Saturday, February 3, 2018

Invictus Enterprises ... 'Unconquered'

Inspiration comes in many forms …. and for me …. a visit to Invictus Enterprises offered it up ‘in spades’! 

Invictus Enterprises is attempting to create jobs for young adults in the autism community. They are currently using the task of making gourmet dog biscuits as a vehicle for their job training program. They are teaching trainees to become increasingly more independent, pacing themselves through job tasks using a digital recipe. The end goal for the program is job training and ultimately employment … but  it is very evident when you visit their program that enhancing social interaction is pivotal to their underlying philosophy.

The enterprise is spearheaded by the dynamo team of Alison Berkley and Molly Sebastian. Allison is a teacher by profession with a background in psychology. Molly works professionally in television & production and brings additional passion to this project as the mother of a child functioning on the spectrum. The combination of their skill sets is definitely a ‘recipe for success’.

Photos Derived from Website



On their website  https://www.invictusenterprises.org/nobonesaboutit/ they have numerous fabulous videotapes that successfully impart the excitement and camaraderie of this exceptional program. In particular check out their ‘music video’!

Every Saturday these powerhouse ladies (Alison Berkley and Molly Sebastian) get together with a team of dedicated volunteers in a commercial kitchen setup in the heart of Manhattan to provide their ‘trainees’ with ‘hands on’ experience making No Bones About It Dog Biscuits. The resulting gourmet dog biscuits are sold online and at various pet stores https://www.invictusenterprises.org/nobonesaboutit/

The team was just recently granted ‘a wish’ by Microsoft for several touchscreen-enabled laptops (Surface Book 2) to display their digital recipe (Microsoft PowerPoint). In a very competitive field of 10,000 submissions …  they were selected as one of three wishes awarded. To say that this team is ‘getting things done’ in a creative way is an understatement.

For the new calendar year, the Invictus team have set their sights on expanding their training program to include trainees with greater communication challenges. I was thrilled to be asked to make a series of Animated Step-by-Steps® to support them in their attempts to expand their community. 

As is the case with all Animated Step-by-Steps®, the text directions are broken down into smaller manageable units, each supported by an animation. The trainee/facilitator reads the text up to the star then swipes to the left to bring in a supporting animation. For the expanded roster of trainees, this altered format is a great way to scaffold comprehension skills. 


For individuals who can benefit from symbol support, an alternate version was created to enhance receptive and expressive communication using picture symbols. As is the case with all Animated Step-by-Steps®,  symbol support is added as a group after the page has been read and animated. This strategy is designed to minimize visual overload and support a ‘literacy first’ agenda.  The page can then be ‘reread’ using the symbols or volunteer staff can use the symbols to provide the Aided Language Stimulation needed to mediate the task at hand.



I love the fact that the team assumes competence. In the words of the founders of  Invictus Enterprises  … ‘lack of spoken language is not the same as having nothing to say’

Invictus Enterprises lives up to its name …  ‘unconquered’  (in Latin). I’m thrilled to have a small part in this exciting project!

…’til the next post … 

Visit my website   http://animatedstep-by-steps.com
Follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/@AnimStepbySteps
Follow me on facebook www.facebook.com/AnimatedStepBySteps
Email me canadiangoosse@gmail.com

©2018 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Vest Displays!


I have been using Vest Displays (Songs, Poems and Stories) during Preschool Circle Time for years.
Although they may be labor intensive to construct, they seem to have a long 'shelf life' if constructed with care.

A resource entitled, Guidelines for Constructing Vest Displays provides in depth information on constructing Vest Displays. This resource also includes a PowerPoint Vest Display Template that can be used to construct Vest Displays for your own favorite songs.
As this is a PowerPoint resource, it can be used to provide inservice training. 

http://bit.ly/VestDisplayGuidelines 






Vest Displays are a great way to add visual and symbol support to the Circle Time routine. As they provide a strong central focus, children seem to be more engaged when a vest display is being used to scaffold the songs being sung. Vest Displays are typically 14” tall by 13” wide and are ‘worn’ by the Facilitator on a Velcro-receptive apron or vest (http://www.nationalautismresources.com/pecs-apron.html). They consist of a base display (made from black poster/railroad board) and several tiles (5” tall by 13” wide) with symbols representing the lines of the song/poem. The tiles are joined at the bottom with hinged snap rings/plastic comb or spiral binding and are held together at their top center edge with a small patch of Velcro. They are interactive by design, with manipulatives velcroing on to the scene or being moved within the scene.


The vest display format has the distinct advantage of consolidating the visual focus by presenting the communication content in line with the facilitator’s face. Vest Displays seem to be especially helpful for children who are cognitively young or students on the Autism Spectrum. 






Although I love using Animated Step-by-Step Songs (ASbySs) during Circle Time, many preschool classrooms don’t have interactive whiteboards. Animated Step-by-Step Songs are being used in these classrooms … but they are being using at other times during the day with individual or pairs of students seated around the computer monitor or one-on-one with an iPad. They are typically used with a shared remote switch either wired or wireless to trigger the animations. ASbyS have the distinct advantage of providing a greater literacy component while providing page-specific picture symbols that allow classroom staff or families to easily conduct Aided Language Stimulation while singing the display.

In most of my classrooms we are using both low tech vest song displays and high tech Animated Step-by-Step Songs. The duplicity of content seems to be working to our advantage. 

I’ve recently added eight Vest Displays with Picture Communication Symbols (Tobii/Dynavox) to the Bloom Where You’re Planted Store on the Teachers Pay Teachers site. They can be accessed using the Vest Display category on the far left of the store. They are a single .pdf file that includes the graphics for the scene, manipulatives that interface with the scene, the symbol lines that are glued front and back on to the tiles and a chart for pasting symbol lines on your tiles. Some displays also include Dual=Representation symbols that are used with songs that have a slot-filler format, e.g., the animals in Down on Grandpa’s Farm. Dual=Rep symbols are great for promoting differentiated instruction. The materials are printed on legal size paper and are laminated (after they are cut out) to ensure longevity.






A free resource called PowerPoint Song Launch can be downloaded from the TpT site. This resource allows you to offer song choices with voice-output to your students during your Circle Time routine. The student is first required to pick a song from a field of 8 songs. Upon selecting a song the program navigates to a larger version of the choice which announces the song with voice-output when pressed. This resource can be displayed large on your interactive whiteboard or can be imported into the Microsoft PowerPoint app of your iPad. There is also a page with alternate color coding systems that you can substitute (just cut and paste) on to the launch page. They are already loaded with sound.




https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/PowerPoint-Song-Launch-PCS-3568002

Hope you enjoy using this new product line during your Circle Time!



…’til the next post … 

Visit my website   http://animatedstep-by-steps.com
Follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/@AnimStepbySteps
Follow me on facebook www.facebook.com/AnimatedStepBySteps
Email me canadiangoosse@gmail.com

©2017 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator