Improving access and range to switch progression for students with PMLD

Back in November we worked with Tweendykes School to specifically to explore Computing opportunities for all of their students.

Tweendykes is an outstanding community special school in East Hull with pupils aged between 3 and 19.  They have a range of difficulties which affect their ability to learn, with some having a diagnosis of ASD and including others supported with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).

Innovative use of ICT has always been a strength at the school and agreed projects last Autumn included (among others) the following examples:

  1. Use of Raspberry Pi to look at ways to engage a group of secondary-aged students with a physical computing project and also to explore eye tracking capabilities as an additional piece of research.
  2. Planning and resourcing a robotics project for pupils with a range of additional learning needs.  Multiple projects differentiated.
  3. Improving access and switch progression for students with PMLD using conductive paint and complimentary tech.

So much to share, but for this post we’ll look at using the Bare Conductive technologies and resources to improving access and switch progression for students with PMLD.

Table top

Kath Oliver and her colleagues have a wealth of experience developing skills with assistive input devices.  Their ‘switch specialism’ background threw open numerous options as soon as we started to explore conductive paint and it’s possibilities in school.

We weren’t looking for technology to make displays interactive as Tweendykes already use a switch approach to showcase their pupils’ projects.  That also meant that other devices such as Makey Makey and the Ototo kits which have facilitated fantastic activities in a mainstream setting were discounted for their duplication of function already in school.

15 - 2

This also started out as an exploratory project with an individual student in mind.  That must be noted as the paint was an appropriate resource to use here.  You’ll also see that the somewhat slapdash approach to painting on the letters was part of the evaluation.

We did intend to increase the width of the lettering and lines to evaluate reliability and suitability.  Apologies if it looks messy – we tried lots of alternative methods!

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  • How could the Touchboard device and conductive paint increase the range of switch use if we considered adapting the tray?
  • Would it allow the student to use almost a gesture approach to switch rather than raising their hand?
  • Would the paint option from the board allow more responses to be triggered on the tray because of space?
  • How reliable would it be?

15 - 4

Moving from ‘pure paint’ as a trigger on the tray to laminates had unpredicted results. We were ‘gobsmacked and amazed’ (Kath’s words!) at the reduction in pressure needed compared to a switch.

And it worked!  The laminate was stuck to the bottom layer using velcro and the paint was ‘activated’ through the touch sensed on the top laminate.

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Any difficulties?

  • The Touchboard itself was flush to the bottom laminate on the tray as we set up the paint lines and made the connection.  This wasn’t the case once we’d attached the power and headphones/speaker.  Lesson learnt!
  • It was a struggle to paint in a careful fashion so as not to merge 2 connections and confuse the trigger.  Even though Kath had adapted a brush for more intricate painting it must be noted that we used a pot of paint.   Next time we’ll use the pens, and actually another special school starts another project next week but with pens.
  • It became apparent that because of the first point it wasn’t a reliable tool with cause and effect supporting students with PMLD.

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Next steps or ‘what if’ suggestions?

  • In this case a case.  Would a case with a battery pack and an integrated speaker help to meet the needs of this school’s application?
  • Would less audio triggers make this switch tray easier to prepare?  Perhaps spaced more apart?   Only the pen will tell!



And what about next steps generally with Computing activities?

You may remember that the Rapiro robot was used with a peer to peer learning project at another school.  It’s been included in the plan for Tweendykes and will be used to extend Computing opportunities for all.

That’ll include cause and effect, switch toys and extending programming for students with a range of SEN.  Just wait until they add their Raspberry Pi and extend even further.   Next blog post 🙂


One thought on “Improving access and range to switch progression for students with PMLD

  1. Pingback: Opening the door with inclusive opportunities using Raspberry Pi | Innovation in Hull

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