I am a speech and language pathologist that works primarily with children ages 12 and younger. My caseload includes children and adolescents with a variety of medical diagnoses, such as Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Epilepsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, Down Syndrome, as well as a variety of speech and language disorders. Most of my clients are nonverbal or have limited verbal abilities, so assistive technology is my “go-to” for these clients. Whether it’s low tech, or high tech I want to make sure that everyone has the ability to communicate and interact with their surroundings.
When the amazing people at Georgia Tech allowed me to trial their ZUMO plush switch, I was excited to test it with my clients! At times, it is difficult to increase excitement within a client when presenting a typical switch to access a tablet and/or iPad, but when I presented the ZUMO to all of my clients, they immediately showed interest in it. It is a GIANT plush turtle, so of course, who wouldn’t be thrilled to snuggle and learn at the same time!
The ZUMO is very easy to setup with iPad’s iOS system – there was no lag time between setup and beginning our session, which was great for my younger clients who have limited joint attention. The battery lasts for an extended period too. I was able to use the ZUMO with a variety of switch accessible apps with minimal to no difficulties. The other great part about the ZUMO is that it is a plush, so if it gets thrown from one side of the room to the other, then you don’t have to worry! No more having to frantically catch the switch before it slams to the ground into a million pieces; and then sitting on hold with a customer service representative to figure out how to get it repaired.
The only downfall that I discovered while using it during my sessions, was if your client or child has limited strength in their hands, then it was difficult for them to press the switch hard enough to activate it. In this situation, I allowed my client to put their hand on top of the corresponding circle on the ZUMO and when they gave me some other type of signal, we used hand-over-hand prompts to activate the switch together. These clients showed more initiative to use the ZUMO versus a regular switch, though.
As with all assistive technology, it is important to remember that you still need to demonstrate to the child the appropriate way to use the switch and to teach the skills that are being addressed alongside the applications presented on the iPad/tablet. It’s best to always be present when technology is presented to a child in order to encourage success and proper use.
Jaime Harris, MS, CCC-SLP Speech and Language Pathologist works in private and school-based settings with pediatrics and adolescents.
To learn more about the Zumo Learning System, please click here.