In conjunction with acquiring specialized formats, the IEP team must also determine and implement supports which may be needed. Specifically, the IEP Team should consider whether Assistive Technology (AT), training, support services, and accommodations or modifications are needed for a student to effectively use AEM.
Assistive Technology (AT)
After selecting the specialized formats and determining how to acquire them, the team should consider what types of technology or tools are needed for a student to use the accessible materials. Information about the accessibility features required by the student, along with how and where the student will use a specialized format, can be helpful when selecting assistive technology (AT), such as audiobook players, refreshable braille displays, accessible book reading apps, and other tools. Oklahoma’s AEM service providers help schools, students, parents, and guardians determine which device(s) and/or software will be most effective with the specialized format used by a student. As Oklahoma’s Assistive Technology Act Program, ABLE Tech offers device loans for up to six weeks for trial purposes. After the trial is complete, it is the responsibility of the local education agency (LEA) to acquire equipment listed in a student’s IEP, however, the AIM Center and Liberty Braille offer school-term loans of select assistive technology devices.
The amount of training required for the student to use AEM will vary according to the complexity of the technology selected to access the specialized formats. For example, use of a large print book would not require much training. However, if a student is using text-to-speech software or a refreshable braille display to access digital text, he or she may need to learn more advanced skills. Teachers, other school staff, and families may also need training in order to support the child at school and at home. Students may also need additional types of training, such as to learn when to use a particular format or tool for a specific learning task and how to ask for needed supports when they are not readily available.
When a student first begins using a specialized format or an assistive technology (AT) device, instruction should include multiple opportunities for the student to understand the purpose, benefits, and outcomes of using the tools. It is helpful to start by providing opportunities for the student to use the tools to successfully complete familiar learning tasks, possibly in a single environment. Gradually building on early successes and slowly introducing the complexity of the tools will enable the student to master them and work as independently as possible on learning goals in a variety of environments. Educators and families will need to work together to support the student’s use of accessible materials and to monitor the change in the student’s participation and achievement.
A student’s IEP should describe any support services needed for effective use of various specialized formats and who is responsible for providing them. Different support services may be needed for different formats. For example, a student using braille may require specialized instructions from a qualified teacher of the visually impaired, and a student with a physical disability may need the support of an occupational therapist or physical therapist. Additional supports such as case management; classroom organization and arrangement; equipment management and maintenance; and file acquisition may also be needed.
Accommodations and Modifications
The use of AEM may require accommodations or modifications to a student’s education program. For example, a student may need preferential seating or additional time to complete tasks due to the time required to use a specialized format. A student may need frequent breaks to avoid fatigue. A student may need to provide responses orally rather than in writing, or he or she may be allowed to submit fewer responses. The team should consider which accommodations or modifications will be necessary when writing the IEP.
As with the other steps for providing AEM, the IEP team should be sure to document decisions related to providing supports. There are several sections of the IEP where this information could be appropriately included, such as Special Education, Related Services, and Supplementary Aids and Services. For more information about including assistive technology in the IEP, see the Technical Assistance Document Assistive Technology for Children and Youth with Disabilities IDEA Part B, and the Special Education Process Guide at http://sde.ok.gov/sde/documents/2017-08-28/oklahoma-special-education-process-guide