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Overview and Purpose

Selecting a Switch

Mounting Systems

Switch Interfaces

Classroom Ideas


Switch Interfaces (pdf)

Switch Interfaces

Switches can be used with anything electronic, including devices that work with batteries. However, the electronic device will need an interface to use a switch; a place the switch can be plugged in. Switches can control the flow of power to turn things on and off, such as a battery-operated toy or a radio or fan. Items that run on batteries use direct current (DC) while those with plugs use alternate current (AC). Both types can be adapted for switch use with different interfaces. With other interfaces, the same switches can also control complex electronics such as computers and telephones.

Examples of Switch Interfaces

We have also provided a useful handout explaining switch interfaces in detail.

Adapt Toy (pdf)
  • A Battery adapter can transform any battery operated (AC) toy or device for switch activation. (View our handout on adapting a battery-operated toy/device.)
  • An Environmental Control Unit (ECU) is an interface for any electrical (DC) appliance with an on/off switch.
  • A Switch Latch is connected between the switch and the target device. One touch of the switch turns the device on; the next turns it off.
  • A Timer connects between the switch and the target device. The device will run for a set amount of time (from 1 to 60 seconds) after the switch is activated.
  • A Switch Latch-Timer offers both features: timer and latch. It can be set to turn the tape player on for 5 seconds. The user must then re-activate the switch.
  • A Series Adapter is an interface used between a target device and two switches. Both switches must be activated for the device to turn on.
  • A Jack Adapter converts the size of the switch jack to match the size on the toy or interface.


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Positioning Tips

For optimal switch use, several things must be considered:

1. The child should be in a comfortable position. Wherever the child is positioned, in a chair, at a table, or on the floor, the child should be secure so that she can expend energy on participation. She should not be putting effort into balancing or maintaining a particular position. Watch for signs of fatigue.

2. Place the switch near the child's preferred, most reliable access site. Reflexive or abnormal movement patterns should not be considered appropriate sites. Switch placement should not interfere with stable body positioning. Accidental "hits" are natural consequences!

3. Place the device that the child is activating in close proximity to the switch itself. The closer the switch is to the reacting device, the more concrete the cause/effect relationship is.

Girl using a switch4. Secure the switch in a stable position so that it doesn't move out of place when activated. Special switch holders are available or items such as suction cups, Dycem (a non-slip material) or a combination of Show Loop fabric (loop Velcro) with hook Velcro adhered to the switch, will stabilize the switch.

  • Mounting systems can provide more sophisticated switch securement. These can include a combination of clamps, mounts, mounting plates, rods and flexible arms. Pieces are sold separately or as systems or kits.
  • Hand/arm splints, wedges or customized supports can help a student be more accurate.
  • You can further customize switches to make them more appealing or functional, by adding color stickers or textures.

5. As children should be repositioned frequently throughout the day, consider more than one switch access site, mounting system, and/or switch for different activities in different positions. The stamina of the child, the environments and activity requirements will help to identify the most successful solutions.



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