Thursday, December 11, 2008

Assistive Technology Holiday Gift Idea:Switch and Powerlink for Electrical Toys

Electric toys like a Light Brite, slot car race track or a train set, can be fun at Christmas, but how fun would it be if children with orthopedic diabilities could use a switch to run them? Don't skip these toys because a child can't access's how!
Enter the Powerlink 3. These are what we have in my equipment center for trials. I am going to explain how to use electrical toys using a switch, without having to adapt or modify the toy or use any wires.
The Powerlink 3 has two plug receptacles that allow you to plug in electrical devices and operate them with a switch. The switch (or switches when using 2 toys) is plugged into the Powerlink 3 and then the toy is plugged in. By pressing the switch, the child allows power to pass to the toy. If the toy is already turned on to run, the switch will make it go.

The Powerlink has 4 modes: (Described off the Ablenet website)
Direct: Keeps appliances ON as long as the switch is activated.
Timed Seconds: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 seconds with each switch activation.
Timed Minutes: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 minutes with each switch activation.
Latch: First switch activation turns appliance ON; second activation turns it OFF.

We have been using one of these to teach cause and effect in order to develop switch access communication down the road. Activities have included a Lite Brite and a juicer to make fresh apple juice. The Powerlink can be a way to link electric devices that help teach strategies that will be used in life skills, but besides that they are just plain fun when hooked up for kids that normally can't access toys. It is a thrill for them. If you want a memorable Christmas, hook up one of these and a special toy and watch what kids do - if it is the first time they have had control over a toy like this, the excitement is worth it all.

Ablenet, has a holiday gift ideas page. They are announcing 20% off on selected items in the holiday buyers guide area. They have the "Twist" which is a jelly bean switch with changeable colored tops. Check it out on the their gift page as well.

Some toys that will operate with a switch and a Powelink. I found them at

Slot car race set - I found one on Amazon for $34.99 (I found it is battery powered and won't work for the Powerlink so here is another one! -Carrera Go Mario Kart - $66.10 on Amazon. I like this one better anyway. It says it has a transformer so to me that means it plugs in.

Portable Radio - I found that a small portable radio makes a great music source. If it has a cassette and you have some old tapes, it works best. A DVD or CD doesn't work with the power interrupting because you have to start it again and have to press the play button to go again. $19.99

North Pole Christmas Express Train set - $44.99

Lite Brite - a whole bunch of them...I didn't know there were that many options!

Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper - Kids love to watch the wire kernel pusher go and turn around. There switch can control it. Around $30.

There are a few electrical toys and items to get you started. I am surprised how more things are going to computerized toys with batteries. There don't seem to be as many plugged in toys as I remember as a kid, but they are still out there with a little searching. Happy Holidays!

All the best to you!



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Patrick Black said...

I love the ideas...I have to get the race car set my kids would love it!!


Lon said...

I just went to the race car set link and mg nified the box - it says "batteries required) so I don't think it would work. I apologize for putting up something and not checking. I have put another one on there - it is $66 - but cheap for an electric set.
It is a Mario Kart one.