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Effective Use of Switches


Effective Use of Switches

Assistive Switches

Why Use An Assistive Switch?:

When an appropriate switch is selected for the child, it will provide access to opportunities that would previously have been denied. The use of a switch will enable the child to turn something on or off, become mobile, communicate and even play with cause and effect toys. The switch will provide a type of access the rest of us usually take for granted. The first time you see a switch being used successfully, you will need no more convincing. Simply put, a switch is a tool for access.

How are switches used?:

Depending on the needs of the individual the use of the switch will vary. Switches tend to be activated by: pressure, motion, air flow (pneumatic), light sensitivity (blinking) or sound (clucking of a tongue). Most switches will respond to minimal movement. Pressure switches will respond to pressure of hand, food, head or other body part touch. Air flow switches will move a wheelchair! Switches are as individualized at the child's needs are. The child needs to be assessed for the best switch and a trial period will ensure which switch type is best for the specific child.

How do you assess for the right switch?:

You will need to consider which body part will be used to activate the switch. You also need to determine where the switch needs to be located. You'll need to determine how much sensitivity is required for the switch. You'll need to decide how much surface area is needed to maximize use. You will need to know what the child is using the switch for (Controlling something? becoming mobile? Communicating? Using a computer?) You will also need to know if the switch should be a single, dual or multiple switch. (On/off type or forward, backward and sideways types etc.) And finally, where will the switch be mounted?

A word about EADL:

Something you will commonly hear when the discussion of switches or assistive technology is being used is Electronic Aid to Daily Living (EADL) EADL refers to a means to interact and manipulate one or more electronic devices such as: a television, radio, DVD player, lights, and computers etc. Using voice activation, switch access, a computer interface, and many other types of adaptations.


By providing students with special needs access to a switch, the child's life can be greatly enhanced. The child can then activate and experience the pleasure of a toy. When you see the look on the child's face the first time they activate a cause/effect type of toy, it will demonstrate the need to allow switch access. A switch can provide access to things that the rest of us may take for granted and can be the greatest asset toward an inclusive classroom.

Be sure to be able to answer the following questions when considering switches:

  • How will the switch be used?
  • How do you assess the right switch?
  • How do you implement the use of the switch?
  • What types of switches are available?
As technology moves at its rapid pace, you'll see a lot more switches that will be able to respond to brain activity!

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