If you walk into your bathroom in the darkness, you grope around for the hanging switch cord, and you pull it, and the light comes on. You are quite pleased about this, because whatever you wanted to do in the bathroom was better done with the light on, so next time you go into the bathroom you will certainly use the light switch again. You pulled the switch, and you got an 'output'. The light. We can call it an output, or reward, or effect, or stimulus, or event. (Do you remember, in those heady days of educational jargon, we used to talk about reinforcement stimuli contingent upon the antecedent behaviour!)
I am going to refer to the-thing-that-was-switched-on as the 'output', because it might be a light, or a sound-maker, or a vibration-maker. Let me offer you a list of outputs which we have used, or would like to have used, or which one day we intend to use. It goes without saying that the general idea is that these 'outputs' should be pleasurable events for the learner. It is up to you to find out whether your student actually likes loud music, the smell of peppermint or bright moving disco lights. We should never make assumptions about a person's preferences. But then, finding out what someone really enjoys can be the most pleasant part of devising a switching programme.
1) In the SNOEZELEN® Room
SNOEZELEN® [or 'Sensory Room'] equipment is designed for stunning and miraculous effects of light, sound and sensation. They are the best outputs you will find. The list of what is available is large and is being added to continually. It would be impossible here to detail all the products on offer - ideally you should study the catalogue carefully and, if possible, visit a working SNOEZELEN® Room. Bubbles rise in illuminated columns of water, effects wheels turn slowly in front of a solar projector, fibre-optic sprays change colour to the gentle sound of soothing music. Spot lit beams are shattered wonderfully by revolving mirror balls. The walls are furnished with Catherine Wheel, sound activated panel or 'noisy cushion'.
If you work in an educational setting, where you have to produce evidence that every unforgiving minute is being filled with sixty seconds worth of distance run, then you will not be able to allow your learners long periods in the SNOEZELEN® Room simply to absorb the magic of the place - (although most students make it very clear that this is what they love to do most of all!) You will want to show that your learners are interacting with the equipment, and leaning from it.
The rooms are usually planned so that Control Units can be operated by the sensorily impaired or disabled user. Thus, if the operation of the Bubble Tube is turned over to 'Switch-User' mode, then it will only come on when the student presses the switch in front of her. The delightful effect is now not only a joy for her, but it is also a part of an interactive learning programme.
2) In the Classroom or at Home.
Take the switch or the Control Unit into the classroom or the living room, and consider the possible range of 'switchable' outputs:
Flashing police-type light
Disco lights of various sorts
Spotlight with coloured filters
Projector with effects wheel
Electric Razor on Resonance Board
Loudspeakers on Resonance board
Cassette player, with music, parents' voices etc
Electric blow organ
Electronic organ, with headphones, or without.
Fan, wafting various aromatic smells
You will note that many of these are familiar household items, which you should have no difficulty in borrowing or stealing. They are not all equally convenient. The cassette player, for example, has one great disadvantage for the very early learner - it takes three or four seconds to click into action after the power has been applied via the switching system. This may be too long a pause: the music or favourite sounds fill the room but the student may not associate this event with her switching motion of some momements ago [CD and MP3 controllers could get around this problem]. The electric fan needs several seconds for its effects to be felt...