Implementing Assistive Technology
The IEP team is responsible for implementing and monitoring assistive technology. The responsibilities associated with any assistive technology (AT) system should be considered a team effort. Team members need to understand the importance of working together to ensure that the use of assistive technology is integrated into the daily activities of the students who require it.
When planning for the implementation of assistive technology the team should consider the following questions.
Who will get the AT and where will they get it?
Who will install the AT and where does it need to be installed?
Who will train in the use of the AT?
Who, besides the student, requires training in use of the device?
How much training is needed?
When will the AT be used – for what tasks and in what contexts?
Who will support the student in actual use of the AT? In what context. environment?
Who is responsible if there is a problem/malfunction of the AT?
How long will the AT be trialed for?
How will the team determine the effectiveness of the AT? (e.g. data collection system)
When will the team reconvene to review and assess the effectiveness of the AT?
If the AT is determined to be useful, how will be documented in the IEP?
If the AT is part of an IEP goal, who will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on that goal?
It is important for the team to trial a device or strategy with a student to ensure its usefulness. Many assistive technology devices and strategies are left abandoned because of lack of planning for and training in their use. Careful planning and supports can make the difference between success and failure when it comes to implementing assistive technology. In addition to trialing assistive technology considerations of training and support for the student, staff and family, tech support, and data collection are all part of the process of implementing assistive technology.
Assistive Technology Trial Period
When examining the need for assistive technology for children in schools, an AT trial period refers to a trial period with one or more assistive technology tools in the child's customary environments. AT trial periods are an extremely effective tool for determining what, if any, assistive technology might help the child.
Completing an AT trial can provide the IEP team with time to make rational decisions based on actual data. It helps avoid making false assumptions such as "if the device worked for one child, it will work just as well for another with the same disability." It can also help in dealing with team members who have read or heard about new assistive technology, but have incomplete or inaccurate information about it and want to write it in the IEP. Several technology solutions may be tried and data may be collected on each of them to determine which one is the most effective. The data collection opportunity provided by a trial period helps the IEP team to consider the need for assistive technology based on actual performance of the student.
A trial period of any reasonable length may be written into the IEP to allow for appropriate, well-planned, well-documented trials with a range of potential solutions. Only after successful trial use, should the permanent use of assistive technology be written into the IEP.
Training and Support
Many assistive technology devices and systems require training for the student and also for teachers, parents and other involved adults so that the student is adequately supported in the actual context or moment with the assistive technology is being used. Tech support should also be identified as appropriate for any mid to high tech device or software in the event that the assistive technology malfunctions or glitches occur. Having this support available can minimize the amount of the a student is without their needed assistive technology.
Data Collection and Follow-up
The IEP team, with guidance from any consulting individual(s), develops a plan for implementing the assistive technology and for measuring the use and success of any recommended AT device. The Team then revisits the appropriateness of, need for and usefulness of any AT device periodically over the course of the student’s IEP year. When developing the data collection strategy, the following should be considered.
Resources for the IEP team
There are many resources available to the IEP seeking information or assistance in determining appropriate assistive technology for a student. Even if there is no specific AT specialist or AT team available, there are often individuals within a district who have knowledge about various assistive technology options. Potential resources include:
- Special education staff
- Related service providers
- Technology staff
- Unlimited online resources
- Professional development opportunities
- Assistive technology vendors