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Language and Communication Make a choice using two switches  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Ideas for encouraging a student to make a choice using two switches

Early years skill:Speaking
Early years typical range:8-20m
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum skill:English Speaking
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum level:P4
TAP skill:Language Expression
TAP level:TAP24
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info; Secondary (11-16yrs) info; Post School Education info; Adult info
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This page was originally created for/by the following organisation: Barts Health NHS Trust (Tower Hamlets) Speech and Language Therapy for Children.
Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Establishing motivators

Items/activities the student may be interested in.

Items/short activities the student is not interested in.

  1. The motivating thing could be bashing on a musical instrument, blowing bubbles, getting social interaction: the student needs to be motivated by whatever the thing/activity is for this to work - they won't communicate for something they don't want. The motivating thing should be something they can have/do for a short time, e.g. no more than about 20 seconds or so.
  2. Check that the student is interested in the item/activity you choose by letting them have a go with it for a short time.
  3. Find something that's boring/isn't motivating. Examples of boring things could be: a ruler, piece of cardboard, "doing nothing" (simply doing nothing/ignoring the student for a few seconds) - this will very much depend on the student.

Don't use two things which are motivating for the student as you won't be able to tell whether they've succeeded in expressing a choice or not.

Establishing the switches to use

Appropriate switches to use

Typically you might start off with a couple of large recordable buttons (for example "Big Macs". You may have already established this with single switch work and established that they can make something happen with a single switch).

You may need to work with an occupational therapist to establish what type of switch a student can use - particularly if they have complex physical difficulties.

Making choices

Pair of switches

Motivating and un-motivating items/activities (see the activity "establishing motivators" above)

If they don't press a switch you may need to:

  1. Show the student by example;
  2. Guide their hand to the switch for the motivating item.

Consistency of pressing

Do they appear to be pressing one switch more than another, or do they appear to be choosing the switch randomly? Swapping the switches around from time to time will help you to know this. If they aren't consistent, you could try making the switches more different, for example:

  • different colours;
  • one larger than another;
  • symbols which are more clearly different;
  • different texture on the surface of each switch;

You could also try:

  • disabling the switch for the unmotivating option so that when it's clicked nothing happens (in case hearing the voice from this switch is in itself motivating).


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