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Office of ESE

Adaptation Station-Physical Access to Play and Participation

Use the following list to find adaptations for pre-writing and creative representation:

Switch adapted toys | Grasping tools and toy adaptations for grasping
Stabilization/mounting of toys/materials
All-Turn-It spinner for participation, turn taking and random selection
Environmental control
Adapted swing/tricycle | Adapted computer for play/games

Switch adapted toys

Big Red switchsmall plate switchSome children are physically unable to play with or manipulate toys but are able to activate a toy with a switch. Switches come in many shapes and sizes.

dinosaur toyschool bus toyMany toys and battery operated devices are available that are adapted for use with a switch. A child can learn cause and effect by turning the toy on and off or can use it to participate in play in the classroom with his/her peers: using the school bus toy to knock down a stack of blocks in the block area!

Any battery operated device can be used with a switch by using a "battery device adapter" placed in the battery compartment.

battery device adapters

A switch latch and timer allows even more control over the device by featuring modes of control. In latch mode, one touch of the switch turns the device on while another touch turns it off. In timed mode, a single touch of the switch turns the device on for a set amount of time, then turns off automatically. Contact the Pre-K SPED Tech Team (305-271-5701) for more information about using these modes of control for students with physical limitations.

switch latch and timer device with a toy

Grasping tools and toy adaptations for grasping

Some children will have difficulty grasping tools for play, writing, or self feeding. Grasping tools such as splints, cuffs, or straps may help hold the tool in a child's grasp so they can concentrate on using it functionally. An occupational therapist can be of great assistance in choosing one that is right for a child with a physical disability.

Toys can be adapted for easier grasping by adding Velcro to help small pieces stick together with a minimum of effort, EX: stacking blocks. Some toy pieces "disappear" within a child's fist when grasped with a palmar grasp, EX: puzzle pieces or squeezie toys. Adding a handle lets the child grasp the toy easier while making it visible for play. Materials that make good handles :

star popsicle sticks shower curtain handle on puppy dog toy

star shower curtain rings

star dowels

star thick markers, pencils

star hair rollers

star empty film canisters

star T-grips built from hot glue sticks

star These handles can be added to toys with hot glue or Velcro.

Many toys can be purchased with larger, easier to grasp pieces such as this puzzle.

puzzle piece with large knobbed handle

Stabilization or mounting of toys/materials

There are a number of ways to stabilize toys for children with physical disabilities. Commercially available mounts, like the Slim Armstrong mount from AbleNet seen below, hold switches in a secure position. And "low tech" ideas include: homemade PVC mounts, C-clamps, velcro, bunjee cords, etc. The objective is to stabilize the toy within the child's reach and make it easier to manipulate.

bunjee cord stabilizing a bus toy on a child's trayslim armstrong mountbig red switch mount made from pvc

Additionally, we can use surfaces that prevent materials from slipping out of reach. These "low tech" solutions can be used throughout the daily routine. Dycem is a flat sticky plastic that can be placed on a work surface and materials can be placed on top of it. Use it to grip paper in the art area, plates and cups at the lunch table, the tea set in the house area...whatever you need.

carpet square with tea set pieces velcoed onA simple square of indoor-outdoor carpet (very inexpensive at home improvement stores) can become a great gripping play surface. WHY? Because Velcro sticks to it! So any toy with a spot of rough Velcro on its bottom will stay put on the carpet piece.

All-Turn-It spinner for participation, turn taking and random selection

The All-Turn-It spinner provides students with opportunities to interact with their peers in a variety of classroom activities. The All-Turn-It spinner can be used alone or with a switch. Activating the All-Turn-It enables random selections and is perfect for playing games, taking turns and making random selections. Blank overlays are easily customized to many classroom activities. For a whole day's worth of ideas click here.

All-Turn-It spinner

Environmental control unit for activation of electronic devices with a switch

Environmental control units allow switch operation of electrical devices. They are powerful tools for children who use switches to participate in MANY daily activities at school or at home.

Just think of the possibilities:power link 3 environmental control device

star Turning on and off the record player for a game of "Freeze Tag"

star Activating the blender to make fruit or ice cream shakes

star Activating a string of holiday lights

star Setting up an independent listening station


Adapted swing/tricycle

adapted swing seatAdapted swings are available for children who cannot support themselves in a safe sitting position on a moving swing. Many of these children are the ones who need to experience the movement and relaxation that swinging offers. A physical therapist can suggest a swing that gives adequate support for a child.

adapted tricycleAdapted tricycles are available for children who cannot support themselves in a safe sitting position on a moving tricycle or who are learning to locomote on a trike but need help. Many of these children are the ones who need to experience movement through space and to increase independent play. A physical therapist can suggest a tricycle that gives adequate support for a child.

Computer with software for play/games with a switch or adapted keyboard

The computer is a great tool for learning for all students but it can be an essential tool for independent play for a child with a physical disability that interferes with play. Many programs are available that are accessible with a switch or an adapted keyboard for children who cannot use a standard keyboard or mouse.

screen shot of bubblegum play softwarePrograms for use with a switch are simple and fun, like this one, Single Switch Software for Preschoolers. With every click of the switch the bubblegum bubble gets bigger and bigger until it pops!

Another great program is Intellipics that allows teachers to build activities according to the needs and interests of particular students. The Pre-K SPED Tech Team has a large collection of these activities that can be used with a switch or the Intellikeys adaptive keyboard.

intellikeys overlay for circus fun activity

Adaptation Station Categories

Communication Tools

Augmentative / Alternative Communication (AAC) Strategies

Pre-Writing / Creative Representation

Physical Access to Play and Participation

Books and Literacy (Shared Reading, Phonological Awareness, and Story Time)

Positioning, Seating, and Mobility

Positive Behavior Supports / Organizational Strategies

Computer Access

Activities of Daily Living /