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Assistive Technology

Assistive technology should be a consideration for every student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  In every IEP, a discussion must occur regarding the need for assistive technology in order for the student address goals and participate vocationally, socially, communicatively, motorically and academically.

A student with a disability may need an assistive device and services in order to be able to demonstrate their skills and curricular understanding.  Examples of assistive technology devices may be items as simple as a special pencil grip or may be as complex as a dynamic speaking device.

Assistive technology (AT) services include evaluating the needs of the student within natural environments; selecting, designing, adapting, and maintaining AT devices; coordinating other therapies and interventions with AT devices; and training for the students, staff, and, when appropriate, the student’s family.  AT is a tool that may allow a student an access to the curriculum and school environment and assist in independence.

Must Assistive Technology be considered for each individual with a disability?

Yes, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the IEP team consider whether the child requires assistive technology (AT) and services (20 U.S.C. Section 141 {d} {3} {v}).  There are also other requirements in the IDEA related to assistive technology. AT is one of five special factors (i.e. Deaf, Blind, ELL, Behavior, and Assistive Technology) that must be reviewed at each IEP meeting. Minimal compliance with the requirement to consider assistive technology is a response to the question in the IEP, “Does the student require assistive devices and/or services to make progress toward IEP goals at this time?”

What is Assistive Technology?

IDEA (20 U.S.C. Section 1401) includes the following definitions:

Assistive Technology Device: any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

Assistive Technology Service: Any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

These services may include:

the evaluation of the needs of the child, purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology service for a child,

selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices,

coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, services with assistive technology devices,

training or technical assistance for the student or, when appropriate, the student’s family, and

staff training or technical assistance

Assistive Technology is not educational technology.  Assistive Technology provides access to the curriculum. Educational technology (hardware and software) functions as a supplement to the curriculum.  It reinforces concepts taught and is one of the many instructional tools available to the teacher.  Educational technology is support available to all students and is not specified in the IEP.

Who needs Assistive Technology?

Any student with a disability from mild to intensive may require assistive technology in order to make some progress on goals.  Assistive technology may help a student with reading, writing, remembering, walking, sitting, seeing, hearing, and communicating.  A student with deficits in any of these life functions may require the use of assistive technology. 

Types of Assistive Technology

There are three main categories of assistive technology: no tech, lite tech and high tech:

No tech- Items that are assistive to the student, but were not created by technology.  Examples would be a highlighter, Velcro for page turners, raised lines on paper, pencil grips, slant board, and white board.

Lite tech- Items that are “light” on the wallet, easily used, programmed, and implemented.  These devices usually are less expensive and may include pictures, objects, static display boards, choice boards, eye gaze boards, and some voice output devices (Big Macks, Go-Talks, Step by Steps).

High Tech- Expensive items that have dynamic displays, multiple levels, and are more difficult to implement and program.  These devices may include dynamic voice output systems (Dynavox, Springboard Lite, eye gaze systems such as the My Tobii).




It must be individualized to each student based on current performance and needs.