Month: August 2014

Using an iSwitch with the iPad

The iSwitch gives users switch access to Apple’s iOS on the iPad (all models) iPhone (3GS onwards) and iPod Touch (3rd generation onwards). It’s produced by Pretorian Technologies Ltd and it’s their newest switch access kit for iOS. It sits alongside the APPlicator, Smoothie switches and their other assistive technology kit for iOS and PC access.

What’s in the box?

Link to the iSwitch on the Special-Needs-Toys website
iSwitch box contents: iSwitch, USB lead and Operating Instructions

The iSwitch – mines red but they also come in blue, green and yellow.

A USB charging lead.

Set-up and Operating instructions.

Let’s get going. The first thing to do is charge the iSwitch. The instruction leaflet tells you how; but simply, connect the small USB plug into the socket on the front of the iSwitch and then the larger plug into a USB socket on your computer. Turn the iSwitch over and you should see a small green light shining just above the red box; that tells you it’s charging. A full charge will likely take up to 2 hours. When it’s charged the green light goes out.

Whilst the iSwitch is charging it’s a good idea to read the instructions.

iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port
iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port


The first thing to notice about the iSwitch is that it has an integrated big button (75 mm diameter) switch. And, it also has the possibility to connect two more external switches through the two sockets on the front panel – see picture.

Looking left to right there’s the first external switch socket, the small USB charging socket and the second switch socket. All three switches can be set to do any of 24 commands that iOS understands. The instruction leaflet lists all of the iOS commands and for convenience the same list is on the bottom of the iSwitch as well as the buttons used to set it up.

iSwitch Control Panel

iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands
iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands

Setting up the iSwitch with an iOS command is really simple. This is what the ‘control panel’ on the base of the iSwitch looks like – see picture on the left.

Notice the two red push-buttons: the one on the left selects the ‘channel’ i.e. external switch 1, the integrated switch or external switch 2. The red button on the right sets the ‘mode’. (note: I called this the iOS command earlier.) Above are the led windows for external switch 1 or 2.

The battery charging light is at the top in the middle.

In-between the two red buttons is the red window where you’ll see the ‘mode’ you’ve set the iSwitch to send when the integrated switch or either of the two external switches are pressed.

All of the ‘mode’ commands are listed from ‘0 – zero’ to ‘U’ with an outline of what the mode command does.

On the left you can see a label that reads ‘Pretorian-59 IE32’ This is the device number the iPad sees in the Bluetooth menu. Each iSwitch has a different number along the lines of ‘Pretorian 59 ****.

Making a Bluetooth Connection

  • Go to the Bluetooth menu on your iPad (Settings then Bluetooth). Make sure Bluetooth is turned on; if not slide the iOS slider to the right.
  • Turn on the iSwitch by pressing either ‘channel or ’mode’ switch once.
  • After a few seconds the iSwitch should appear as a ‘discoverable’ device listed as something like ‘Pretorian-59 ABCD. Tap on the name and the pairing process will begin.
  • The iSwitch is ready to use when you see ‘Connected’ in the Bluetooth device list.

Which iOS Command?

Here I’m going to assume your planning to use the iSwitch with an app on the iPad. The first thing you will need to know is which iOS command(s) the app is expecting to receive. Unfortunately there’s not an international standard covering which iOS command is used to ‘scan’ or ‘select’ actions within apps. Generally, you’ll need to check each app before using it.

But here’s a general rule-of-thumb that will work most of the time:

For European apps: use ‘Space’ (mode 5) to scan within an app and ‘Enter’ (mode 6) to select an action in the app.

For North American apps: use ‘~1’ (mode 7) to scan within an app and ‘~3’ (Mode 8) to select an action in the app.

Setting the iOS command

  1. Press the ‘Channel’ button to select external switch 1, 2 or the integrated switch.
  2. Press the ‘Mode’ button to select the iOS command you need. For example, setting ‘Enter’ would mean you need to press the mode button until number ‘6’ appears in the red window.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to set up the other switches if being used.

These steps are described in more detail in the Operating Instructions but essentially it comes down to selecting first the ‘channel’ and then assigning it an iOS command using the ‘mode’ button. Very simple and quick to set or re-set if needed.

Check this video as well: from Communicate AT in Australia.

