Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Assistive Technology Gift Idea: Switch Access Electronic Toys

Electric toys like a Light Brite, slot car race track or a train set, can be fun at Christmas, but how fun would it be if children with orthopedic diabilities could use a switch to run them? Don't skip these toys because a child can't access's how!

Enter the Powerlink 3. These are what we have in my equipment center for trials. I am going to explain how to use electrical toys using a switch, without having to adapt or modify the toy or use any wires. The Powerlink 3 has two plug receptacles that allow you to plug in electrical devices and operate them with a switch. The switch (or switches when using 2 toys) is plugged into the Powerlink 3 and then the toy is plugged in. By pressing the switch, the child allows power to pass to the toy.

The Powerlink has 4 modes: (Described off the Ablenet website)
Direct: Keeps appliances ON as long as the switch is activated.
Timed Seconds: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 seconds with each switch activation.
Timed Minutes: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 minutes with each switch activation
Latch: First switch activation turns appliance ON; second activation turns it OFF.

We have been using one of these to teach cause and effect in order to develop switch access communication down the road. Activities have included a Lite Brite and a juicer to make fresh apple juice. The Powerlink can be a way to link electric devices that help teach strategies that will be used in life skills, but besides that they are just plain fun when hooked up for kids that normally can't do things. It is a thrill for them. If you want a memorable Christmas, hook up one of these and a special toy and watch what kids do - if it is the first time they have had control over a toy like this, the excitement is worth it all.
Ablenet, has a holiday gift ideas page. They are announcing 20% off on selected items in the holiday buyers guide area. The Powerlink 3 is listed there at $200. Check ebay too.

Some toys that will operate with a switch and a Powelink:
I found them at -
Slot car race set - I found one on Amazon for $34.99
Portable Radio - I found that a small portable radio makes a great music source. If it has a cassette and you have some old tapes, it works best. A DVD or CD doesn't work with the power interrupting because you have to start it again and have to press the play button to go again.
North Pole Christmas Express Train set - $44.99
Lite Brite - a whole bunch of them...
Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper - Kids love to watch the wire kernel pusher go and turn around. There switch can control it.

There are a few to get you started. You can get a switch from Ablenet as well.

All the best to you!

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!


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