Last December Kara Melissa (blogs at http://karamelissa.com) purchased the Rally Racer switch adapted car for her Son, Seb.
It was his main Christmas present so very important that it worked for him (and his younger sister). Seb uses switches attached to his tray and has worked hard at learning to target these switches to access his communication aids, computer and iPad games. Rally Racer needed to be a ‘drop-in solution’ for Seb’s switch configuration. It was!
Kara initially contacted me via Facebook and we then bounced ideas back and forth on email. It turned out that Seb wanted either a train set or racing car set. In the end it was the Rally Racer racing car set that won out. I built one for Seb and shipped it to Toronto.
Gifts for Seb was my blog about Kara’s approach to finding toys suitable for a six year old with a cerebral palsy condition and especially her search for toys that ‘continued to deliver’ long after the initial excitement has passed.
Kara tells me Rally Racer was a bit hit on Christmas Day with family and friends. Seb was thrilled to bits 🙂 His absolute favourite bit is crashing the cars – isn’t that typical boy fun.
This week she sent me a blog link to her Rally Racer review. It’s a very good read and Rally Racer gets an A+ rating which ain’t bad in my books.
I encourage everyone to read the Rally Racer review and join the 1300+ parents and professionals who are following her blog.
This is Part 2 of a two part blog on the Benefits of Switch Adapted Play. I wrote this at the request of Janet Canning who runs the USA based website ‘apieceofthepuzzle.net’. It’s a social community website that is completely dedicated to people with special needs and disabilities. (Here’s a quick link to Part 1 in case you want to recap.)
Toys can teach awareness
The ‘play value’ of a toy can be subtle but, if chosen well, can help develop a child’s awareness of what is going on. In other words one of the benefits of switch adapted play is the learning experience.
What we need is a toy that works when the switch is pressed and stops when released. But then continues, from the point at which it stopped, when pressed again. Switch adapted toys that work in this way are the best. This sounds very simple but today’s trend is toward more complex toys that generally don’t do this.
We believe toys should have:
Some form of movement: one may stay on the spot while its body moves (bubble machine) while another might drive along on a track (Rally Racer).
A purpose/function apart from fun and play: the toy may teach spatial awareness, or develop cause and effect, or expand sensory awareness in some way.
Be varied: so that a child does not become bored with it. (although they may inevitably out-grow it) Boredom may prevent the child from grasping a specific educational aspect.
Ideally switch adapted play should be both fun and educational.
By selecting the right toys the child will begin to increase their cognitive awareness. Lots of toy features can support this such as:
Shape: the child can interact with the toy and, in so doing, develops an increased awareness of shape. If this is something that a teacher can observe – for example putting shapes through correct holes – then the child demonstrates a learnt skill.
Colour: increased awareness of colour in some specific way. Perhaps the child learns to interact with one coloured part to perform one function and another to perform a second.
Sound: toys that produce a variety of sounds that can be controlled by the child. For some, sounds may help the learner locate the toy in their surroundings.
Light: for those with visual acuity problems light is important. It might mean the difference between being attracted to and awareness of the toy and showing no interest and or awareness. (Twilight Turtle Tunes)
Tactility: If the toy is designed to be interactive and the child can hold/touch/feel it then different tactile surfaces may be helpful (Sneezy the Activity Dragon)
Spatial awareness and control: in all three dimensions. Often we neglect the up and down aspect. For example, a fire engine that can travel forwards and backwards, left and right and also raise and lower its ladder plays in 3D. Each direction should be controlled by a different switch. Full 3D control may be too complex for the child to grasp all at once. If that’s the case then the parent / professional may initially restrict control to make it simpler. Progressing at a later stage to learning all of the possibilities with the same toy.
You’ve made it through to the end of Part 2. I hope the points covered give you good ideas for when you next go toy shopping. I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to leave comments.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Tony Jones atTalksensefor the help in preparing this blog on the Benefits of Switch Adapted Play.
This is Part 1 of a two part blog on the Benefits of Switch Adapted Play. I wrote this at the request of Janet Canning who runs the USA based website ‘apieceofthepuzzle.net’. It’s a social community website that is completely dedicated to people with special needs and disabilities. Take a look.
switch adapted toys
Which are the best toys for children with disabilities or other special needs? At Excitim we try to identify the sort of toys that can be switch adapted or made switch accessible. Adapted toys give these kids more control over how they play and switch adapted play can teach them important cognitive skills.
We look for toys that are:
Bright and colourful: red, green, blue or yellow or combinations of many different colours. Partially sighted children may find high contrast colours especially helpful to recognise things like on / off buttons.
Visible: kids with special needs often have additional sensory deficits and may not be able to see small items.
Tactile: sensory feedback through touching the toy may be the only way for a child to recognise important features. Selecting toys that incorporate different fabrics, roughness or moulded-in textures may be helpful for a child with limited vision.
Cleanable: some toys may be used by children who like to chew them or drool. Fabrics and surfaces that can be wiped clean are better and help keep the toy hygienic.
Provide sensory feedback to the learner: fans are used to create air flow, bubbles especially if scented with a few drops of aromatic oil, lights, sounds, vibrations etc.
Switch adapted play
Imagine the scenario where an individual is unable to pick-up the toy or play with it, for whatever reason, in the way toy manufacturer originally intended. Sadly too many toy manufacturers’ representatives can’t grasp this concept. To make it obvious I ask them to tell me how they would turn it on if they had no hands. Unfortunately the answer is not always very comforting.
Our challenge is to overcome those ‘cool’ design features incorporated by the manufacturer in a way that lets kids with disabilities or other special needs still play with it. Switch adapted play can be the answer.
When a child starts to play with adapted toys that child also starts on a path to developing transferrable switch skills. Those same skills are essential for school work, participation in classroom discussion, computer access, interacting on social media and lots more.
Starting out with switch adapted play is a stepping stone to new things. Let’s take a closer look – stick with me.
What sort of switches?
Wired or wireless? Both are common and available in lots of different types, sizes, colours etc. I’m not going to get into what’s the best switch otherwise this blog page would easily be 10 times longer.
Preferably a toy should be controllable wirelessly – without a physical wired connection between the switch and the toy – especially if the toy, say a car, involves movement. Wire can be restricting and just gets in the way.
One of the toys we adapt is a tractor and trailer set. It comes with a radio transmitter built into a switch-box and a receiver in the tractor. Pressing the switch sends a signal to the tractor telling it to go. The toy starts-up and drives forward 3 metres (as well as making sound and light effects). A wired switch connection would not work as well with this toy.
But, wired switches have a big advantage over wireless switches – they cost less and the connecting socket is generally easier to build into a toy. And, in reality, wired switches work very well with toys placed on, say, a table top. Bubble machines are a great example of this.