Make Your Own Talking Switch From a Talking Photo Frame

Linda J. Burkhart


Talking Photo frames may be adapted to provide a small "talking switch". The lid of the photo frame is used as a switch to activate the recorded voice.

These may be used as Yes/No switches to provide feedback for a child using a PODD Communication Book with partner-assisted scanning. For using these switches as yes/no switches, they can be held in a communication partner's hands near the child according to the child's specific needs. For example, the 'yes' switch may be held under the child's chin for yes and the 'no' switch held next to her right cheek for no - or whatever works best for that child. The items in the PODD are scanned by the communication partner. The partner waits for a 'yes' or 'no' from the child. When the child makes a head movement down or to the side, the switches may be activated/squeezed by the partner to confirm to the child and the partner that the movement was observed. Eventually the movement may be clear enough to interpret without using the yes/no switches.

Another use is to attach a picture and/or texture symbol to the top with Velcro to represent a simple message. A number of these "talking switches" may be placed around the environment.


Personal Talker from Attainment Company
hot glue stick (regular size: just under 1/2" diameter) or small plastic furniture protector
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: The bump is attached with stick tack so it can be moved when you do not want the switch to activate accidentally. For example, in a book bag.

picture of switch showing placement of glue


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.

Picrure showing where to add Velcro

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 (for a child who is a beginning direct selector - with her hands)

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 "I’m 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. Note: This type of activity should be used in conjunction with a more complete language system such as a PODD communication book, so that the child has the opportunity to say what she wants to say. The activity gives the child the opportunity to experience the power of speech output with a small set of vocabulary and can also be used to help train direct access.

activity example for balloon play

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 or column on a board or carpet scrap with some space between each switch. Use picture symbols with written words and/or texture symbols (for visually impaired) to represent each daily activity. Help the individual go from left to right or top to bottom, to see, hear and feel the day’s schedule. After each activity, re-record the message indicating that that one is finished and move the switch up to another row/column on the board. A co-constructed message indicating how the activity went may be added 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. Note: The use of a schedule is a great strategy, for this specific purpose. It should not be considered a language system, so therefore it needs to be used in conjunction with a robust augmentative or alternative language system.

schedule board


All Rights Reserved - Linda J. Burkhart
Linda J. Burkhart, 6201 Candle Ct., Eldersburg, MD 21784

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