed to go past this level, but Zoom does have a lot more options:

    • You can add a separate passcode for the meeting – so they have to type that in when joining. For those who cannot manage that, you could send them a different link which has the passcode encrypted into it.
    • You can require that users register before the meeting. This is highly recommended.
    • You can “enable a waiting room”, meaning that when people come through to the meeting they are only let in if you click to let them in. For this feature to be really effective, you need to know who will be coming to your course, and let participants know that they should use the same display name for the meeting as the one they used when signing up.
    • Another feature is to “lock the meeting” – so that no-one else can join the meeting from that point on.

    Note: on Zoom from 19th July 2020 it is mandatory to set a passcode or enable a meeting room when setting up meetings.

    You should never share a meeting link to your course publicly.

    Internet connection

    As mentioned in the comments in the joining instructions above, and especially during the lockdown period, if people can connect to the internet directly that will reduce the likelihood of a slow connection due to the Wi-Fi being overloaded.

    So far in the course the connection has been good for most people most of the time. You should of course make sure you have a good connection – and you can’t really run the course if you don’t. On the other hand, you can’t be held responsible for someone else’s poor connection – apart from giving them the suggestions mentioned above – and making that clear in any pre-course information. That having been said, it’s probably a good idea to be prepared to offer an extra session to cover for any significant lost time due to connection problems.

    Suggestions for translating various types of training activities

    Presenting new information to the whole class

    What usually happens

    • Students focus on the trainer.
    • Trainer demonstrates something to the students.
    • Students have a go at whatever is demonstrated, tutor observes the class.

    How to do it online

    • The tutor “spotlights” themself – this means the focus always stays on them for the students – even when students are speaking. (Without being spotlighted, the focus jumps to whoever is speaking).
    • Students should use the “presenter” view in Zoom – this is where one person fills most of the screen.
    • Tutor views students in gallery mode – ideally on a larger screen – so they can see clearly what everyone is doing.

    Group work – students presenting different information to each other

    What usually happens

    An activity in small groups, where students present something from information only they have.

    In the Signalong course, there is an activity where students in small groups take it in turns to take a card with a sentence printed on it. They then sign what’s on the card without speaking and the other students in the group try and work out what was signed.

    How to do it online

    Prepare the information you need to give to individual students in advance. Have the documents available in a shared online folder (see above). I find using such a folder is convenient – and reduces the amount of faff for the trainer in the session. You can also share documents via the chat (takes a bit longer). Probably best to use PDF documents – people can generally open these even if they don’t have any Office software. I wanted each student in each group to have a different document (set of sentences for them to sign in this case), so I had documents labelled set1, set2, set3 …

    You could share the pieces of information with individual students by pasting them into the chat – but reserve this only for the students who can’t open the documents for some reason – it takes too long to do this for every student, and it is easy to get confused about who has been given what.

    In the class put students in groups using Zoom breakout rooms. You can have Zoom do this automatically – you choose how many groups you want. You can also assign people to groups manually. You can also move people from one group to another at any time.

    Give students instructions to do the activity. Tell them that they should assign each person in their group to use a different set – set1, set2 and so on. I gave the students the link to the shared folder so they could get whatever set they needed from that.

    After giving all the instructions and answering any questions, “open” the breakout rooms. Students are then invited to go into the “rooms”. Once in a room they only see the other students in that room, they can also only use the chat to communicate with individuals in that room – or they can send a message to everyone – so they can get the tutor’s attention in that way if they need it – but it’s not possible to send a chat message privately to an individual in a different room.

    Quickly join each room in succession to make sure all the students have managed to access the documents they need. If a student can’t get the document they need, ask them which set they needed, and then copy and paste it from that set into their personal chat. Note you can only do this for text – not images.

    You can then go from room to room to observe what the students are doing and give any assistance they might need just like you might do in a face-to-face class.

    Paired activity in the whole class

    What usually happens

    In the Signalong class there is an activity where students are arranged in two lines facing each other, the tutor shows them a sentence on the screen, students sign across to their opposite number – with or without speaking.

    How to do this type of activity online

    • Make sure students are in gallery mode.
    • Pair students up: do this by calling out names in the gallery.
    • Students are instructed that they must focus on the other person in their pair.
    • Each person in the pair should make sure they can see the other person on their screen. Students can stay in gallery mode, or, they could go into “presenter” mode and choose to pin the person they are paired with – they will get that person taking up most of their screen.
    • Ensure students have enabled and can see the chat box.
    • Copy and paste any information you need to give to the students in the chat box (in my case, these were sentences for the students to sign).
    • Give feedback as required.

    Working on a shared document

    You can do this for the whole class – and use the screen sharing option to share a document with everyone. Individuals in breakout rooms can also do this. You could for example have a document in the shared folder for people to download and use in their breakout room. Ensure that at least one student in each room is able to open and edit a copy of the document.

    Small group of students presenting to the whole class

    You may want your students to prepare something in small groups in the breakout rooms and then come back and present to the whole class. In my case these were short plays which they had to sign.

    There are a couple of ways of doing this. You could use presenter mode and encourage the other students to use presenter mode – that way whoever is speaking will be displayed as the main person on the screen.

    You might however want to see all the students from the group doing their presentation at the same time, but no-one else. To do this – and to get it showing like this for everyone (not just you):

    • Everyone go to video settings and choose “Hide participants who have their video turned off” (or similar option). Without this setting, if someone’s video is turned off it is shown as a box with their name in it.
    • When it comes to a group doing a presentation, everyone (including the tutor) but except those presenting should choose “stop video” for themselves. You will then be left with just those who are presenting on the screen.
    • Everyone’s audio can still be heard (so people can applause!). After the presentation, everyone can turn their video back on again.

    Physically demonstrating something – for example on a table

    You might want to physically demonstrate something to your students – perhaps it involves moving items around on a table for example. But you still want people to be able to see you, and you still want to be able to view them on your screen. You can do this by setting up another device – for example, a phone – which has a view of whatever it is you want to show. I will describe how I set this up using a phone.

    • Set up a phone as another Zoom “attendee” – and position it above a table so you have a view of the table. (Join the meeting from that phone by going to the meeting link).
    • Set the phone so that it is showing a landscape rather than portrait image – that way you are maximising the size of the picture that will show in Zoom.
    • This is how I set it up:
    • The books are sitting on the edge of the phone to stop it falling off the desk.
    • I have seen an arrangement where a phone is sandwiched between two tins of beans.
    • Best to set up your phone before the session and leave it on – as it can be hard to get to the controls. Also probably best to have it plugged into the charger as if you get to this bit an hour into the session your phone may have run out of battery (constant video uses a lot!).
    • Set the phone to join with video but without audio (otherwise you will get some weird feedback noise sounding a bit like a science fiction film): as a host you can always turn its audio off from your computer if you’ve already set the phone up and can’t get to the screen.
    • As you may not be able to easily get to your phone controls when it is set up to turn off the video when you don’t need it, I put some black card on the table covering what was there when not in use. Don’t turn off the video from the host, because if you need to turn it on again you will have to get back to the phone’s screen to do that.

    Activity where students need to take it in turns in a group

    What usually happens

    Go round a circle with students taking it in turns to say something, present something etc.

    How to do it online

    Make sure everyone can see each other on the screen (gallery mode in Zoom). Typically the order of participants you see on your screen may not be the same as the order on other people’s screens. The order can also change – for example if someone temporarily drops their connection.

    This is what you can do.

    Ensure you have allowed participants to change their names in the session. Give each person in turn a number, and ask them to rename themselves so the number appears before their name – for example “6. Harriet Smith”. You can then carry out the activity and people can take their turns (by following the number order) without you needing to call them out.

    Questions and answers, discussions

    Use the normal/default mode: that is no-one is spotlighted, and the focus jumps to whoever is speaking. For the tutor, gallery mode will usually be preferred to help check if anyone is being left out of the discussion.

    Good luck with your course!

    Help and support

    If you would like some support in using these techniques for your training, please do get in touch using the contact form below. There is no charge for this, however if you find the support useful, please make a donation to Commtap.

      British Keyword Signing

      Keyword signing is a method of communication where signs are used with keywords when speaking. This method is used with and by people with a range of communication difficulties to improve understanding of spoken language and to make it easier to express themselves.

      Keyword signing systems

      In the UK, there are two main proprietary keyword signing systems – Makaton and Signalong. Both these systems use signs based on British Sign Language (BSL). Key features of these sign systems:

      • Signs are based on BSL.
      • In general, one sign is chosen to represent a concept and, unlike BSL, there are no regional variations.
      • In some cases, signs may be simplified in comparison to the original BSL sign.
      • In some cases, where an appropriate sign does not exist in BSL, a sign may be created within a system – usually – or always – with the advice of a BSL consultant.

      Differences between keyword signing and BSL

      BSL is a language

      BSL is a complete language with a grammar and word order which is different from English. It is not possible to sign in BSL and speak English at the same time. BSL is used between and with people who are deaf.

