Abstract

Objective. The purpose of this study was to determine whether switch control site (hand vs. head) affects the age at which children can successfully activate a computer to play a cause-and-effect game.

Method. The sample consisted of 72 participants randomly divided into two groups (head switch and hand switch), with stratification for gender and age (9–11 months, 12–14 months, 15–17 months). All participants were typically developing. After a maximum of 5 min of training, each participant was given five opportunities to activate a Jelly Bean switch to play a computer game. Competency was defined as four to five successful switch activations.

Results. Most participants in the 9-month to 11-month age group could successfully use a hand switch to activate a computer, and for the 15-month to 17-month age group, 100% of the participants met with success. By contrast, in the head switch condition, approximately one third of the participants in each of the three age ranges were successful in activating the computer to play a cause-and-effect game.

Conclusion. The findings from this study provide developmental guidelines for using switches (head vs. hand) to activate computers to play cause-and-effect games and suggest that the clinician may consider introducing basic computer and switch skills to children as young as 9 months of age. However, the clinician is cautioned that the head switch may be more difficult to master than the hand switch and that additional research involving children with motor impairments is needed.

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