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Special Words User Guide - Switch Control

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Using Switches with Special Words

All of the activities in Special Words can be controlled using switch access scanning, with 1, 2 or 3 switches connected to the tablet, phone or computer via a Bluetooth switch interface.

Alternatively, USB switches can be connected to the device's USB port.  In the case of an iPad or iPhone, Apple's Camera Adapter can be used to connect USB switches to the device's charging port (although you may need to connect via a powered USB hub).

Using the support built into Special Words

This provides simple switch access within each activity, requiring very few presses. It is available in all editions of the app, on all devices.

This is designed for where the switch user (typically a child) will control the activity, but another person (usually an adult) will support the user by starting the app and selecting the activity using the touch screen.

Using the support built into the operating system

iOS, macOS and Android provide switch support, allowing full control of many apps, and the ability to access the home screen and to switch between apps, etc.

This option requires more presses, and is generally suited to adult users with no intellectual disability.

Device settings

Apple's built-in support is enabled or disabled in the iPad or iPhone's Settings, or the Mac's System Preferences, under Accessibility > Switch Control. Note that you must turn this off to make use of the switch facilities provided by Special Words. On iPad or iPhone you must also disable Full Keyboard Control under Accessibility > Keyboard.

Android built-in support is enabled or disabled in the device's Settings, as documented in Google's Instructions. Note that you must turn this off to make use of the switch facilities provided by Special Words.

Using switches with Special Words on an iPad

Using the support provided by Special Words

To use this, firstly ensure that any Switch Control in the device's Settings is turned OFF.

To make use of switches, if you are using Bluetooth, you need to have already enabled Bluetooth on your device, and have paired it with the switch interface or Bluetooth-enabled switch. With one or two switches, the first must be configured to act as a space key or the sequence of two keys ~1, and the second switch (if used) to act as an enter key or the sequence of two keys ~3. With three switches, the first must act as space, the second as enter, and the third as either ~1 or ~3.

It is also possible to simulate the use of switches, using an external keyboard, as described in Chapter 12. As the app also supports using external keyboards and switches together at the same time, this provides a way for the adult to model the use of switches for the child, in a dual-control manner.

Before proceeding further, you must also specify the number of switches you are going to use in the settings for Special Words. Change the number of switches from 0 to 1, 2 or 3, as appropriate (beside the bottom red arrow in the screenshot).

Special Words - switch settings iOS

Number of switches

  • With 1 switch

    Pressing will display a red highlighting border around the first baseboard card, and then cycle this border round the others indefinitely until pressed again, when it will select the currently highlighted card as if tapped on the screen. The scanning speed is tied to the Animation Speed setting (next to the top red arrow opposite), giving a range of about 1 to 10 seconds per card, with a default middle setting of about 3 seconds.

  • With 2 switches

    The first switch highlights a different card each time it is pressed, and the second switch performs the selection.

  • With 3 switches

    The first highlights a different card each time it is pressed, the second switch performs selection, and the third moves on to the next page.

Switches with iPad

If you want to make it possible for the switch user to advance from one page in an activity to the next without assistance, when using 1 or 2 switches, change the Advancing to Next Page setting to Automatic, as shown next to the middle red arrow opposite.

We have tested Special Words using the APPlicator Bluetooth switch interface, Smoothie 75 wired switches and iSwitch Bluetooth switch, all manufactured by Pretorian Technologies Ltd. Other switches and interfaces should also work provided they emulate a Bluetooth or USB keyboard with space and enter and/or ~1 and ~3 keys.

If you have any difficulty getting your switches to work, check whether they generate any input with other apps on your device, e.g. a mail app, a word processor or a web browser. If the switches are connected and configured correctly, then you should be able to use them to input space and enter or ~1 and ~3 key-presses in these apps, without the on-screen keyboard appearing. If these work, double-check that you have configured the appropriate number of switches in the Settings for Special Words.

On iOS: If you have problems caused by switches unintentionally being pressed multiple times or being held down, you can alleviate this by adjusting the device's Accessibility > Keyboards > Key Repeat setting.

See Also

Using Switches with Special Stories

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