Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Inhibitor Pages on AAC Devices

Sometimes it seems as if their is an all or nothing choice when deciding what other programs and activities to add to high technology speech generating devices for our students.  Sometimes we decide against giving access to recreational activities on speech devices because the student is impulsive and “gets into things” or “just plays”.

The choice isn’t all or nothing, however.  One option is inhibitor pages. Inhibitor pages are something I started using for a student who used an eye gaze based AAC device and was constantly “getting in trouble” for accessing iTunes and online videos.  Inhibitor pages were just one tool in helping the student learn there is a time and a place for leisure activities.  Other tools used included both positive reinforcement for using these activities only during appropriate times and a response cost program of “strikes” which ultimately could result in the loss of internet and iTunes for a period of time.  I now use inhibitor pages on many students devices.  You can create them on just about any high tech dynamic display device.

An inhibitor page consists of a reminder or visual cue and a choice.  The page layout and cell/button size can be designed to facilitate appropropriate choices.  So if a student activates a button which links to a recreational activity like online videos or music an inhibitor page can be inserted before that link works.  For example clicking on “iTunes” brings the user to an inhibitor page as it plays a message like (using a lower volume if desired), “Remember music is a leisure time choice.  Please be sure it is ok to listen now.  Should you be opening iTunes?”  The reminder is careful not to ask, “Do you WANT to open iTunes?” instead asking the user to think about the action he or she is able to take.  The large “no” button brings the user back to the main or home page and not back to the previous page, which can prevent repeating the interaction impulsively.  The small “yes” button opens the chosen program, activity or website.  Teachers and families should introduce the inhibitor page a way for the student to make better choices and direct instruction should happen so the student learns precisely when and where he or she can say “yes”.

The concept of inhibitor pages reminds me of the quote:
If a child can’t read, we teach them.
If a child can’t add, we teach them.
If a child can’t behave, we punish them?
Teachers teach.


  1. This is excellent, Kate. I really appreciate this approach to teaching kids to make appropriate choices rather than taking away learning opportunities.

    Also, great reminder not to ask if this is what the child "wants" to do...after all, I "want" to skip off to Hawaii for a week, but it's not something I "should" do. Rats, anyway! Nope, unfortunately, this is not the time.

  2. This is a great idea! My son is transitioning from a Vantage Lite to the ipad with TouchChat/Word Power. Do you know of a way to make such an "inhibitor" for the ipad? Or have any other suggestions to limit his choices or help him make good choices? I think school is going to be resistant to the ipad because he has already had impulse control problems with his ipod at school.


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