Accessing Music Playlists and the Camera

The iSwitch can also be set to play music playlists and take pictures using the camera. The commands needed to control the music player are:

To play a music playlist

  • Mode ‘E’ for play / pause
  • Mode ‘F’ to skip a track forward
  • Mode ‘G’ to skip a track backwards
  • Mode ‘H’ to increase the volume
  • Mode ‘J’ to decrease the volume

As a minimum you’ll need mode ‘E’ on one of the switches. Setting up a second and third switch gives you more options.

To take pictures or shoot video

  • Mode ‘H’ normally used to increase music volume it also works as the shutter control in the camera app.


The iSwitch is a great iOS access device for switch control of apps. It’s simple to set-up and easy to use. I like the idea of the integrated switch and being able to connect two additional switches (if you need up to four switches then think about the APPlicator.) Recommended.

Angelman Syndrome Conference

Assert-Angelman-SyndromeAngelman Syndrome Support Education and Research Trust or, Assert for short, is a UK based volunteer group supporting individuals with Angelman Syndrome. The majority of trustees are parents or relatives of children or adults with the condition.

The group aims to raise awareness of Angelman Syndrome through a variety of means including their website, publishing research into the condition and their annual conference. Many parents and even professionals may never have heard of Angelman Syndrome due to the fact that it is rare. The condition is caused by irregularities that can occur in Chromosome 15.

I can count myself as one of those who had never heard of Angelman Syndrome until Rachel Martin, Chair of the Trustees, asked me if we would exhibit at Assert’s annual conference on August 30th in Coventry. And, as the condition is quite unknown I thought it would be good to find out more. I watched the video on the Assert website and Wiki is a good read.

It gave me an insight into the condition and set me thinking about what we should take to the exhibition. Then I thought it would be good to introduce myself to the very active AngelmanUK Facebook Group and ask the parents and professionals what we should take along. I got some great feedback and ideas and may parents emphasised the need for tough chew resistant toys.

Little People Airplane switch adapted toy
Little People Airplane switch adapted toy

We’ll be taking The Little People Airplane, School Bus and Tow and Pull Tractor with us as well as the Despicable Me Minions Dave and Stuart and lots of others as well.

Despicable Me Minions Dave and Stuart switch adapted toys
Despicable Me Minions Dave and Stuart





The conference takes place from August 29th – 31st at the Coventry Hilton but the exhibition is on Saturday, August 30th. Get in touch with Assert through the contact page on the website for more information.

Follow our Toys with Apps Pinterest board

Are you on Pinterest? We joined Pinterest in 2013 and I’d like to invite you to follow all of our boards but especially the Toys with Apps board.

Pinterest is where we post pictures and descriptions of switch adapted toys, sensory toys, great sensory apps and, on a new board, toys that work apps.

I’ve called the new board Toys with Apps because these toys work with apps loaded on your smart phone or tablet. Here are pictures of the first two toys I’ve posted to the board:

Twilight Turtle Tunes sensory light projection and sound toy feature on Excitim's Toys with Apps Pinterest board.
Twilight Turtle Tunes play soundscapes through the app

Twilight Turtle Tunes

He’s a nightlight that projects a colour changing star pattern onto the walls of a darkened play area, den or bedroom. But, this is where the Bluetooth bit comes in, it connects to a free app that lets you play sensory soundscapes, musical playlists you’ve created or even tell stories through Twilight Turtles built-in speaker.

Read more about this on two earlier blog posts: Story time with Twilight Turtle Tunes and Twilight Turtle Tunes.

Toy-Fi Teddy featured on Excitim's Toys with Apps Pinterest board.
Toy-Fi Teddy send him messages with an app

Toy-Fi Teddy

He’s the second toy on the Toys with Apps Pinterest board. He’s one of the very newest toys to work with a app. He connects to the app on your phone or tablet (iOS or Android) and lets you send messages direct to your child’s Toy-Fi Teddy and then to receive a reply back onto your phone.

Imagine this scenario: it’s bedtime, but mum or dad is travelling and won’t be home to say goodnight. If this is you them this may just be the toy your child needs. Simply record a message in the app and send it to your child’s Toy-Fi Teddy. It doesn’t matter whether you are next door or on a different continent. The red heart flashes when the message is received and, even more, the child can record you a message and send it straight back to your phone.

Here’s a YouTube video that shows it all.

I just love this idea.

I’ll add more of these Toys with Apps on Pinterest and the Special-Needs-Toys website as I find them. Follow our boards on Pinterest now.