Assistive Technology FAQ

  • What is assistive technology?

    IDEA 2004 defines Assistive Technology (AT) as "any item, piece of of equipment, or product system -- whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized -- that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of students with disabilities." This definition of AT is broad and it should be noted that the word “technology” does not imply a requirement for electronic components. AT encompasses a range of tools from low technology supports (ex. communication boards, pencil grips) to higher technology tools which utilize sophisticated technology (ex. augmentative communication devices that are accessible via eye gaze).

    IDEA 2004 defines "AT Service" as including:

    1. Evaluating student needs for AT;
    2. Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for AT devices for children with disabilities;
    3. Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, retaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices;
    4. Coordinating and using AT devices in therapies, interventions, or services;
    5. Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or their family;
    6. Training or technical assistance for professionals, or other individuals who provide services to the student


    What are IEP teams required to do at an IEP meeting regarding assistive technology?

    IDEA 2004 states that AT must be considered as part of the development, review, and revision of a student's IEP and determinant in considering FAPE. Consideration must address the student’s need to access curriculum and specifically designed instruction and goals.


    Does every student on an IEP require or benefit from assistive technology?

    No. Although the need for AT must be considered for every student on an IEP, consideration does not imply a mandate for the provision of AT for every child with a disability. For example, if a student’s performance is functional in relationship to curriculum and goals, the consideration should be brief and consensus should be reached relatively quickly with the conclusion that AT is not needed at this time.


    I think a student I work with could benefit from AT!  What do I do next?

    A building case manager or SLP can request for assistive technology support for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:

      • Staff training on AT tools, devices, and supports
      • Suggestions or brainstorming of embedding AT tools in the school curriculum or routines,
      • Technical support and troubleshooting for student or school-owned devices.
      • Inviting the AT Specialist to IEP meetings in which the team believes a detailed conversation of AT consideration will occur.
      • Supporting the team with an assistive technology trial of a specific tool
      • Conducting a full-assessment/SETT meeting because a student's needs are complex.

    What is an AT trial?

    An AT trial is the process where a student tries an assistive technology tool from a lending library for a set period of time and data is collected to measure the success of using the technology. After reviewing the data of the trial, the team decides whether or not to include AT services on the student’s IEP. An AT trial is should include parent notification and teams should use the Notice of Assistive Technology Trial form.


    How long should an assistive technology trial last?

    An assistive technology trial typically occur over a period of 4-8 weeks. Students often need ample opportunities to practice using a new tool before it can be determined whether it was successful. Furthermore, sometimes after an initial “honeymoon” of using an exciting tool, the appeal wears off and a student doesn’t want to use it any more. Ensuring the trial lasts a minimum of 4 weeks will mitigate these factors influencing the determination of a trial’s success. If there is a situation in which a student has already had ample opportunities to practice using a technology, and the team is certain of the trial’s success, the team can expedite the trial process to less than the 4 week criteria.


    What is an AT assessment?

    An AT assessment is a more formal evaluation process that may include the following: a preplanning "SETT" meeting, student file review, observation of the student, staff/teacher parent interviews, evaluation of the student through trial use of various assistive technologies, training, data collection, a post assessment meeting that involves sharing an assessment report with the IEP team and possibly additional follow up "RESETT" meetings. Signed consent from a parent is needed to begin this process. AT Assessments are typically reserved for students with complex needs and requires input and training from many team members such as PTs, OTs, SLPs and other specialists. (ex. assessing communication devices for a student who is nonverbal, and orthopedically/visually impaired). The AT Specialist typically leads the AT Assessment process but there may be a few instances in which another team member is the lead.


    Does every student considered for AT require an assistive technology assessment?

    No. Most investigations of AT can be completed through the trial/consultation process rather than a formal assessment.


    How Can I Learn More About Assistive Technology?

    Ken Allen, the district AT Specialist maintains a google sites webpage with new and useful information about the exciting world of AT.  Check it out!



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