TeachTown was designed to be used in the home, clinic, or school setting - preferably in all of these so that the entire team can stay up to date on the child’s program. To use the TeachTown: Basics program in a home setting, you should first sign-up for an account and evaluate the child’s starting skills. TeachTown: Basics includes a questionnaire which you need to fill out on each child before starting - if you are unsure of the answers to any of these questions, you should quit out of the software and test your child on these skills so that the software program will accurately place your child where he or she needs to be to get started. Once you have completed the ranking questionnaire and identified who on your team will be working with the program, you should add those people as facilitators and have everyone take a look at the program and practice sending notes to each other before having the child begin using the software. You should also print out some of the initial off-computer generalization activities so that you can begin using those when you start the program with the child. Next, you and your team should determine how many hours a week you will use the TeachTown program and how that will fit into the child’s other programs and services. Keep in mind that TeachTown was designed to be on and off computer - you should plan a 50:50 ratio - for every 10 minutes the child uses the computer, you should have a minimum of 10 minutes planned for off computer naturalistic activities.
To start the child on the program, you must first determine whether or not the child can use the mouse. If not, you will either need to purchase a touch screen monitor or teach the child to use the mouse (I recommend easy computer programs that are repetitive - they do not need to be instructional). You can also use the “virtual touchscreen” technique which I have done with my child at home.
Once your child is using the mouse or touchscreen, he or she is pretty much ready to get started. I recommend starting with 10-minute sessions on the computer with an adult present. Having the adult present is critical in the beginning to identify any problems, but I recommend sitting with the child whenever possible as our research suggests this might create language and social opportunities! When the child is done with their session, be sure to enter in session notes while it is still fresh in your mind.
For off-computer activities, do these throughout the day in 10-minute chunks at first. Be sure to enter in session notes into the computer about the off-computer activities so that you have a nice record of your child’s program.
As your child becomes more familiar with using the program, you can increase the session times on and off the computer to whatever level you feel is appropriate for your child. Stay tuned for more postings about the particular domains and using the off-computer generalization activities.