Gone are the days of old when we toiled in front of the desktop computer with our switch interface and cords dangling about. Just kidding, I still use all that stuff. But boy do we have options these days! Today I am talking about a few of the switch interfaces specifically for iPad (any operating system after iOS7). There are generally two kinds of interfaces, direct connect (through the charging port) and bluetooth. Both have their pros and cons but here are some of my favorites.
Make a Direct Connection
The Tapio by Orin works by connecting to a lightning cable plugged directly into the charging port on the iPad. The obvious benefit of this is that you have a direct wired connection and don’t have to worry about your bluetooth switch not pairing when you desperately need it to. Other benefits include
- No battery to charge, powered by the tablet itself
- Fast connection/response
- Can be used with iOS, android, mac, windows, chromebook, linux computers, and speech generating devices with a USB port
- Can use sip/puff or left/right switch with a single stereo switch
- Can use two separate switches with different functions as long as you have the right adapter
Some downsides include
- Wired vs. a wireless connection you’d get with a bluetooth interface
- You have to have the special adapter to use two separate switches (unlike say the Blue2 which is already set up for 2 switch use)
- You have to use a paperclip to make setting adjustments (Huh?!)
Another direct connect interface is the Hook+ switch interface from Ablenet. Even though I haven’t personally used this one I’m sure it works well since it’s from Ablenet. This one is a little pricier than the Tapio ($185) and looks a bit bulkier. One benefit I noticed right off the bat is that it allows for use of UP TO 4 SWITCHES! I definitely want to try this one!
Some Apps Just Don't Seem to Work
Something important to remember is that apps that use keystrokes (ex. apps with built in scanning like Boardmaker) are not compatible with Tapio or Hook+. This was a huge problem for me because many of my students use Boardmaker Student Center. When I spoke with Boardmaker support, they specifically told me to use a Bluetooth switch interface.
Free Yourself Up with Wireless
The first wireless switch interface I want to mention in the BLUE2 by Ablenet. This is my personal favorite of ALL the interfaces I have tried. Unlike the first two interfaces I’ve shown you, the BLUE2 is itself a switch (well, actually 2 switches). You can then connect whatever more adaptable switches you want to use directly in using the standard 3.5 mm inputs. This is helpful when you’re doing switch training and need to provide assistance without touching the student's switch.
Even though you will connect your switches to the interface using the standard audio cable(s), the connection to the actual tablet will be wireless. I personally find it very nice to be able to place the tablet on a tray, table, etc. and then move it as needed without having to watch for the cord. In order to use two switches, you simply plug one into S1 jack and the other into S2 Check out a couple examples using the BLUE2!
Another Bluetooth Interface You Could Consider
BLUE2 isn’t the only wireless interface out there.The APPlicator by InclusiveTLC has some nice functions. For one, you can connect up to four switches at a time. Their website also says it also works with the Surface Pro and Android tablets. It allows for 24 functions and a neat feature with this interface is the “Quick Media” option to play/pause, skip back/forward and timed play in music playlists.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t claim to know anything about how this work with Android or Microsoft products as our district uses iPads but I want to make sure everyone knows it is an option.
When in doubt...go bluetooth
Although a direct connect interface gives you the ability to bypass any bluetooth connection issues, I’ve never been unable to eventually get a bluetooth interface to connect. Now, if this is going to be a no go for your classroom (maybe you have classroom aides that hate dealing with tech issues), just go with a direct connector. Just remember that you’re probably not going to be able to use them with app specific switch settings. This automatically prevents you from using certain apps like ProLoQuo and Boardmaker Online. If you know you’re going to use something like that, go ahead and do bluetooth.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions! If you know a specific app you want to you, leave it in the comment and I will try to help you figure out the best interface to use! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @inclusiveot4schools, Your School OT on Pinterest, and Amanda Beason OT on Youtube for more tutorials.