The many advantages of switching systems.
How, then, can switching systems help you to teach, and your student to learn?
When I compiled the following list of benefits I was surprised at how many there
- This is a teaching system planned only from what the learner enjoys.
- However diverse may be the needs of different students, a programme can be
devised to meet those needs.
- Tasks can be made more challenging by degrees.
- If a student has limited vision, hearing or movement, a system can be set
up which makes the best use of the remaining senses.
- Switches offer a pupil the opportunity to make choices.
- If the teacher is inventive and imaginative, switching systems are absolutely
- For developmentally young people, switches might offer them their first understanding
- Because the tasks presented to the child in reaching, or choosing, or working
a switch can be made more difficult by gradual degrees, it is possible to keep
an accurate record of her progress.
- Other forms of assessment are possible. For instance, can the student tell
the difference between the orange surface of the real switch, and the red surface
of the dummy one? Does she prefer to light up a yellow bulb or a blue one?
- One very great advantage of switching systems, in my view, is that they permit
the learner to work alone. When people are disadvantaged by impairments of both
sight and vision, naturally they do need some help on hand twenty four hours a
day, but I have always been worried that this is not necessarily a healthy state
of affairs. Nobody should have somebody else hovering close all the time - we
all need some personal space. Switching systems allow the helper to stand back
and let the individual make nice things happen by herself.
Questions of accountability.
You may already have access to switches, or to a SNOEZELEN® Room, or to
some of the apparatus described in the catalogues. You may already be sitting
your student in front of a switch, so that she can produce the wonderful effects
of bubble tube or fibre-optic spray, or the peaceful sound of 'Ocean Waves at
However, if you are answerable to the Ofsted Inspection Team, or other similar professional referee, you will know the
sort of questions which are likely to be asked.
Why is she sitting in front of that switch?
What did you have in mind, when you set her to that task?
How do you know that she likes that fibre optic light effect?
What are your short term objectives? That is, what learning skill do you anticipate that she will acquire in the very near future?
What were your longer term plans for her - how will being able to switch on those light sprays help her future development?
How did you plan to encourage her to 'generalise' her new-found switching skills towards such longer term independence skills as opening doors or making choices?
These and other such questions will not be new to you. The simple first answer might be, "She can't do it yet. When she eventually does it, the sheer joy
of knowing that the light came on, and she did it, will be justification in itself!" Certainly I know of visually impaired tiny tots who have not cracked it yet, and the short-term
objective for them is that they understand the principle of making things happen, or 'operating upon the environment' as it is sometimes rather grandly called.
It may be impossible for you to have a long term plan in mind. It is quite acceptable to say, "I'll see how she manages with that switch, and if she gets the hang of it, I'll decide then how to make it
more challenging for her."