      Finger spelling

      Finger spelling is often used in BSL. In general, finger spelling is not used in keyword signing systems. Finger spelling requires a high level of manual dexterity and can be difficult to read without good literacy. As many of those using keyword signing may have difficulties with one or both of these skills, finger spelling will not usually be helpful in enhancing their communication.

      Sign Supported English

      Sign Supported English (SSE) may also be used instead of BSL. With SSE, English is spoken whilst using signs from BSL. SSE may be used in mixed groups of deaf and non-deaf people, or it may be a person’s preference. When using SSE, much of the grammar of BSL is not used (particularly word order) – meaning that some information may be lost, or it may be harder to get over some information.

      Although keyword signing is a form of SSE, it will sign less of the spoken language, may miss out more information that is otherwise clear from the context, would not use finger-spelling (except perhaps a minimal amount – one or two letters).

      Regional variations

      BSL (and BSL SSE) vary across the countries where they are used. There may be many different signs for a single concept – and the sign that is used predominantly for a concept can vary from place to place. Keyword signing systems have one sign to represent one concept for the vast majority of concepts. This makes them easier to learn and more usable between different contexts and settings.

      Key principles of keyword signing

      • Always speak at the same time as signing.
      • Sign the most important words in what you are saying.
      • Sign the minimum amount to get key information over – where people are having difficulties processing spoken language signing too much can be confusing.

      Resources

      Learning to sign keywords

      To use keyword signing effectively, it is highly recommended that you attend a course. Both Makaton and Signalong run courses in using keyword signing.

      Finding signs

      You can purchase sign manuals and dictionaries from Makaton and Signalong. Makaton offers an app where you can look up signs. Signalong has an online sign dictionary and also sign lookup text message service. Free online dictionary of Makaton and Signalong signs.

      SignBSL.com is a fantastic source of BSL signs. Signs included here include signs used in the main keyword signing systems currently in use in the UK – but it also includes many signs which aren’t.

      My first Office programme code

      The Commtap symboliser and Eye Gaze Communication Book Maker programmes use code (VBA – Visual Basic for Applications) which has been added to Microsoft Office. Virtually anyone with a Microsoft Office product can create VBA code. Here’s how.

      1. Close any open PowerPoint documents.
      2. Create a new PowerPoint document.
      3. Enable the “Developer” tab:
        • Right click on a blank space on the ribbon and choose “Customize the Ribbon…”.
        • In the list of Main Tabs on the right, scroll down to “Developer” and click on the box next to it to get a tick in it.
        • Click on “OK” at the bottom.
      4. Create some code:
        • Click on the “Developer” tab.
        • Click on “Visual Basic”.
        • In the menu on the left, right click on “VBAProject (Presentation1)” and go to Insert -> Module.
        • On the left, you will see “Module1” has appeared – double click on it.
        • In the white area on the right, type the following – exactly as it appears here:
      Option Explicit
      Sub MyCode()
        MsgBox "Hello everybody!"
      End Sub
      1. Click on “MyCode”, then press “F5” or “fn” and “F5” together on your keyboard.

      You should get a message box popping up saying “Hello everybody!”. Click on “OK” on the box to get rid of it.

      Of course, this is just a very quick introduction to VBA. There are loads of sites and books which you can use to learn more.

      Downloading and using a symbol set to use with the Commtap Symboliser in PowerPoint

      If you are using the Commtap Symboliser for PowerPoint, to get the full benefit you will need to add at least one symbol set.

      As an example, I will show you how to download and use the large and free Arasaac symbol set.

      Follow on in the video above, or follow the steps below:

      1. In the Commtap Symboliser group, click on “Preferences”.
      2. In the box, click on “Get more symbols”. This takes you to the “Symbol Sets” page on the Commtap Symboliser website.
      3. Scroll down to “Arasaac Symbols” and  click on the link to get it from the Commtap resources website. You can also download it from Arasaac – but this version includes more words. The symbol set can be used for non-commercial purposes.
      4. Scroll down and click on download.
      5. Choose to save the file. This may take a few minutes.
      6. Find the file you downloaded. Right click on it and choose “Extract all…” and then “Extract”. This will take a minute or two.
      7. Move the new folder called “Arasaac colour” (not the zip file) to somewhere safe on your computer.
      8. Go back to PowerPoint. In the Symboliser preferences box, click on “Create Word List from Folder”.
      9. Browse to the folder you just copied. Click on OK, and then on OK again: this tells PowerPoint where to find all the picture symbols in the set you just downloaded.
      10. Enable the new symbol list by clicking in the box next to its name. Close the preferences box.
      11. You can now symbolise words using the new symbol set.