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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Assistive Technology – Planning Resources

From Life After IEPs

By Mary Mazzoni
March 2, 2013

What works?

That depends. On the task, the person doing it, and the environment in which the task will be done.

Technology options are changing at a dizzying pace. Your child’s skills, needs, and priorities are changing too. Soon s/he will be learning, working, and living in new environments. What assistive technology (AT) will work best?

Here are trusted free resources for planning AT solutions.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Shiny new devices and apps clamor for our attention.

Too often, we’re wooed into impulsive decisions by the hype, popularity, or “wow-factor” of new technologies. But this can lead to disappointment and frustration if the nifty tool doesn’t do the job, or takes more effort than expected.

An AT solution is golden only if it does the job that needs doing, in a way that works well for your child, in the environment where he’s learning, working and living.

A Process

The Johns Hopkins Center for Technology in Education looks at assistive technology planning as a process they call the “AT Cycle.” It begins by looking at the student’s skills, goals, priorities, and needs.

What supports does the student need to accomplish high priority tasks?

The team:
  • considers potential AT options
  • chooses AT to trial
  • selects AT to implement based on trial data
  • monitors the student’s progress over time
You can learn more about the John’s Hopkins AT Cycle here.

Details, Please!

Choosing an AT solution requires attention to detail. How can your team know what questions to ask and where to begin? The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) provides well-respected, free resources.

At WATI’s Free Publications Page, you’ll find structured planning tools with guiding questions that will help your team identify specific AT support needs related to:
  • Communication
  • Seating, Positioning & Mobility
  • Computer Access
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Math
  • Organization
  • Recreation & Leisure
  • Activities of Daily Living

WATI’s Free Publications Page also includes planning tools for people with specific disabilities, as well as guidance for implementing AT trials and obtaining AT funding.

When using WATI tools, read the introductions and directions to help the team understand context and considerations. The WATI tools that support group decision-making are based on the well-respected SETT (Student, Environments, Tasks and Tools) framework developed by Joy Zabala.

Quality Standards

The QIAT (Quality Indicators for AT Services) Community is a grass-roots organization devoted to identifying, disseminating, and implementing quality standards for AT services. The group includes professionals and users of AT.

A basic assumption of QIAT is that AT efforts, at all stages, will involve collaborative work by teams including the student, family and professionals.

QIAT indicators are validated by research and address eight areas:
  • Consideration of AT Needs
  • Assessment of AT Needs
  • AT in the IEP
  • AT Implementation
  • Evaluation of Effectiveness of AT
  • AT and Transition
  • Administrative Support for AT
  • AT Professional Development

Family Resources

The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD), funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), offers a wealth of family-friendly resources.

At the FCTD website, you’ll find fact sheets, family guides, presentations, and more. Their Resource Review Database includes more than 1200 resources that can be searched by topic, disability, or type of resource.

You’ll find FCTD’s Family Information Guide to Assistive Technology and Transition to be extremely helpful as you and your child look ahead and plan for life after IEPs.

This FCTD guide helps you consider postsecondary education and employment environments, funding considerations, AT training and device maintenance, agency collaboration, and your child’s self determination in relation to assistive technology.

As you read this guide, you’ll learn about the importance of a transition portfolio that includes assistive technology information. Wonder what that might look like? Here’s a very comprehensive, free, example: WATI Student Resource Guide & Portfolio.

Your Turn

There are way too many resources in this post to explore in one sitting. Don’t feel overwhelmed.

Plan a time to sit down and review the resources with someone who can help you decide on the next step you and your child can take toward assistive technology planning.

Have you used any of these resources? Are there other resources you’d like to suggest? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Let’s learn together!

Find this post helpful? Please share it. Thanks!

All the best to you and your child as you travel the journey – one day at a time.

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