Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I can...move beyond cause and effect!

Have you ever wondered what possibilities are available for students who use simple cause and effect activities?  What are some of the skills required to make choices using a switch?  In this issue, we will breakdown the skills involved in automatic scanning and review the hardware and software that can enable students to make choices using a switch.

Scanning is a method used to allow students to make a selection from a set of choices.  Students can use one or two switches to use this approach.  For this issue, we will be focusing on students who use one switch.  With one switch, the choices are automatically highlighted in a timed sequence and when the desired object is highlighted, the student must press their switch to make a choice. 

How can I help my students learn to use automatic  scanning?
Timing and visual tracking are important skills in learning how to use scanning to access a computer or Speech Generating Device (SGD).  Below are some suggestions on how to give your students opportunities to fine practice their timing and visual tracking skills.

Error-Free Automotic Scanning - Start by providing your students with the opportunity to explore scanning without any expectations related to time and place.  Allow them to explore choice making and experience the consequences naturally.  You can adjust the speed of the scan based on how much time your student needs to see/hear the choice and make a response.  We often start with 3-4 seconds and see how the student responds.

Free Software to try:
Also consider software that has some cells that are blank as a stepping stone towards choice making.  This helps student include some visual tracking and response time skills but in an error free environment.  Check out these options:

At the right time....try using activities that require your student to hit their switch in response to something on the screen.  For example, "When the crocodile appears, hit your switch".  This helps them work on their response time.  If your student has visual challenges, you can help them by providing a auditory prompt e.g. " Crocodile"

Free software to try:
In the right place....try using activities that require your student to wait until their target is in the right area and then hit their switch.  This helps them work on their visual tracking skills.  If your student has difficulty using their vision, try using live voice scanning and ask them to hit a switch when they hear the target word. 

Free software to try:
Pirate Ship: http://www.shinylearning.co.uk/freegames/pirateship.shtml
Car Crusher: http://www.shinylearning.co.uk/freegames/carcrusher.shtml
Fly Swatter: http://www.shinylearning.co.uk/freegames/ShinyFlySwatter.html

Choice making in automatic scanning:  Whoohoo! You've finally reached the final stage!  In this step, students have access to a list of choices and they can exert control over what they want to choose, answer, and tell. 
Software for free online:

Software (to consider for purchase)
Early Learning 1 by Marblesoft/Simtech
Switch Skills Scanning - Early Learning Software
Choose and Tell - Nursery Rhymes
Simtech Early Literacy

Hardware Considerations: How is your student's switch connected to the computer?  Is he/she using a switch adapted mouse?  Many simple cause and effect programs are activated with the LEFT CLICK of the mouse but some are not.  It may be time to explore using a switch interface - a box that connects to your computer that allows you to choose what keystroke you are sending to the computer e.g. spacebar, enter, left click etc.
Some switch interfaces include:
Don Johnson Switch Interface USB Pro
Crick USB Switch Interface *requires software installation.

Switch Skills Progression Road Map:  Ian Bean (www.ianbean.co.uk ) is known for his work at Priory Woods School, where he produced widely used cause and effect activities for children with disabilities.  Subsequently he worked for Inclusive Technology where he worked to produce early scanning activities as well as a fantastic FREE resource called Switch Progression Road Map.  You can download the entire document here:  http://www.inclusive.co.uk/publications

No Tech Solutions:  Use live voice scanning (also known as auditory scanning and partner assisted scanning) to practice choice making.  Say the choices aloud and ask your student to hit a switch (does not need be connected to anything) when you say the choice that is desired.  E.g.  "What would you like to eat first at lunch?  Sandwich, Apple, Crackers.  Hit your switch when you hear the one you want.  Sandwich, Apple, Crackers." For more information and a video: http://bridgeschool.org/transition/multimodal/partner_assist_scan.php

Light Tech Solutions:  Here is a simple idea to practice timing. Record a repetitive line (E-I-E-I-O) in a song such Old MacDonald.  Ask your student to sing the repetitive line during the song at the correct time using a simple Speech Generating Device (SGD) e.g. Step by Step (tm).

High Tech Solutions: Scanning can be used to access a computer as well as a Speech Generating Device (SGD).  There are a variety of scanning patterns that can be considered including row column, inverse, quadrant. Contact your TVCC ACS Occupational Therapist if you would like to explore scanning patterns to maximize your student's access speed and efficiency.

Challenge:  My student repeatedly hits his/her switch.  I'm not sure if he/she understands that hitting a switch makes something happen on the computer screen. 
Possible Solutions:  Provide simple verbal promps.  "Hit your switch once, and see what happens."  You may need to provide some hand over hand assistance or temporarily take the switch away in between activities. 
Make sure the reinforcement is brief to allow the student many opportunities to see the beginning and end to the activity.

Challenge:  My student always picks the first choice.
Possible Solutions: Hold the switch and ask your student to listen to the choices first and then provide them the opporunity to touch the switch.  If you are using authoring software (that you can program), add a speaking button that is programmed to say "wait".  You may also want to try swapping the buttons for a less preferred choice at the beginning. 

I can...be a Star!

Madison is a 13 year old student who attends high school at Parkside Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, ON.  She has been using auditory scanning with a head switch attached to her Speech Generating Device (Springboard) since June 2006.  She also uses the same access method to use a computer with Intellitools software to write a daily journal.  Way to go Madison!!!