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Collection: Early Childhood

Purple arrow NCIP Profile: Free Choice Time

Photo of Sabrina with eye gazeSabrina, an engaging 5-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, cannot speak or point. To help her communicate her preferences, she sometimes uses an eye-gaze board, a simple apparatus consisting of a Plexiglas frame with Velcro tabs. During free choice time, Jan, a classroom aid, places the eye-gaze board perpendicular to Sabrina's wheelchair tray and fastens six pictures of her preferred activities -- such as read a book or listen to music -- around its edges. Jan stands behind the board to gauge where Sabrina's eyes are pointing. By looking directly at one of the pictures, Sabrina chooses "Bobby, Bobby, What Can You Do?" her favorite book on computer.

Often, young children with SSPI are given one choice at a time and asked to indicate "yes" or "no," while typically-developing children pick from a field of choices. By featuring a range of options, the eye-gaze board allows Sabrina to make authentic choices alongside her non-disabled peers. Once the choice is made, Jan connects a switch on the left side of Sabrina's wheelchair tray to a simple "switch box," which plugs directly into the computer. The software for "Bobby, Bobby" is loaded and Sabrina is on her own.

Using its internal speech capability, the computer reads the story aloud while highlighting the words. By hitting a switch when she is ready, Sabrina turns the pages at appropriate times. Sabrina clearly delights in the story, laughing to herself when the main character, Bobby, gets dirty playing in the mud.

Photo of Sabrina with teacher at the computer
Sabrina (center), with Jan (left) and another student (right), reading "Bobby, Bobby" on the computer.

When she is done, Sabrina hits another switch on the right side of her tray that activates an electronic speech aid called SpeakEasy(TM). The message "Come here please" is clearly emitted. This 12-by 8-inch device has 12 squares or "message locations" that hold discrete prerecorded messages. Jan has recorded the various messages that Sabrina will need for the day and Sabrina's switch can be plugged into any of these locations, depending on the activity she is engaged in.

Jan responds to Sabrina's call for assistance and enlists the eye-gaze board once again. Like most kids, Sabrina likes to read her favorite stories more than once and chooses "Bobby, Bobby" again. Jan reloads the software and Sabrina is off and "reading" again.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.