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This paper deals with practical issues surrounding the use and development of switching skills with ... - page 3 / 6





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Adam & Eve

We are informed that Adam sits and rocks. How does he sit and rock? This is not such a silly question – does he walk into the room and find a seat in the corner away from others or is he non-ambulant and pushed into the room? What does he do if a member of staff sits near by and if that member of staff offers an object? Does he glance at the person or the object? Does he alter his rocking pattern? Does he shift his motion so as to move away from the proffered item? If he does then we know he is aware of our presence and consciously choosing not to become involved.

With an individual at this stage of development, the aforementioned techniques of Intensive Interaction (op cit) and non-directive therapy (op cit) have proved useful. The aim, in the former, is to try to make oneself more interesting than the individual’s self-stimulatory behaviours using actions based on early mother child exchanges.

While all of this is proceeding, the individual can be introduced to the switch or perhaps we should say the switch is introduced to the individual. The switch is positioned so that the learner will access it perhaps accidentally at first. This is one situation in which holding the switch becomes more acceptable. With accidental activation comes a reward – the motivator – this could be favourite music, wind in his face (from a fan), going out for a walk if in a wheelchair (the switch is attached to a BigMack that says ‘walk please’), etc. When accidental activation has been successful on (what you consider to be) sufficient occasions, move the switch so that the learner has to make a little more effort to achieve the reward. If Adam is now given some space and time does he activate the switch? If not, we continue on course with the suggested strategies and re-introduce the accidental switching procedure. It is, however, rare in our experience for learners not to interact with the switch after the initial phase.

Eve’s behaviour is somewhat different to Adam’s. She is repeatedly activating the switch over and over without stopping. In this situation there are at least four things we recommend that you try ‘ABCD’:

A is for Accessibility

B is for Blocking.

C is for Change

D is for Differential Reinforcement

Accessibility means that you make the switch a little less accessible. Move it further away slightly; change the angle; put it on the learner’s non–preferred side. Does any of this have any effect on the rate of switching?

Blocking means that you block the learner’s access to the switch until it is once again appropriate to allow activations. This, once again, could mean holding the switch! Alternatively, one may remove the switch or physically block the learner’s access.

Change refers to the notion that there may be something about the switch itself that is acting as a motivator for the learner: its colour, its click, its shape … In each instance we make a change and note any corresponding change in learner behaviour. For example:

swapping from an AbleNet Jelly Bean switch (with an audible click) to an ERI Matrix switch (different shape and no audible click).

Differential reinforcement makes use of the potential of switch-operated software/hardware to differentially reinforce correct switch activations. Consider a simple PowerPoint presentation that puts an image of Robbie Williams (for example) on the computer screen and plays a (part of a) Robbie Williams track. The program is looped to make it continually respond to the switch. There is only one slide in the show: the active slide. When the switch is activated the active slide is selected and automatically begins to play the music. However, if the switch is selected again, the

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