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Using two switches can enable switch users to start to make choices and access a wider range of material, although it will involve developing their switch skills.

Learning to use two switches

Using two switches rather than one can increase a switch user’s control over the computer or their communication aid. Rather than relying on the computer to scan through the options, they press one switch to move the scan box and the other to select. Some users will master this skill very quickly but others will need to spend time practising and developing the cognitive processing and physical control required.

The starting point is to ascertain whether the individual is physically able to access two switches. With the assumption that they have developed an understanding of cause and effect using one switch, the same software and techniques can be used to establish a second switch placement. It may be that a different switch is needed, dependent on how it is activated and where it is placed.

The software series Switch Skills for Two breaks down the learning process for using two switches into the skills needed. There are currently two titles in the series. These titles contain many activities which encourage the user to develop the skills needed by experimenting with their switches and learning from the results. The order of the activities is designed to provide progression, but is by no means proscriptive. It may be that some of the levels are used in parallel as the learner develops different skills which will tie into their development of two switch use.

The first activity in Switch Skills for Two: Set 1 presents the user with two objects on the screen, for example two balloons. One switch will make the balloon on the left whizz around the screen; the other switch will make the balloon on the right inflate and pop. In this way the user is learning that their switches are independent and can be used for two different actions. The software Big Bang Pictures also has some activities at this level.

Switch Skills for 2 Set 1 screenshot of a fire engine with water cannonSwitch Skills for Two: Set 1 then moves through other skill areas, such as using two switches to activate two objects which interact with each other and one object on screen which has two different actions. In these activities the users is establishing the rules of what each switch does as many of the activities involve very simple scanning. For example, when one switch is pressed the truck on the screen changes for another one. When the second switch is pressed the truck will execute an action (e.g. the fire engine will raise a ladder and spray its hose).

Importantly, these activities are establishing the rules of scanning, but with a light `cognitive load’ – there are only a few objects on the screen, and the learner does not have to follow a scan box.

Switch Skills for Two Set 2 screenshot of crane and cargo truckSwitch Skills for Two: Set Two contains activities which develop further skills leading to two switch scanning: Build Up activities require more presses of the first switch than the second, while Move and Get activities require an object to be moved into position before activating it. Examples of Build Up activities are building up a tower then knocking it down or popping up a line of gophers and then mowing them down with a lawnmower. Move and Get activities include moving a crane to deposit a crate in a truck and moving a flying pan to whack a gopher on the head.

Once the user has established their skills there are many other software titles which can be used. The Choose and Tell series can be accessed by two switches and are great for practising, as they are errorless. This is also true of the Let’s Go titles. The ChooseIt! Ready-mades series contain literacy, numeracy and science content. Stories in all of the SwitchIt! titles can be accessed by scanning, as can the books in the ReadIt! Younger Reader’s Library. ChooseIt! Maker 2 can be used to create curriculum based or individual activities and these can be tailored to the learning level or interests of the user.

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