1. What is the purpose of assistive technology in education programs?
The purpose of assistive technology is to facilitate the student’s participation in his or her education program and to enable the student to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). For example, the technology may provide an alternative means of accessing the curriculum (e.g., listening to and following along with a digital textbook), an alternative means of learning, or it may provide access to the school program. Keeping the mandates of the 1997 and 2004 reauthorized IDEA in mind, assistive technology should support the student in the general curriculum and in the least restrictive environment to the greatest extent possible.
2. Should AT be considered for all students with disabilities?
Yes. Under consideration of special factors, the IDEA states “that the IEP team shall consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services.” For more information about the AT consideration process, see pages 4-6 of this document.
3. Is AT required for all students who have an IEP?
No. AT must be considered for all students with an IEP. The IEP team will determine if AT is required based on the results of assessments/observations, etc. For more information about the AT assessment process, see page 7 of this document.
4. Who makes the decision if a student needs assistive technology devices or services?
The IEP team makes the decision of whether students need AT to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). The IEP team may need to rely on an AT assessment or consultation from a team of professionals. The team could include: a speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, special education teacher, psychologist, computer specialist, hearing specialist, vision specialist. Some school districts may have an assistive technology team identified and trained to provide the assistive technology assessment on a local level. Parent input and participation is important in the assessment process and as a member of the IEP team.
5. How should the scope of the assistive technology assessment and its components be determined?
A comprehensive AT assessment is tailored to the individual student’s needs. Depending on those needs, the assessment might address communication, written work, seating, positioning, mobility, academic and nonacademic concerns, access to the general curriculum, access to extracurricular activities, software and hardware options, environmental modifications, training, maintenance of the device, and other issues specific to the student.
6. What are critical components of an assistive technology assessment?
AT assessment is a systematic process to ensure that decisions regarding the selection of AT devices are based on information regarding the student’s abilities, needs, environments, and tasks. AT assessment includes a team approach, assessment of educational tasks and routines, and is ongoing in nature. Although most AT assessments are not standardized, the assessment process should be replicable and use a framework for effective decision making. See page 8 for specific examples.
7. What is the role of parents in the AT assessment process?
Parents are members of the IEP team and provide input in all decisions regarding AT and the IEP. Parents, and the student, if appropriate, should be invited to participate in all aspects of the process. Parents have information about their child that other team members can use to fit, customize, and adapt technology to meet their needs.