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Simple Sensory Toys for Switches?

by Allan Wilson

on Fri Dec 01, 2017

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Over the past few years I’ve occasionally reflected on the range of switch accessible toys available for children with complex additional support needs. Companies like Inclusive Technology, TFH, SpaceKraft and Liberator have some excellent toys available, but many have become increasingly complicated and I’m not sure that the needs of some children for simple switch-accessible sensory toys are being met.

We were recently approached by a local authority visual impairment specialist looking for toys to support a very young girl (I’ll call her M) with a visual impairment and severe physical disabilities. She was looking for a switch and a suitable toy that could provide some level of stimulation. Identifying the right switch for M was not easy, but we have come up with various access possibilities and will be lending a small number of switches to try. Finding a suitable toy to act as a ‘reward’ is proving more problematic. M responds well to music and, although she has very low vision, she seems to react to light. The obvious reward would be something that plays music and lights up in some way when the switch is activated.

Toy disco ballMany years ago, there was a switch-accessible ‘disco ball’ (similar to the one illustrated) which lit up, slowly rotated and played a simple tune when it was activated. This would have been ideal for M. There were also various switch plates that lit up and played music when the switch was pressed. Unfortunately, over the years, many of the simple, sensory toys that we had in our loan bank have failed, or been lost (a couple were destroyed in a school fire).

I’ve been trawling through various supplier web sites looking for replacements without any success. Inclusive Technology, for example, currently have 40 switch-adapted toys, most of Toy elephantwhich are excellent, but I don’t see anything for M. There are lots of soft, cuddly animals that move and make a noise when a switch is pressed, but M can’t hold anything due to her disability. There are character based toys, e.g. Minions and Elsa, but these would mean very little to M. I couldn’t see the point of making some of the toys switch-accessible, other than to show it can be done. Tolo toy tractorWe have a switch-adapted Tolo Tractor Set, with a tractor, trailer, farmer and a cow, clearly designed to be manipulated and played with (as illustrated in the accompanying leaflet). A switch user has the joy of starting the tractor engine and seeing it disappear into the distance until it hits something, as there’s no way to stop it with the switch.

This is NOT intended to be critical of Inclusive –they are an excellent company, as are the others whose products I could have chosen to look at. Instead, it is a general plea for a broadening of the range of switch-accessible, sensory toys so that the needs of children with very complex disabilities can be better met.

Of course, I may have missed the perfect toy in my trawl, so if you DO know of a simple, switch-adapted toy that plays a tune and lights up when a switch is pressed, please let me know!

allan.wilson@ed.ac.uk

Tags: sensory toys, switch access

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