Friday, June 16, 2017

Free Websites to Use with Switches in a Special Ed. Classroom

We live in a digital world... technology is all around us! Our kiddos with disabilities should have the same opportunity to learn to use technology as students who are "typically developing." As special education teachers, it can be difficult to find ways that our kiddos can access technology. I've always loved switch activated cause and effect toys and games, but switch toys are expensive and my kids get bored of them after a few weeks of playing with them. When it comes to technology, I often prefer using a computer over an iPad because the computer screen is larger and I have many kiddos with vision impairments. So I've been on the hunt lately for FREE websites that my students can use with switches for simple games and cause and effect activities.

First, before you even think of attaching a switch to your computer, you will need a switch interface. My district will loan out switch interfaces, but it's a NIGHTMARE to check stuff out and turn it back in, so I bought my own interface. I bought this X-keys interface for $53 and it works like magic!  Better Living Through Technology has a great post explaining switch interfaces and what you'll need to get started using a switch with your computer. After you have the interface, you'll have to download the software and get it all hooked up (whatever interface you buy should explain this process).

Shinylearning is amazing! The website is made specifically for kiddos with disabilities who use assistive tech (specifically switches and touch screen). The website has simple cause and effect games and also simple single switch games and the website words on computers and tablets. The website has some free games but you can purchase a subscription to get access to more games.

SpecialBites is also awesome! The website has a variety of free switch games/ software that you can download to your computer and also free online games that don't require any download. The website also has a variety of levels of games (some are simply single switch cause and effect, some require timing, and some require multiple switches!). We love the free online games- just go to the website and click "free online games" on the left tabs and then you have a ton of options like sports games, angry pigs, sensory games and so much more! Our favorites are the soccer games, all of the easy fireworks sensory games, and angry pigs.

HappyClicks might be one of the easiest websites to use! There are a ton of games/ activities that can be played with a single switch (or simply clicking any key). They have silly cause and effect games like magic tricks and animal noises and games that are great for kiddos who are new to using technology or who have limited physical movement. The single switch games are listed under "online games for babies using any keyboard (PC) or touchscreen." They also have free and simple point and click and drag and drop games.

Although FisherPrice is geared towards infants, toddlers and preschool age students, some of their free online games are perfect for switch toys and are really motivating to my kiddos. From the link, you can click on "online games" and then pick an age range and explore. Two games that work great with switches and that my kids LOVE are the Laugh & Learn Peek-a-Boo Game and the Rainforest Peek-a-Boo Game. They're perfect for single switches/ cause and effect!

If you know other websites that are great for switch toys, PLEASE share them in the comments! I would love more ideas and I know others reading this would too!

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