Wednesday, 1 May 2013
About a year ago, our Speech Therapist suggested that we start getting Jessica to use “switches”. I will admit that I had no idea what she was talking about at the time! I now know that switches are used to perform a variety of functions; allowing users to “talk” by using a switch that another person can pre-record a message onto, or to control a whole variety of equipment – TVs, radios, cameras, computers, ovens, kettles, wheelchairs etc. They come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes and are used by children and adults who don’t have the cognitive, or the physical, ability to talk or use technology in the conventional way. Given that Jessica can’t talk or use her hands very well, this approach definitely seemed worth a go!
The Speech therapist advised that the best way to start with switches is to use switch-controlled toys, mainly to teach her cause and effect. Jessica had a trial with one that the speech therapist had, and she understood it immediately, so we then went ahead and bought her one for her third birthday to use at home. It is a monkey who squawks and bangs his cymbals together. A year on, it is still one of her favourite toys, and although she has progressed to using switches in other contexts now (I will write another post on this later), her switch monkey is always a popular pastime. There are so few activities that Jessica can do by herself without needing assistance, but this she can do without help and I think that is its attraction.
We will sit Jessica at the dining table and she will play with her switch monkey while we are getting her dinner, or washing up etc. It can get a bit annoying after a while (you will see why if you watch the video below!) but on the few occasions I have turned it off and asked Jessica for a break for a few minutes, she has immediately turned it back on with a very defiant expression on her face!
However, the other day when Jessica was playing with her switch monkey, she managed to pull the actual toy towards her, and she began to give it a hug. It was then that I realised that we had made a fundamental omission – we had never given the actual monkey to Jessica to hold or to touch- we had only ever given her the switch and put the monkey in the middle of the table out of her reach. It turns out that not only does she love playing with the toy and the switch, she also loves the monkey itself!!