Assistive Technology

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

Assistive Technology (AT) includes a wide range of educational and specialized/adaptive tools that an IEP Team may determine are needed or required in order for an individual student with a disability to access the curriculum and/or make adequate progress toward the goals and objectives of their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).

Definition Assistive Technology (AT) is defined in the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to include:

  • Devices – any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.
  • Services – directly assist a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

How do Teams Determine if AT is needed?

There are no federal or state guidelines to direct IEP teams through this process, but best practice suggests that they consider Assistive Technology to support a student with a disability if the student is not benefiting from their free and appropriate public education, as evidenced by one or more of the following:

  • Student does not have access to the general education curriculum,
  • or is unable to accomplish required tasks,
  • or is not making adequate (appropriate, expected…) progress on IEP goals and objectives

AT can be ‘any-thing’ but is only classified as AT for an individual if that student requires or needs it. If needed, AT can facilitate a student’s access to free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

At Service Delivery

Who is Responsible for AT Decisions?

Assistive Technology (AT) is a shared responsibility, but the process is facilitated collaboratively by each student’s IEP team. If the team feels it is needed, they will seek additional information, resources, and support.

What is AT consideration in the IEP?

The IDEA requires IEP teams to consider whether AT is needed for each student with a disability as part of the IEP process (AT may also be considered at other times).

As appropriate IEP goals and related tasks are developed, teams consider interventions and supports that might be needed for the child to make reasonable progress toward desired outcomes. This may include:

  • Specially designed instruction/related services,
  • Accommodations/modifications to environment, curriculum, instruction,
  • Assistive Technology devices and/or services.

What if teams need more information?

  • Complete AT checklists, forms, etc.
  • Confer with knowledgeable colleagues, and/or vision, hearing, autism, behavior specialists,
  • Trial devices that may meet student needs,
  • Consult with AT support specialist for input.

When is an AT Assessment Conducted?

An IEP team may decide to work together to provide AT trials/data collection to help decide which tool(s) will best match student needs. An AT Assessment is a best practices approach to:

  • Gather additional information,
  • Brainstorm potential solutions,
  • Conduct trials with various AT tools, over time.

Tools & Supports

AT Support Specialist

In the fall 2017, Linda Schleef was hired to work part-time as the district’s new Assistive Technology Support Specialist. Linda’s role is focused on building the capacity of IEP teams to make informed decisions about the individual needs of students with disabilities for assistive technology (AT) tools and services, which can support learning or communication. She has been clarifying processes and developing guiding documents in support of those decisions. Other priorities include development and implementation of training and the distribution of information to all interested stakeholders.

Linda Schleef is a special educator and AT professional, contact her at: Linda.Schleef@bellinghamschools.org

Assistive Tech Trial Library

Special Education and Educational Technology are collaborating to develop an Assistive Technology Trial Library.

Assistive Tech Support Specialist, Linda Schleef, says that this resource will allow district staff members on IEP teams to borrow AT tools to enable them to try a variety of different tools to inform the process of determining whether a student with a disability ‘needs’ AT and, if so, which tool may best match their individual needs.

Benefits of 2016 Tech levy

The current technology levy was approved by voters in February 2016 and is effective through December 2020. The funding provided by this levy is dedicated to supporting the integration of technology into teaching and learning for all students.

Tech Tools for Diverse Needs

New tech tools are now available in our district to support students with learning differences. If your student is using these tools at school, they can also access them from devices at home:

  • CoWriter Universal: This ‘word prediction’ program is available on all district computers. As a user begins to type a word, the program ‘suggests’ possible words they may wish to use. Any student with spelling challenges may choose to use this program. Click here to download for home use: http://donjohnston.com/download-cowriter/
  • LearningAlly This is a source for e-books (digital text) and audio or ‘text-to-speech’ support. Hearing the words from a book read aloud can help support access to information, reading comprehension and enjoyment. Students with reading-related disabilities or accommodations may be eligible to use this tool. Talk to your child’s teacher.