Friday, May 03, 2013

Devin's Speech Project

February 21, 2013 to present,

Meet Devin Ramsdell he was born September 18th 2009, Devin is almost six now. Devin is mostly a good boy, like every kid he has good and bad days. Devin however had an issue that not all kids have, he was diagnosed with speech apraxia. While testing confirmed he is very smart, he had significant difficulty speaking. Most kids with apraxia know their words, they just can't say them right. Speech problems are not uncommon for kids Devin's age and they can range from very mild to severe. Speech apraxia is just one of many things that can delay or complicate speech development in children. Autism, hearing issues and vision issues are among some of the other problems that can contribute to speech development delays or difficulties.

Like other kids, Devin's issue with the speech apraxia was that he was able to hear and understand the words, but was unable to reproduce the sounds necessary to speak them.

Apraxia is sort of like dyslexia of speech.

With intervention the prognosis for kids with this disorder is generally good. Most schools test for and provide preschool programs to help children with this issue, however many schools face budget issues and federal, state and local funding are being cut to schools. These programs are in peril of being cut back or curtailed as many governments face crisis. Private insurance is also limiting or eliminating coverage, which it sees as voluntary and non-medical conditions. So many parents and there kids with these conditions who could realize positive outcomes are finding there are less resources available depending on income and insurance.

Devin unfortunately fell into this category. Despite a medical diagnosis, insurance denied his claim. Devin attends a public preschool program. Only because his speech development was considered enough of a problem to qualify; but many children who are borderline or undiagnosed are often turned away and denied access to proper care. Children who do not receive intervention may eventually recover and speak better; but most are often educationally and socially behind there peers. A slow start often leads to low self-esteem intellectual and developmental problems that put the child behind in life.

Click here to see YouTube Video Of Devin's Verbal Skills 09/26/12 

This was the motivation behind Devin's speech project. It was created in an effort to help Devin with his speech and eventually maybe even some other at risk kids. There are a number of resources and programs out there, but this project attempts to create just another free option. Hopefully, to help parents and children who either have no resources or are looking for an additional ways to help. Most of the speech programs available are somewhat flashcard based and while helpful, they can be limited on the number of sounds they help the child practice.  We were using some of other pay and free speech therapy programs that are considered the standards in speech therapy.  Some of these are programs are rather expensive.  After looking at and using these free and pay programs, it seemed a simple presentation program could be created that would surpass some of the speech programs that were available.  So, I just started doing extra slides some of which had moving pictures and animations to supplement sounds he was struggling with.  Devin soon found other speech programs boring and liked the slides we were creating better. This meant he would "work on words" longer, so this project was born.

Devin's Speech Project focuses on repeating each sound several times and uses randomly animated slides.

The idea behind this effort was to create a more interactive program that really focused on the different sounds. It also has randomly animated graphics and sentences that keep attention focused and pulls the child in. We also wanted more than a just a few flashcards or images for each sound we were working on.  For each sound we attempted to combine a sentence that also used the sound several times whenever possible. Some letters and sounds lend themselves to this easier than others. Devin's Speech Program is designed with only with improving a kid's speech in mind. The words are not always ones the child might encounter but will help work on the sound trying to be mastered. Comprehension is a secondary concern, and while the program is not a reading or vocabulary program it appears to have the side effect of helping with both. This program was not developed by a speech pathologist or speech therapist. Just a dad looking for additional tools to "work on words", there are over 50 separate presentations and 1250 slides. It may or may not work with every child but it really helped Devin and so we make it available to others for free.

The ultimate the goal of helping one child has been already met.

Click here to see YouTube video of Devin on 9/19/13 one day after his fourth birthday.

Devin showed phenomenal improvement during the time we put this project together. On a purely subjective scale, if we were at 10% to 15% age appropriate speech in January 2013, he was at about 90% of age appropriate speech about 12-18 months later. The cause of Devin's progress is not only this project to be fair.  First off, he is older now. Secondly, we also paid for speech therapy and he was also lucky enough to go to preschool because of his speech issues. Still, the effects of the project are undeniable. They were noticed by his speech therapist and others at the time. His progress was significantly ahead of what would have been normally expected during this time frame.

We still continue to look to find ways to share this effort and help other kids.

We hope Devin's story will help others in raising awareness and helping get resources to parents and children. Right now this project relies on a proactive participating parent working with the child. We feel that early intervention is critical to increase successful outcomes, and you should seek professional help if you believe there is a problem with a child's speech. We may someday add speech and sound to eventually make the program completely self directed by the child. If you have questions on issues with the project itself there is a section on "technical stuff" towards the bottom of this page. If all else fails you can contact us, most people seem to get it to work without to much issue.

We have also set up Devin Speech Project sites on both Facebook and Google Plus, these sites look to offer support to parents and children, as well as sharing both information and resources for speech difficulties. Check back here or follow us one one of the social media sites for the latest additions and updates. You can also follow this project on Twitter where our handle is @ARamsdell41018.  Please consider sharing any or all of this this information with others. We would always love to hear your feedback on how to improve this project. Tell us about your child's specific situation or about any information you would like us to share with other children that struggle with speech issues.

The actual project and it's presentations are at the links below.

Devin's Speech Project is at:

To view or download Devin's Speech Project presentations at Dropbox (Click Here)

Devin's Speech Project's presentations now available on Box (Click Here) 

Download Devin's Speech Project using Google Drive (Click Here)

Devin's Speech Project's You-Tube Channel (Click Here)

See project overview and practice notes for the project guide

Some of the comments we have received are here.

Related Books Articles and Other Resources

Like us on Facebook here

Devin's Speech Project and Selective Mutism.

Today what Devin works on a separate condition called Selective Mutism. Selective Mutism is an social anxiety disorder that makes children often totally unable to speak. Devin speaks very well and quite lot at home, but is working on developing confidence to speak in other settings. We still continue to work on his project even though his speech has improved. The project itself is not geared to help with Selective Mutism other than it can help build confidence it the ability to speak correctly. There is no research that indicates any link between Apraxia on Selective Mutism but we feel with Devin it very well may have been a contributing factor.

Many parents, teachers, doctors do not understand that Selective Mutism is a debilitating social anxiety that goes well beyond shyness. Often some professionals dismiss it as shyness and something kids will grow out of. This can lead to increasing and significant difficulty in adolescence and adulthood. Using social media we try to raise awareness of this problem for children, again believing that early intervention is critical to achieving positive outcomes. There are links and resources on Devin's Speech Project's social media sites and we look to expand this area on this site in the coming weeks. 

Our YouTube Video of the Moment:

Understanding and Managing Selective Mutism a Video by AnxietyBC is our latest video of the moment. Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder that is diagnosed when a child consistently does not speak in some situations, but speaks comfortably in other situations. This 10 minute short video explains selective mutism and shows the viewer effective strategies for treating children with this disorder. The strategies presented in this video can be used by caregivers, teachers, and friends in various settings. We look to share videos that we feel can help others and raise awareness this is our video of the moment.  Please let us know of any videos or resources you feel can help in this effort.

Our other cause of the moment.

Our cause of the moment is local libraries. We support local libraries to help promote literacy.

Can reading to a child help those who are struggling with communication disorders or with literacy skills?  I believe so...

App of the moment:

Endless Alphabet

This is the first and only for pay app we have ever recommended, and is worth all three of the dollars spent. The letters make their sounds as you put the in place in the word.  If your child does the letters in order they also learn to spell. Clever animations and celebrations keep up the interest. Devin and his sister Hannah both love this app. We will change the "app of the moment" as we find other resources we like and want to share. Please share any you feel might help others.

Article of the Moment:

The Effectiveness of Language Facilitation (Link)

The like above is a great article from ASHA and an essential strategy for working with all children. It discusses the role of the parent/teacher in teaching language development.  We will change the "article of the moment" as we find other news or stories we like and want to share. Please share any you feel might help.

Devin's Speech Project - The Technical Stuff:

Adobe Flashplayer:

The animations in the project will not run unless you have Adobe Flashplayer or some equivalent.
On my android tablet they did not run but on our computers they did. The experience is better with the animations, and it would be better to keep the child engaged.  This was never a deal breaker with Devin.

Adobe Flashplayer can be downloaded here for Windows's P.C. (free).


The project was created for and with Dropbox. You can sign up using the link below, if you install Dropbox on your computer, will get an additional bonus space of 500 MB. So will Devin's Speech Project. This will be helpful for the project when as it begins to add speech to the project which will have larger file sizes.

If you are not already a Dropbox user, please consider signing up by clicking here.

Update: September 2014

There have been recent upgrades to Dropbox. The new version of Dropbox opens up the presentations in a preview mode which does not format to the screen of some tablets and computers correctly. While in this preview mode there is an "open with" option which you can use to open the presentations in PowerPoint, Kingsoft  or other presentation software.

I wish there was a way to disable the preview mode in Dropbox but as of now there is not. I am contacting Dropbox to express my unhappiness. I don't know of any other work around at this point. This does not effect Google Drive and I may look for other ways to share the project. I will keep you updated.

To view or download Devin's Speech Project presentations at Dropbox (Click Here)

Google Drive:

Google Drive is a similar service to Dropbox. We have put the Google Drive link back up due to some recent issues with Dropbox. Dropbox is still easier for most people.

To download Devin's Speech Project using Google Drive (Click Here)


Box is another file sharing site that is quickly becoming one of the best on the internet. We have not had any issues on yet.  You will still need a presentation program to properly run the project. Which is why we recommend either PowerPoint (part of Microsoft Office) or Kingsoft Presentation(Freeware).

Devin's Speech Project's presentations now available on Box (Click Here) 


The goal of Devin's Speech Project is to be totally free. The best way to use the project still is to download the files and run in Excel or an equivalent like Kingsoft. The presentations were created and run on Kingsoft's Presentation Freeware but should run on any application that supports PowerPoint files. We would recommend Kingsoft's Presentation freeware given its price if you do not have Microsoft Office. The program can be viewed best as pictures or presentations with animations in a PowerPoint viewer via Dropbox. They can be downloaded to any computer, laptop or tablet for a much better viewing experience. To see the animations that are in the project, the presentation files will have to be downloaded and played in a device that supports PowerPoint files and has Adobe Flashplayer.

Kingsoft's Presentation Freeware can be for free downloaded here.

Kingsoft Office is now available for Apple products for free at this page.

Note to Apple users:

A few people have had issues with the I-pad and the I-phone, while most others have not. We saw an I-pad that was playing the animations correctly but the presentation was cut off at the bottom. The animations seem to generally work on I-pads with adobe flash-player installed.  If anyone can help with the easiest and most correct way to view this a presentation program using apple products, please share your best practices.  We use P.C. and Android tablet, and this works great on both, we can't really help so much with Apple stuff.  Still, by the numbers we get, 51% of users are on a Apple platform.  So many Apple users are using this project, which means people are figuring it out.  Maybe someone can send us some pointers.  Please send help to the e-mail address above.

Always feel free to e-mail us at

Examples of the project are below:


Everything in the presentations was put together using freeware and was focused on images and animations from open source and free public sites. This is because we want to make the project available for free. Every effort has been taken to respect copyrights and an artist's wishes. Thousands of images and animations were searched to find the ones that were used. It is a credit to the Internet and free speech that so many images were available. The ones that we picked were superior in conveying the concept for the word and sound trying to be taught.

Due to the nature of the internet, it is possible and perhaps highly likely that an image or animation in this project may be subject to copyright. To any artist, photographer, or animator whose work is here and does not want it to be part of the program to help kids with speech issues, please email the contact address and your image will be removed. We sincerely apologize ahead of time and only chose your work because it was the best at expressing the idea we were looking for. There are several alternate images for every slide in this project. No profit is being made from the project and the goal from inception has been to keep the effort available to kids and parents for free.



Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is it as Simple as Sharing?

M. Ramsdell
September 2009

Those who have much are often greedy, those who have little always share. Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

I recently was called naïve by a friend who opinion I genuinely value, the worst part is I suspect he is actually correct. I prefer to use the term idealist but this is just splitting hairs. What prompted the exchange and what has got me thinking, is if the world would be a better place if we truly practiced the ideals we were taught as children. Is this is even really possible in today’s world? For the purposes of this discussion I will focus on one of the simplest of values. I will attempt to make a larger point on the ideal of sharing.

The simplest of virtues are sometimes both the hardest to learn and teach. Raising my children has given me some perspective on this. I find myself shuttering when I hear myself say, or do things that I remember my parents doing to me when I was a child.

As a parent I sometimes find myself embroiled in moral dilemmas when teaching my children new things, and having to balance between what I consider to be “right” and principled, versus preparing them with dealing with how the world really works. I suspect every parent who has ever had to explain the difference between “little white lies” and “real lies” likely understands my point. Parenting can be fraught with these ideological landmines and a smart or insightful child can be tougher than any trial lawyer.

Sometimes we have to make adjustments in right versus wrong to explain how the world really works. 
What worries me is what if these minor moral concessions are what put us all on the road to ruin?

One of the biggest challenges and primary missions for parents and teachers alike is teaching the virtue of sharing. As a consequence of human nature, sharing conflicts with what may rank as one of the more powerful forces in the universe, which just happens to be greed. Children and adults alike are confronted with two opposite influences in trying to teach and to learn the socially preferred ideal of sharing, while confronting the evil of the demon of greed. Based on what I see in my world, and in the media, I have no choice but to accept that many of us may have not succeeded in confronting this demon. Greed is the stronger force that is basic to human nature and survival, and sharing sometimes seems only for the weak, or only applied when parents and teachers are trying to balance the needs of two wanting children.

Greed vs. Sharing: Licking the apple.

As a parent it is almost impossible to get my kids to share, sometimes I believe that sharing defies basic human nature in the same manner that “up” defies the force of gravity. Let me share a personal story that illustrates my point. My wife recently carved up an apple in to equal sections to be shared by each child. Seems simple enough right? It was going well with each child taking one piece at a time, until there were just two pieces left. Then my oldest realizing that they were at the end of the apple grabbed the last two pieces of apple and she licked them both thus ensuring that her brother would not get an equal share. This caused quite a ruckus in our family that day and resulted in my daughter being disciplined by her parents for failing to share. As she lamented the loss of computer and Wii time, maybe she learned the lesson that other excessively greedy people learn. Excessive greed may have consequences, but then again maybe not?

I am left to question whether the lesson is at all significant; after all she did get both pieces of the apple, which is what she wanted in the first place.

I am wondering if the true lesson that society teaches us, is that if you want the extra piece of the apple you had better grab it. Worry about whom you offend and the consequences later. Given the nature of society, maybe I should have lauded her creative way of ensuring that she got the larger share. I am worried both as a parent and as a person that we try to teach sharing but we don’t actually practice it. I am worried that as a force of human nature greed is just too powerful to oppose.

Let’s Share a Movie Quote.

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

– Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 1987

The above quote is somewhere between a caricature and an archetype of the behavior of some folks on Wall Street and in Washington. Take your pick of Bernie Madoff, Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay or even Allan Stanford there are dozens of icons that emblemize this belief system. Others can discuss who that can best be referenced as poster-children of the greed dominated part of our culture. There are several and it is not really my point. While there have been stark consequences for many people like those I have just mentioned. It would have to be suggested that many others, even those who knowingly violate the public trust do not get caught or do not suffer any repercussions. It is clear at least part of the population ascribes to and benefits from the philosophy of greed. Despite the threat of whatever penalties are actually enforced, it is clear many people choose to behave this way and they do indeed benefit from greed. For many of us greed is good.

Our Culture of Giving.

What is equally astonishing to me, whatever we can point out about our nation’s culture of greed, our nation has also established a tradition of a culture of giving. In 2008 Americans gave 307.65 Billion dollars to various charities despite a falling economy. Even though that number was down in 2008, historically our country tops the world in charitable giving as a percentage of GDP. This is great news and something we should be proud of as a nation, and perhaps it just even might offset some of the culture of greed I referenced above. Yet, there still is something we need to consider before we pat ourselves on the collective back.

There is at least anecdotal evidence to suggest that contrary to what we might suspect that when it comes to sharing, this effort is not shared equally among those in our society. Those who can do more are not necessarily doing so. A report on Empty Tomb quoting data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey 2005: Cash Contributions for Charitable Giving by Income Level suggests:

“Although the people in the $150,000 and more income bracket gave the largest number of dollars to “church, religious organizations,” and to “educational institutions,” those dollars represented a smaller portion of income for that bracket that those in the lowest five brackets.”

It points out that lower income people actually give a higher percentage of their income to charities. While statistics often can be interpreted to fit any example, on some level it may make some sense. Sure there are glaring exceptions but most people who amass large wealth don’t usually accomplish this by simply by giving it away. While we may rank first in giving as a culture, I suspect we also could rank first in greed. It truly does not seem like our culture of giving balances out the much higher profile culture of greed. This is not about class warfare or socialism, nor is it to blame the wealthy. It is not about money or resources, because people have the ability to share more than just cash. Our time, expertise, and knowledge can make a difference to another person or group and is often more valuable to share. The question really is whether each of us can do more in how we share with others as individuals and as a culture. Can we do better in how we teach and set the example of sharing? The challenge is can we do a better job elevating sharing as a virtue?

