Microswitch programs for persons with multiple disabilities: an overview of the responses adopted for microswitch activation.

Cogn Process 2005 Sep 19;6(3):177-88. Epub 2005 Jul 19.

Department of Psychology, University of Bari, Via Quintino Sella 268, 70100, Bari, Italy,

Background: To introduce a person with multiple disabilities to a microswitch-aided program, one has to select a plausible response(s), that is, a response(s) that can be performed reliably and without excessive effort by the person and can successfully activate the microswitch(es) available (producing preferred stimuli). This paper provides an overview of the responses adopted for microswitch activation in research studies during the last 20 years.

Method: Computerized and manual searches were carried out to identify the studies published between 1986 and 2005. Forty-eight research studies were identified. They concerned the use of (1) a single (typical) response, (2) a single (non-typical) response, (3) multiple (typical and non-typical) responses, and (4) multiple (vocal) responses.

Results And Discussion: The results showed that 151 of the 190 participants involved in the studies had a positive outcome (i.e., clear increases in their responding, which suggested that they had learned the association between responding and consequent preferred stimuli). Failures were largely concentrated in the first group of studies. The discussion focused on (a) the importance of selecting plausible responses for increasing the chances of success, (b) the need of non-typical responses for persons with minimal motor behavior, (c) implications of programs with multiple responses on engagement and choice, and (d) relevance of using vocal utterances. Some suggestions for future research concerning these points were also examined.

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September 2005
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