By Karen Osterloh, Royal Blind School librarian
Our Library has recently been asked to look after a collection of switch adapted toys sourced by our Speech and Language and Occupational Health Therapists. These are toys that have been adapted to be operated by a switch: particularly useful for children and young people with complex needs.
So far our Switch Toy Library includes a furry monkey that plays a drum, a puppy that sits, walks, barks and performs backflips, a train that blows bubbles, an infinity tunnel, a spinning plastic globe with multi-coloured lights, and a vibrating pillow. We also have a few switch adapted CD/Cassette/Radio players.
Switch toys are great for developing an understanding of cause and effect. With the right toy, pupils can be motivated to press a switch (in whatever way is suitable to them) in order to make something happen. When they operate a switch they are rewarded with sensory feedback in the form of sound, movement, light, vibration or other sensation. Switches can help with teaching many skills such as responding, timing, taking turns, choosing, listening and looking. They also aid social interaction as they enable them to take part in a group activity.
As the switch adapted toys are expensive, we have added barcodes so that they can be signed out using our Library catalogue in the same way as Library users borrow a book. For storage, they are kept in large plastic boxes.
There are many websites selling switch adapted toys such as: Inclusive Technology, Explore Your Senses, SpaceKraft and Liberator. There are also websites (Call Scotland, for example) which have instructions on how to make your own adapted toys - if you are handy with electric wiring! For more information about switches see the Call Scotland web page on Switches.