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Switch devices help Pied Piper students communicate

ALPENA — Nonverbal Pied Piper School students are learning to communicate with others through devices at the school.

At Thursday’s Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Board of Education meeting, teachers Lauren Grulke and Audrie Spicer talked about how switches help students and their ability to communicate.

Switches are communication devices that allow students to make independent choices, participate in the curriculum, and take part in different leisure activities.

Students have learned different things from switches, like the days of the week and the months of the year. They can figure out the exact date, as well.

“They can be hooked up to activate computer games, any battery-operated game, a toy can be adapted, and a tool can be switch-adapted,” Grulke said. “I got a racecar in the classroom and a little penguin that goes up and down, you just hit the switch and it works.”

Spicer said anything that can be plugged in can be used as a switch.

The school has a bubble machine, so, if a student wants to play with bubbles, a switch can be activated that will set off bubbles for the student.

A switch can also be used when students want to read.

Switches are used to turn on items, like blenders or a paper shredder. Students can also use switches to make food choices, so they have the ability to choose what they want to eat from different options, Spicer said.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think it provides a voice for our kids that are nonverbal and helps foster their independence.”

Spicer said that, with the combination of a communication book and switch, students also have the freedom to choose what game they want to play.

“All the students can participate in one way or another,” Grulke said.

Students have been using switches at the school for a few years.

“We try to make them as independent members of society,” Spicer said. “They’re making independent choices.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.