2006 Conference General Sessions





Lori Dahlquist
Adaptivation, Inc.
2225 W. 50th Street
Sioux Falls SD 57105

Day Phone: 605—335—4445
Fax: 605—335—4446
Email: lori@adaptivation.com

The use of sequential messaging as a communication strategy has become common place. The ability to pre-record a series of messages and control the order in which they are played back is essential to activities such as story telling, and/or giving/following directions. But what about activities in which you want to control the vocabulary set but not the play back order. We call this strategy “random selection” and it has many application possibilities. We are most familiar with this concept being applied when using a spinner. For example, when using a spinner for a board game you have a controlled vocabulary set (i.e. colors, numbers, etc) but once you spin the choice are out of your control. If the spinner lands on the number 4, you only move 4 spaces even though you really needed and/or wanted to move 6 to win.

Now let’s look at the concept of “random selection” as a voice output communication strategy. There are now several communication devices that allow random selection to be used with voice output. These include the Randomizer and the VoicePal Levels both by Adaptivation. These devices allow you to record in a series of messages. The messages could range from a single word to several sentences—what is recorded will vary with the needs of the activity. With each activation of the device one of the messages will play. The user will not know until he hears the message which one has been selected.
For who and when is this concept appropriate? The “who” is easy—anyone! It is great for individuals with visual impairments. For example, individuals who can’t see the numbers on dice or the pictures on a spinner can now hear the selection, making it a very functional solution for more independent participation. There are also individuals in which having visual cues for all the possible choices available to them can be very confusing. For example, a child with autism may see that the spinner arrow is pointing to the block center but because they can still see the picture representing the music center will continue to insist that this is their choice. This might also be a solution for a child who always chooses the same activity at choice time and appears unwilling to change his routine or always picks the color red when painting. The devices used for Random selection can accommodate most physical disabilities through the use of external switches that can be interfaced as a switch port on the device.

The “when” is also easy. There are endless numbers of activities that can quickly and easily be incorporated into this strategy. We have already mentioned using it like a dice or a spinner with colors, numbers, or any other visual cues like Sesame Street characters used for simple board games. It is also great for all the old stand by games like “Duck, Duck, Goose” (record the word “duck” several times and “goose” once and you will get the ratio you need), If You’re Happy and You Know It (record commands like “clap your hands”, “stomp your feet”, “blink your eyes”, etc.), Hokey, Pokey (record “right foot” “left arm”, “head” etc.)

There are also every day functional uses for the classroom and other environments. It can be used for activities such as taking attendance or picking team members. For these activities you simply record in all the names of children participating. When the device is activated the names will be played back in random order requiring the children to listen closely for when their name is called. You could also use this for activities in the classroom such as assigning classroom jobs or selecting a classroom center (computer, blocks etc.) This concept can also be used for literacy activities. These might include things like sentence or story starters, mad libs, word family activities, category games and sorting activities just to name a few.

Devices that offer random selection as a communication strategy are destined to become a standard and invaluable part of every assistive technology program.

Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2006 Table of Contents

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright