• Tell me more about Assistive Technology...



    girl using the computer

    Assistive technology (AT) is an umbrella term that covers many different tools and services. For example, adapted pencil grips can be assistive technology for a special education student in general education classes. Additionally, high-tech options such as digital magnification systems can be assistive technology for a visually impaired student. An assistive technology specialist may provide assistive technology services, but so can many other service providers including special education teachers, teachers of the visually impaired, teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing, augmentative communication specialists, and occupational therapists. 


    IDEA defines assistive technology devices as:

    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.


    IDEA also defines assistive technology services as:

    any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes--

    (A) the evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment;

    (B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;

    (C) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;

    (D) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;

    (E) training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and

    (F) training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.


    So What Does That Mean?

    • Assistive technology devices and services must be related to what the individual student needs, as dictated in their IEP. This must be related to what the student needs in order have a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). 
    • Assistive technology is typically listed as an accommodation with the Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP) pages of the IEP. It is not the “goal” to use assistive technology, but rather, assistive technology should support existing academic goals.
    • Assistive technology is a tool to allow students to compensate for their disability. Assistive technology “levels the playing field” by providing access to the curriculum.
    • Assistive technology provides access to the curriculum… it is not the curriculum itself.  For example, FASTT Math is an instructional technology software used to teach math fluency. For most students, it is a curriculum, not assistive technology. This tool may be assistive technology if a student can only access the math fluency curriculum given this technology tool. 

    ·      Examples of assistive technology include:

    • Low-tech: pencil grips, colored overlays, word banks, and math formula reference sheet
    • Mid-tech: portable word processors (like an Alphasmart), audiobooks, handheld spell checkers, and talking calculators
    • High-tech: scan and read software, touchscreen computer, dynamic speech output device, word prediction software, a computer, and voice recognition software.

    ·      Non-examples of assistive technology include:

    • Digital curriculum, such as Edmark Reading Program software
    • Technology used by all students in the class, such as calculators
    • Instructional strategies such as using EmPOWER to teach the writing process