PODD Success after initially “Not Getting It”

PODDtastic Guest Blog by Kate Ahern

Over the past few years, the Spectronics team have been impressed by the inspiring work of Kate Ahern – A US-based special education teacher who compiles the informative Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Blog – a great repository of useful articles, resources and ideas for teacher of students with severe and multiple disabilities.

We particularly liked her recent post describing her journey to successful communication for her students using the PODD communication system developed by Gayle Porter. So, with Kate’s permission, we added it to the Spectronics Blog in a post titled “PODDtastic!”.

In her article Kate wrote the following.

“The PODD or Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display is a both a method of communication/method of teaching communication and a set of manual communication books. PODD was created by Gayle Porter in Australia. PODD materials are arranged especially to be used for social interactions (pragmatically).  Messages in the PODD flow from one page to the next by way of page numbers that guide the user through a conversation.  So a conversation can move easily through conversational turns.

I will be the first to admit that I did not “get” PODD when I first read about it. It seemed cumbersome and indirect.  I disliked how the same symbols may be in different places on different pages (being the big believer in motor learning that I am).  I thought some of the language was too immature for my high school students.  And finally when I saw it in action it did not work. Our SLP attempted to implement it with another student in the classroom but it was not successful, mostly because we were not using it receptively with the student.  The PODD book ended up sitting in the student’s cubby unused until it landed in our drawer of abandoned communication aides.

Then I went to Linda Burkhart’s workshop at the ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) Conference  in January.  Wow!  First of all if you ever get the chance to attend a workshop Linda Burkhart presents you should go. Second of all, it is seeing videos of PODD in action that really “sells” it for use with our students.  The first thing I did when I came home from the conference was apologize to our SLP.  The second thing was to lay out a plan to introduce PODD into my classroom.” 

We especially liked the following two comments after we posted Kate’s article onto the Spectronics Blog.

  • “I have always wanted to try PODD with my students, but it was overwhelming. This article gave me the courage to try it!”
  • “Thanks so much for this inspiring BLOG. I have just attended Gayle Porter’s workshop in Brisbane and have introduced some early functions PODDs to some of my clients. This BLOG was great to keep me inspired and enthusiastic. Thanks so much.”

Kate mentions a video in her Blog – but we also think these totally heart-warming videos of Callaghan from Broken Hill in far west NSW, just two years old and successfully using PODD to communicate are amazing to watch. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

PODD – How old are you?
Callaghan 2.5 years old uses his PODD to answer the question ‘How old are you?’

PODD – Describe dish
Callaghan is 2 years 7 months old. Watch him navigate through his PODD book to communicate a message about the dish in front of him.

PODD – I can write my whole name!
Callaghan 2 years 8 months navigates the PODD to spell out his whole name – only a week after spelling out ‘Cal’!

Looking forward to seeing the PODD framework on a speech generating device once Gayle has time to move forward on this project too!

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About Barbara Landsberg

Sales and Marketing Director
BOccThy, MBA

Barbara is an Occupational Therapist who joined the Spectronics team 14 years ago. Prior to that time, she spent 17 years in occupational therapy positions working with adults and children with a variety of physical disabilities and learning difficulties. She also held the position of Coordinator of the assistive technology service of the Independent Living Centre of Queensland for three years before moving to Spectronics. On completion of her Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in 2010, she assumed the role of Sales and Marketing Director at the company and, among other roles, oversees running of the exciting and innovative Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference hosted every two years by Spectronics.

Barbara has a strong interest in the opportunities for students with disabilities or learning difficulties made possible through technology. She is also a passionate advocate of the use of social media tools to promote the power of inclusive learning technologies to enable independent achievement for all – whatever form that achievement might take.

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