Many of us think of the word “avatar” and have trouble separating the idea from that blockbuster movie about tall, blue people-ish beings on an alien planet. In Avatar, the main character is disabled and uses an avatar to assume the form of an alien being and interact with their civilization. So we’re not that far off; an avatar is a visual representation of someone within an environment, usually a computerized one. Because there are many simple websites that create avatars, they actually have a place in our interventions as well! Using avatar makers with kids motivates them to visually represent and describe themselves to peers — it can be a bridge across some of the awkward verbal interactions that characterize introductory (and ongoing) group sessions. On the flip side, using avatars also helps to engage peers in attending to the character traits of their group members and building “friend files” about them.
There are plenty of simple, free web-based avatar makers, and if you don’t have multiple computers at your disposal (you can also set up a computer as a “station” in your group), the task of making an avatar to print and share with the group could also be a homework task. Check out the list of links below — note that I prefer ones that have some kind of accessories you can add, so you can get into traits beyond that of appearance.
* Please be aware that occasionally an ad might pop up on some of these sites that you might not want your kids to focus on. It’s a good idea to load your window before using the site with kids, then you can resize the window and scroll down if necessary.
Many of these web tools allow you to save your creations as an image, but I find it just as easy to make a screenshot and save the picture that way. How do you do that? On Mac —
Command-Shift-4 turns your cursor into a photo-target. Click and drag across the area of the screen you want to capture and a picture will be saved on your desktop. On PC —
Alt-Print Screen captures the screen on the clipboard. Open Paint (Programs>Accessories>Paint) and Paste the image, then you can crop as you like and save.
Any of the avatars your group members create would provide a great context for talking about character traits. Try using the Character Map in It’s All About the Story
(or the SGM and other manuals) and ask each group member to use the activity to add to their “friend files” on the map!
Enjoy making some avatars! For more ideas on therapy materials and technology, please visit me at SpeechTechie
or follow me on Twitter
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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