Incorporating Therapy Switches at Home
Let’s talk switches! I’m sure you’ve seen them in your child’s therapy session, a bright colored button they can press to make something happen. Switches are considered to be assistive technology and assistive technology is a major part of occupational therapy!
In the world of OT we consider assistive technology to be any item that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. This could be something as simple as a spoon with a larger handle to make it easier to hold, or a complex as a communication device that allows an individual who is nonverbal to express their wants and needs.
In the schools I work closely with speech therapists and communication devices figuring out the best way for the child to access their device, this is typically done through the use of a switch. I have some that use their head to activate a switch if they have no voluntary arm movements, their hand, or even a finger. However they can access a switch, I can make it happen and having access to these switches gives them the ability to independently do things they would otherwise be unable to do and that’s AMAZING!
So why are we talking about this?
A lot of times switches can be seen as complex, expensive, or something that is used only in an outside therapy setting. BUT, you can actually make a lot of things in your home switch activated and give your child so much more access and independence in their own home! Not only can you do this yourself, the supplies you need can be found on Amazon.
Lets start small, most battery operated toys can be made switch activated. This means your child could turn on and play with their favorite toy by themselves, how exciting! I use this a lot in my classrooms I visit, a personal favorite is the game Elefun.
To make a battery operated toy switch activated you will need
Place the adaptor on the end of the battery, put the battery in the toy, and plug the switch in! THATS IT! The toy will now turn on when the switch is pressed. You can add the adaptors to various toys and plug the switch into whatever toy is being played with at that time. Super easy and you just brought a lot of independence to your kiddo.
This is a little more complex but still doable at home and it’s GREAT for older kids who want to help out more with things at home such as cooking. Using a device called a powerlink you can plug in an item such as a blender, hand mixer, or even a radio, attach a switch to it (the jelly bean switch mentioned earlier would work) and now your child can turn on appliances and with hand over hand assistance they can help cook!
In the schools I use this a lot! The kids can be “classroom DJ” and activate the radio to play music, or we use the box to help us complete a cooking activity.
These devices are super common in every home nowadays! While they aren’t marketed as “adaptive technology” if your child is verbal, but in a wheelchair and cannot reach the thermostat, or has limited arm movement, voice activated home technologies make everyday tasks easier and gives them independence in their home! These few devices can be used with voice activation to control the temperature of the home, play music, read an audiobook, and activate the home security system. They can also be installed by you and would benefit everyone in the house.
Oftentimes we focus so much on making the outside world inclusive that we forget our actual home may in fact be restricting. These simple adaptive devices help make everyday tasks possible!
As parents of course you don’t mind doing things for them and helping when it’s needed but giving independence where it’s available gives such a confidence boost and the increased stimulation of being able to control things independently will benefit your child in so many ways! Switches and assistive technology aren’t “therapy only” They are available to everyone and are more user friendly than you think. Now go make your home inclusive!