2003 Conference Proceedings

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USING COMPUTER SOFTWARE TO DEVELOP SWITCH SKILLS

Presenters
Roger Bates & Melanie Jones
Inclusive TLC
315 Wooton Street
Boonton, NJ 07005
Phone: 973/ 331-9898
Fax: 973/ 331-9849
Email: roger@inclusive.co.uk 
Email: melanie@inclusive.co.uk 

With the right software and access strategies, students can develop a concept of cause and effect, improve their switch skills and have access to a range of unique learning environments.

Roger Bates, a world-renowned speaker with a lifetime of teaching experience working with severe and profoundly disabled students, will discuss his experiences and present inclusive strategies. A three level model for determining how and when to use technology will be discussed. The three levels involve 1) cause and effect, 2) switch timing, and 3) choice making.

Cause and Effect

In the early, 'cause and effect' stages, many students need software that produces a dramatic visual and auditory effect in response to a switch press. Software should be chosen that reflects a student's interests and experiences. Consistent verbal and physical prompts at this early stage offer encouragement. However, the aim is to get the user to interact with the computer. As their control develops, external prompts should be reduced.

Switches should be used with other devices alongside the computer activites giving students the opportunity to experience "cause and effect" in a variety of settings and allowing them to improve their switch skills in a variey of situations.

Careful observation and sound knowledge of the child and how they function in other circumstances may be necessary to ensure that they have fully developed the desired concept of cause and effect.

Software can then be introduced where a number of switch presses are required to 'build the reward' taking care to ensure that the student is encouraged to watch the result of each press and not develop the bad habit of rushing through just to get to the reward.

Switch Timing

Pressing the switch at the right time is a very big step requirng the motor and cognitive skills to operate the switch and an understanding of the task. With cause and effect software a switch press always results in a reward, this stage involves waiting and pressing at the "right" time. Two main factors come into play:

In the first stages we need a "cue" that will be understood by the child. The cue for the "right" moment can include a number of factors:

Prompts can be chosen to suit the individual, taking into account their disabilities and remembering that some children may have more than one area of disability. Don't overload with too much prompting.

Choice Making

Choice making allows the student to select desired items. Development of this skill provides opportunities for the student to access a much wider range of the curriculum. There are a number of elements that will have to be in place to enable "choices" to be made:

Time and consistent support is needed to enable students to develop and consolidate their ability to choose using computer software. Once developed this skill should enable them to move towards independent use of the computer.


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