Simple switch devices are often used to introduce people to the use of switches. Observation of a child using a switch with a toy (with a battery adaptor) can be sufficient to establish whether or not they have an understanding of cause and effect; that is they are aware that their pressing the switch is actually causing the device to operate.
For some users this may have to be done by allowing them to make switch presses and to gradually establish a connection between this and their switch presses.
However, even the simplest switch toys can be put to more use by involving the users' in games based on their use of the switch. This can provide opportunities to refine their switch operation by developing more control.
Switch tape recorder - This can be operated by the child using a switch to control their classmates in a game of musical statues. This can be a major achievement for a child who has been unable to talk or take any part in similar games. As an assessment tool it enables the teacher to get information on the child's understanding of language, switch control skills and sense of humour.
Other uses include getting adults to dance to music, singalong sessions and playing a story for the rest of the class.
BIGmack - The BIGmack can store a single message of upto 75 seconds.This canthen be replayed with a single press. Changing the message is a very simple process, allowing the device to be used at a moments notice. The opportunities for using this are endless. It is especially useful with children who are more interested in people than things. A child can use it to take messages to another class, answer their name, join in with a song or story with a repeated phrase. In a group situation the child can pick a person by looking at them and then give an instruction by pressing the BIGmack. These activities are excellent for putting switch activity into a social and communication context.
Switch toys - Moving toys can be used in group situations by pressing the switch to send the toy to a chosen individual. Children can also have fun using it to knock down piles of bricks or sending it over the edge of the table and watch people try to catch it. Battery operated, toy food mixers can be used to mix milk shakes.
Mains controllers - These can give switch operation of mains appliances. Never try to do this without using a properly designed mains control unit such as the Powerlink which is electrically safe. Appliances such as kettles may require a higher current than some mains units can handle; check this before using. Equipment such as lights, food mixers and microwave ovens do not usually cause any problems. A switch connected to a food mixer will let someone join in a cookery session. A child could have control over their bedroom light.
All of these devices can be used to create activities that go far beyond giving simple cause and effect work with a switch. With a variety of devices it is possible to create opportunities for children to express themselves, achieve within the national curriculum, and to play a part in classroom activities.
Assessment opportunities can be created for children who have limited movements and communication abilities.