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PLAYING WITH SWITCHES

Finding enjoyable ways for children to play is an ongoing challenge for all parents. What kind of toys to select? How to play together and alone? What to choose next?

Play is a critical component of childhood. However, children with disabilities may have difficulty interacting with objects and people due to the barriers that their disabilities present. Because these young children may be restricted in the ways they play, communicate, and move, innovative ideas must be found that promote new ways of playing and participating in daily activities. Assistive Technology (AT) has been used to provide new opportunities for children with disabilities to interact with and control their environment. One way we have found is to connect an adapter and a switch to a simple battery-operated toy --this provides a way for a child to make the toy go “all by himself”! It can also help him to participate in playing with brothers and sisters. What a child wants to participate in will be dictated by their daily activities.

AT can provide the means to the self-generated, active engagement of a child, as his/her ability to exert control becomes possible. This then promotes a pro-active attitude of “I can do it!”, leading to increased initiation attempts and empowerment. By finding ways for successful interactions early in life, existing abilities are extended into more complex behaviors. Using switches with toys develop play skills that include: turning them on and off, moving them for social and communicative purposes, making choices to indicate preferences and just having fun!

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