Monday, March 2, 2015

Press Your Luck Switch Activity

I have many students who use switches to communicate.  They use switches to communicate simple messages during game play, to make requests during activities, to activate environmental controls, to make choices, to tell jokes, to make a horn sound on their wheelchairs, and to play games on the computer.  Using a switch is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) method that allows people with communication deficits opportunities to participate in everyday activities.  The hard part, believe it or not, is getting creative and incorporating it into a variety of activities throughout the day.

Big Talk from Enabling Devices
There are many switches on the market to choose from.  You can actually use a single button switch to accomplish many tasks.  If you have an advanced user, then you can add more options. But for the sake of the following activity, I will show you how I use a one-button switch for some fun classroom activities.

One of the first skills that AAC users learn when using a switch is cause and effect. When you press a button, something happens. Once users understand this essential skill, then many doors will open. When I was first exposed to one-button switches it reminded me of all of the game shows that are used to watch as a kid. You know--The Buzzer. Hand behind your back. Be the first one to ring in. I remember staying home from school and watching shows like the Price is Right, Family Feud, The Love Connection (okay, Chuck Woolery didn't have a buzzer), $25,000 Pyramid, Password, Scrabble, Let's Make a Deal, and my favorite--Press Your Luck!

Whenever I mention Press Your Luck, many people don't remember the show. That baffles me because it was one of the greatest game shows ever! They had these little cartoon characters called Whammies that came on screen and erased your money if you landed on their squares. The one that I remember most was the Michael Jackson Whammy that would moonwalk your money away.  Even though you lost all of your money, it was still very entertaining.

It got me thinking.  This could be a fun activity for older students (upper elementary and higher) who were working on cause and effect with switches.  Part of the fun of using switches is playing games with a group.  Playing game shows is a great way to get the whole class (staff included) involved.  When learning to use switches, users need lots of repetition.  Games like Press Your Luck provide dozens of opportunities.  Actually, Press Your Luck also requires someone with some pop culture knowledge.  The way you earn turns, in order to press the button, is to answer trivia questions.  This is where the staff comes in.  We make the game interactive with everyone. Everyone is involved! We have switches that say, "Come on Big Bucks!" or "No Whammy!  No Whammy!  STOP!" just like the game show.  So not only do the switches buzz in, they say what game show contestants would say when playing.  

In order to do this activity, you need at least a one-button switch.  If you are technologically disadvantaged, you can have a person man the mouse and click it when the switch user activates the button.  Or, you can use a Bluetooth switch and sync it directly with the game.  You might have to get creative if you don't have the resources.  But that's okay!  Sometimes I use a remote control clicker (like for Powerpoint presentations) and click when the switch user activates the button.  You get the picture.

As I write this post, I realize it's getting longer and longer.  Stay tuned and I'll post how I use switches for Wheel of Fortune too.  As for getting Press Your Luck, you can get it for about $10 from Gamehouse.  There are other versions out there.  As for playing it with the class, we project it onto a SMART Board or Tap It when we play, but you can use it on a computer (monitor) as well.

Get creative!  Buy some props like bags of money, sunglasses, or leis.  Have an announcer tell the players which "trips they've won" using a Step-by-Step switch.  You just won a trip to Tahiti!  You just won a trip to sunny Detroit, Michigan!  Set up applause buttons.  Have them encourage each other.  There is a lot to do with a single switch for one activity!