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Assistive Technology & the IEP

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, requires the IEP team to consider a student’s need for assistive technology devices and services whenever an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is written. The principal reason for considering and providing assistive technology is to enable students to meet the instructional goals set forth for them. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require schools to provide assistive technology for students with disabilities, if needed to assure equal access to the school’s programs and services.  

IEP Team Process: Consideration of Assistive Technology

Each time an IEP is being developed the IEP Team must consider the student’s need for assistive technology. The process of considering assistive technology can be short, takes place during the IEP meeting, and involves thinking about and discussing what is already known about the student and their performance. The consideration process involves looking at tasks that the student needs to accomplish, the difficulties the student is having, and the ways that various devices might help the student better accomplish those tasks. There may be situations in which additional information is necessary in order for a team to make a determination about a student’s need for assistive technology. When this occurs, members of the IEP team with the addition, if needed, of individuals with specific knowledge about assistive technology or other identified areas, gather additional information in order to make a determination about the student’s need for assistive technology.

Factors to Consider

There are many factors that need to be examined when considering assistive technology for a student including educational goals, personal preferences, social needs, environmental realities, and practical concerns. When exploring assistive technology devices for a student, it is important to consider the full range of devices that are available, beginning with low-tech devices and considering high tech devices only after the lower tech options have been tried. High tech options are not always the best solution for a student. In fact, a low-tech device is sometimes more effective, since it is frequently readily available, easy to use, portable, inexpensive, virtually transparent and requires no training.

Mid-Tech options are considered if low-tech options are not useful. Mid-tech options typically have many of the advantages of low tech devices, do not require extensive training, are lightweight and portable allowing them to be used anywhere, and tend to be relatively inexpensive. 

High-tech options are consider when low and mid-tech devices are not useful. High tech options are often not portable, can require extensive training, are often highly visible to others, are expensive and may be prone to breaking down.

Consider the effort needed to obtain and learn to use a device. For a device to be effective, the student should be able to use the technology in a short, reasonable period of time and feel comfortable using the technology. If a device takes months to master, the student will lose valuable instructional time.

The team considers assistive technology and comes to 1 of 4 conclusions:

  1. Current interventions are working
  2. AT is already in place and working
  3. Trial of AT device is necessary
  4.  More information is needed 

Conclusion #1

  • Current interventions (whatever they may be) are working and nothing new is needed, including AT.
  • Next Step:
    • Note that the IEP Team considered the student's need for assistive technology and found current strategies appropriate with no need for assistive technology. Note: Depending on your state and district practices, there may be a spot on the actual IEP document to indicate that AT was considered by the team.   

Conclusion #2

  • Assistive technology is already being used (or there has been a trial with AT) so that the Team knows that it does work.

  • Next Step:

    • Note that the IEP Team considered the student's need for assistive technology. Note: Depending on your state and district practices, there may be a spot on the actual IEP document to indicate that AT was considered by the team.   

    • The IEP team makes sure that the specific assistive technology need(S) is documented in the IEP to insure that it continues to be available for the student.

Conclusion #3

  • The IEP Team concludes that a new assistive technology device(s) should be tried.

  • Next Step:

    • Note that the IEP Team considered the student's need for assistive technology. Note: Depending on your state and district practices, there may be a spot on the actual IEP document to indicate that AT was considered by the team.   

    • The IEP Team makes a plan for trialing the assistive technology including identifying who will get the AT, who will train the student and others in the use of the AT, when and where will the student use the AT and for how long, what type of data will be collected and by whom and how will a determination of success with the AT be made. Note: Depending on your state and district practices, you may be required (or not) to document the trial assistive technology in the IEP document. Typically this involved describing the features of the AT that are necessary for the student rather than the name brand. For example stating "having the computer speak the text as the student reads" rather than Kurzweil 3000.

Conclusion #4

  • The IEP Team finds that they simply do not know enough to make a decision.

  • Next Step:

    • The IEP Team or designated member of the IEP Team does whatever is necessary in order to gather the additional information needed, ex. make phone calls, get information on the internet about a product, device or technique, or a referral is made for an assistive technology consultation or evaluation (following procedures and practices used by your state/district). 

Documenting Assistive Technology in the IEP

Once the Team ‘considers’ a student’s need for assistive technology, recommendations should be documented in the IEP. Some state and district IEP documents include an area to check off that the team considered assistive technology:

The IEP Team considered the student’s need for assistive technology. 

If the Team determines the need for assistive technology, the student’s IEP should include information about the recommended assistive technology device(s) and service(s).

Assistive technology can be included in the IEP in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

AT can be included under as an accommodation on the IEP form. Example: The student uses specially lined paper when there is written work that is not done on the computer. 

AT can be included as a goal when the student needs to develop technology skills in order to reach curriculum goals. Example: The student will learn to use a word processing program with spelling, grammar, and punctuation checklist.

AT can be part of a goal statement when assistive technology is needed to carry out specific goal(s). Example: The student will complete homework assignments using a cassette recorder for oral language responses.

AT can be included in the Service Delivery Grid as consultation or direct service. Example: Consultation Focus on Goal #1

Type of Service: Training for teachers and family members on student’s augmentative communication device

Type of Personnel: Speech Language Pathologist

Frequency and Duration: 4 sessions over a two week period at 30 minutes per session

Start date: November 7, 2008       End date: November 21, 2008

The IEP team is responsible for implementing and monitoring assistive technology. A trial period with any new assistive technology is recommended and should involve the necessary training and data collection to analyze the usefulness of the device or strategy. The process of implementing assistive technology is described in the article Implementing Assistive Technology. 

Assistive technology is considered for students who are having difficulty achieving IEP goals in areas of prioritized need such as:

  • Writing mechanics
  • Writing composition
  • Reading
  • Math
  • Learning and studying
  • Organization

Assistive technology is considered for students who are having difficulty accessing their educational environment and curricular materials in areas such as:

  • Computer Access
  • Mobility
  • Communication
  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Positioning & Seating
  • Activities of Daily Living

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