The Challenge of Sharing.

How can we become a more sharing person when it is clear to me that sharing is not always easy for us? Of these two opposing forces of sharing versus greed; it is much harder to want to share, and it seems to defy basic human nature. How can I impact things and how can I give direction to my children so they aspire to the higher value of sharing. I believe the world becomes a better place one person at a time. I have accepted that in my life there is more I can do to be better person, and try to shift the balance from greed to sharing by starting first in my own world. If I can set an example and create some kind of a blueprint, it can become something that can be followed by my children and maybe even other people. If enough people do this maybe it just might help offset the culture of greed. These ideas are a work in progress they are open to amending feel free to share these:

1. Conspire to commit at least one extra random act of kindness per day, above any you might have normally performed in the events of a normal day. This is what I would consider drive by kindness and sharing. This is the small acts like holding a door open or letting someone into traffic. Unto themselves they are not a big deal but when practiced in large numbers they make the world a better place.

2. Perpetrate one extra premeditated and truly selfless act per week; it must impact the life of someone else in a positive manner. This is for me a more advanced thought out and well constructed effort. Consider this advanced sharing and kindness it usually requires thought. This can and hopefully will impact someone’s life in a positive way. Even if it is just for a day.

3. Start taking the time to really listen to another person to fully understand how they feel. Empathy is the sharing of emotion, all too often we hear what someone is saying but don’t understand how or why they feel the way they do. This can be a vital part of conflict resolution or avoidance. This is also a key in relationships and an essential part in sharing yourself with others.

4. Increase charitable efforts ether in the amount of time, effort, or money that I commit to these efforts. I should be able to do more if I put forth more focus on this. Often at times of great crisis or around the holidays we have seen our country can rise up to do this. The hope is that can I begin to do this better on any other average day.

5. Attack and defeat at least one thought of greed or selfishness per month. Either in my thinking or in others. This is the offensive part of the revolution. To start reducing the large numbers and benefits of greed, we have to be willing to say “Hey I think your being a selfish greedy prick” whether we have to say it to ourselves or others around us. To do what is necessary to stop the greedy bastard in each of us or those people around us. If enough of us do it loudly enough, it could even lead to prosecution of some of our worst violators of the public trust.

6. Be available to help facilitate the above ideas in others. This is the key to spreading the movement; defined as sharing the sharing movement. Help people to find ways to help people. Sometimes someone has to coordinate the cause and direct the efforts. This indeed can be a noble effort.

7. Most importantly be prepared to accept that none of this may actually make a difference, because greed is strong. Remember doing the right thing may not benefit you, and if that is why you are doing it you are missing the whole point of this exercise. In this case start over with point number one.

This is all really simple, but all shifts in thought usually start with a simple premise. You will come up with your own additional ideas on this. Please implement these as well, and share them with others. Could an increased focus on the value of sharing actually make a difference in our culture? Probably not, because ultimately none of these shared thoughts will matter to anyone. Even if the ideal of sharing was common in its practice, it isn’t like sharing can actually solve the world’s larger issues like wars, global hunger, or homelessness. Aspiring to be a more sharing person won’t fix the banking crisis, solve the healthcare debate or help educate children.

Or could it really help on these larger issues?

Smarter people than me will have to figure this out I am just an idealist at heart.

Then again maybe I am just naïve after all…

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

If I am wrong on this tell me why, or send your comments to:


Protect Insurance Companies

Please view the following Public Service Announcement:

From The Huffington Post:

In a video below from Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and other celebs band together to "protect" insurance company profits from the evils of health care reform. "People are saying a lot of mean things about health insurance companies and their executives and it's gotta stop," pleads Thomas Lennon. "These great business men are American heroes," says Linda Cardellini. "So why is Obama trying to reform health care when insurance companies are doing just fine making billions of dollars in profit?" Will Ferrell asks. (Watch it by clicking here)

Read more at Huffington Post: Protect Insurance Companies PSA: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm Speak Out Against The Public Option (VIDEO)