Elsa has had switches to use for communication for quite some time, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted how we use them. Here, we’re reading a book made by her teacher at preschool. It’s fashioned after Brown Bear, Brown Bear. But instead of the flow of colors and animals, it features real pictures of familiar scenes in her classroom.

When reading, we keep the switch at a nearby distance to prevent her from reflexively hit-hit-hitting it. Sometimes she will get in that mode! Here, though, you can really see her wait her turn. (Although sometimes she gets excited to “say” her part.) We’re in the process of making some PODD books for Elsa through our local Easter Seals office. Until these are complete, her switches give her a great way to be part of conversation. Books with repetitive phrases or ideas are perfect for these programmable switches.

Would love usage ideas from others who have these communication tools. And in case you’re wondering what she’s wearing here, it’s a neoprene vest, which gives wet suit-type pressure that’s really organizing and helps her focus. She wears it twice a day for 1.5 hours at a time.



5 Responses to Elsa: Reading with Switch

  1. Jill Hillestad says:

    Thank you for posting the video, that is a great idea to adapt the books to things she is familiar with. How does the neoprene vest help with attention? My son is 4 and we had his IEP meeting with preschool yesterday and he continues to struggle with his attention span so they were trying to generate ideas on how to help him. One idea was a weighted vest but if the neoprene vest works well I thought it might be an option to look into.

  2. Shirley Bidnick says:

    This is such a good idea. It gives sweet Elsa a chance to initiate, actively participate and develop her skills during story time. Rochelle has always enjoyed being read to, but a switch could potentially transforms a passive activity that invites her to snuggle up and nod off, into an opportunity to pay attention, focus on timing, banging and making noise. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anitra says:

    Hi Jill. If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard the terms “vestibular” and “proprioceptive” input a lot. Therapists will surely cringe at this oversimplification, but… here goes! Vestibular = rigorous movement (hanging upside down, doing acrobatic moves, etc.) Proprioceptive = pressure and touch (giving hugs, pushing up against people and objects, etc.). Typically developing kids seek and get these type of input all of the time in rigorous play. But our kids don’t get much of it. Some of our kids aren’t moving a bunch, due to motor challenges, and we’re also often so worried that intense movement will cause reflux! The neoprene vest provides proprioceptive input. It gives Elsa the sensation (more or less) of being pushed against and pushing back, providing awareness of where she is and what she’s doing at all times. It’s been wonderful so far. She really has responded to it.

  4. Anitra says:

    Shirley — exactly! It makes communicating a two-way street. It takes time and effort, and we get to it when we can. During sisters’ nap time is best. I like to wait until it’s nice and quiet around the house. Some would say that’s “not real life.” That life is noisy and that the still-and-quiet environment we set up for our switch conversations isn’t very life-like. But I like to give Elsa a chance to be successful, so she can show me what she knows.

  5. Auntie Judy says:

    Finally getting around to looking at some old emails, and I so appreciate seeing this one and discovering what switches are and how the neoprene helps. Thanks so much for trying to keep me informed, Anitra. See y’all this summer. Love you, Auntie

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