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Fit for the purpose

Sally McKeown assesses the latest releases for use in special needs on display at the BETT show 2003

BETT is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be sound of limb and keen of sight. Nowhere is this more true than in the special needs field and this year, special needs teachers and those in mainstream with responsibility for SEN pupils will need to be very fit.

Many SEN software companies are in two places at once. Penny and Giles, Widgit and Crick are among the 20 or so companies which have taken up space in the Special Needs Fringe at the Hilton, a three-day event run by Inclusive Technology and sponsored by Special Children magazine. So if you can go to the Hilton and see everything in one compact area, is there any point in going to BETT? In a word, yes.

Many of the mainstream companies are becoming more aware of SEN issues. If you want to see the latest in standard classroom hardware, companies such as Centerprise (F20) need to be on your list with their enormous range of whiteboard technology. Check out stand C56 where Softease and Sherston will present Tizzy's First Tools - a fully integrated set of seven ICT tools for four to seven-year-olds which has already received enormous advance orders (pound;75 single user).

If you are responsible for tracking behaviour, see Sleuth on the School Software company stand C126. Look out too for R-E-M (B40) who are launching the new Click On It! brochure - an initiative run in conjunction with the National Literacy Association to motivate disaffected children. Kudlian Soft will be much in evidence on M100. Not only will they be showing Terry the Turtle 2 and Ask Oscar - with a special BETT offer of pound;2.50 per user (min. five licences) - but they are inviting teachers to have a go with their popular Banner program. This program is ideal for SEN learners of all ages as it is a versatile framework which produces quick and sensational results (pound;25.50 single user).

Then there are the big names. You need to keep up to date with the latest government initiatives so visit the Becta stands (C30 and X40) and find out more about the Communications Aid Project (CAP). Semerc is on the Granada stands E40F40 and will be showing Dyscalculia Screener (see right, price TBA) and the Just Like series (pound;39 single user) which is aimed at both the citizenship curriculum and children with particular problems and needs. The series covers bereavement, bullying and other key issues. A good companion piece might be Images of Citizenship (KS3) from Nelson Thornes with over 80 image-based activities (price TBA).

In the special needs area at BETT you will find some familiar faces such as Don Johnston on SN12 who will be showing their latest planning tool Draft Builder (pound;99 single user). They also have the increasingly popular Start to Finish series (from pound;49 for a single title pack) which is being used with pupils learning English as an additional language, as well as older learners who need quality literature in a range of formats.

Then there are some new companies such as Peepo (SN44), a website for music, games, radio, TV and art work for older learners with learning difficulties, and Wizcom Technologies Ltd on SN76 who will be showing their range of hi-tech pens which can scan text from books, read it aloud and translate it into other languages.

From Dolphin comes EaseReader (pronounced "Easy Reader"), a new multimedia software player for Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) books. It is new for BETT and is aimed at mainstream publishing markets. It is fully accessible to people with visual impairment but has many attractive features for sighted users. Above all, it's affordable at pound;37 including VAT.

Crick Software will be showing its latest Cloze program on SN14 and in the Hilton on S20 (pound;90 single user, pound;14 additional). The company will have its full range of award-winning software such as Find Out and Write About (pound;25 per topic for site licence), Planet Wobble (pound;35 single user pack) and the free resource Clicker Grids for Learning. Penny and Giles will be featuring its latest radio switch - no more trailing wires - on SN50 and S15. Widgit will be showing Symbolword - a new web aimed at young people who are symbol users to give them access to news, stories, jokes and information.

However, if you want the specialist companies you will have to pop across to the Hilton. Here you will find the latest in communication aids from the likes of Tony Churchill, PRi and Liberator who are all suppliers to the CAP project. You will also find Intellitools and Mayer Johnson from the States.

The Inclusive Technology team will be on hand to provide coffee, lunch and advice and show some of their new products including Let's Go To Town (pound;37, see right) and SwitchIt! Weather (pound;29 single user) - a theme pack which works with IntelliKeys or a switch and can be used for sequencing, picture building and as flash cards. Inclusive will also be hosting three days of seminars to show people how to get the best from the software they have chosen.

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