Adaptation of Radio Shack Talking Photo Frame

Linda J. Burkhart


Talking Photo frames may be adapted to provide a small "talking switch" that can be used as a beginning augmentative communication device. The lid of the photo frame is used as a switch to activate the voice. This eliminates the need for a separate switch and there are no wires from the switch to the voice-output device. A picture and/or texture symbol can be attached to the top with Velcro to represent a simple message. A number of these "talking switches" may be placed around the environment or in an array within reach of the individual who is unable to communicate verbally.


Radio Shack Voice Recording Photo Frame cat. # 63-942 hot glue stick (regular size: just under 1/2" diameter) stick-tac (or other putty used for holding posters on a wall) adhesive backed loop Velcro (about 6 inches) adhesive backed hook Velcro (about 3 inches)


1. Cut a slice of the hot glue stick about 1/4 inch thick with a pair of scissors.

2. Fasten the slice of hot glue to the lid of the photo frame with stick-tac so that when the frame is closed, the glue stick pushes on the play button and activates the recorded message. See diagram 1. Note: Move the slice of hot glue when you do not want the switch to activate accidentally. For example, in a book bag.

3. Place a 4 inch piece of loop Velcro beginning on the top of the lid, folding back on itself and ending on the bottom of the lid. This makes a flap about 1 1/4 inch long that will fold under the frame and attach to a small piece of hook velcro on the bottom. The purpose of this flap is to fasten the lid loosely shut, leaving enough space so that the lid can move up and down to activate the play button. See diagram 2 and 3.

4. Use a piece of loop Velcro on the top of the switch to fasten pictures and/or texture symbols. Use hook Velcro on the bottom of the switch so that several switches may be attached to a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet mounted to the wall, table or wheelchair tray.

Activity Sample: Balloon play

Place five "talking switches" on a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet with space between each switch, but close enough for the child to reach each one individually. Use picture symbols and words to represent the messages: "Blow up the balloon", "Yeah!", "Make it squeak", "Let it go!" and "IÕm finished with this." Allow the child to direct the actions of an adult or peer to blow up the balloon, let it go, make it squeak, etc. The speaking partner can model the use of the switches by pressing "Yeah!" when the balloon flies across the room.

Additional Application:
Talking Schedule:

A daily schedule can be made with a set of "talking switches." The sequence and specific activities can be changed according to changes in the daily schedule. Place the switches in a single row from left to right on a board or carpet scrap with some space between each switch. Use picture symbols with written words and/or texture symbols to represent each daily activity. Help the individual go from left to right to see, hear and feel the dayÕs schedule. After each activity, re-record the message indicating that that one is finished and move the switch up to another row on the board. A message indicating how the activity went would be appropriate also. For example: "lunch is finished, I had a really good turkey sandwich." This schedule would be presented at the end of each activity as a transition to the next activity so that the individual can see, hear and feel what will be happening next. Consider sending the schedule home for the individual to use to "talk" about his day with his family.

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Linda J. Burkhart, 6201 Candle Ct., Eldersburg, MD 21784

Simplified Technology for Children with Disabilities - Assistive Technology and Augmentative Communication

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Make your own talking switch
Make your own mouse house switch
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