1999 Conference Proceedings

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EDUCATION TECH POINTS: A FRAMEWORK FOR ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY PLANNING AND SYSTEMS CHANGE IN SCHOOLS

Penny Reed, Director
Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative
357 N. Main St.
Amherst, WI 54406
715/824-6415
715/824-5323
preed@wi-net.com 
http://www.wati.org 

Gayl Bowser, Coordinator
Oregon Technology Access Program
1871 NE Stephens St.
Roseburg, OR 97470
541/440-4791
541/957-4808
gaylb@douglasesd.k12.or.us

Educational Tech Points is a tool to help school districts to determine and meet the assistive technology needs of individual students and to evaluate and improve their assistive technology services system wide. This session will provide an overview of Education Tech Points and its uses. At each Education Tech Point, key questions to be considered about an individual child will be highlighted and implications for school districts will be discussed. As schools, early childhood special education programs and early intervention programs address the issues raised when considering assistive technology, two options are available.

A separate and parallel track of assessment and planning for assistive technology could be developed. This usually involves the development of a specialized referral and assessment process and the establishment or identification of clinical settings where the special needs of assistive technology users are addressed. While there are many advantages to such a setting for individuals with complicated technology needs, it is not an efficient way to address the needs of students with mild disabilities, nor does such a system take into account the physical and social factors in the user's customary environments.

An alternative to a separate assessment system is the development of general program policies and procedures which identify the times when assistive technology questions should be asked and provides support to existing educational teams as needed to effectively select assistive technology and implement assistive technology services. Such a system has the advantage of including everyone on the IEP team in a familiar process and assures that assistive technology will be considered in all the aspects of the child's educational program. We call such a system Education Tech Points.

Each Education Tech Point identifies the specific times within the planning and provision of specially designed instruction that the need for assistive technology (both devices and services) should be considered.

Education Tech Points offer a way to integrate assistive technology into the thinking of the IEP team and the management system that each school district uses to ensure provision of appropriate services to children with disabilities. Key points for decisions regarding utilization of assistive technology services and resources are identified and incorporated into the regular educational planning system.

Each Education Tech Point represents a point in the process of referral, evaluation and development of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) when consideration of technology use might occur. This structure provides a way to effectively organize and monitor assistive technology services while enabling programs to tailor activities to match the needs of each student. Initial Education Tech Point questions guide the IEP team through the necessary steps to determine if a child may need an assistive technology device or service. During implementation, the questions from the last two Education Tech Points can assist the education staff to monitor the program in order to ensure that needed changes are addressed in a timely and efficient manner.

The Education Tech Points (Bowser & Reed, 1995) were originally adapted from the TECH Points model (Langton & Hughes, 1992) which was developed for use within the vocational rehabilitation services process. In both education and rehabilitation, it is critical that the people charged with making service delivery decisions, have the tools they need in order to make those decisions effectively and appropriately. Education Tech Points include initial referral questions, evaluation questions, extended assessment questions, plan development questions, implementation questions and periodic review questions. These initial questions are meant to be representative of the types of issues teams might raise.

In working with the Education Tech Points framework in local school districts, implications and recommended approaches have been identified for school districts wishing to use the Education Tech Points in developing policies and procedures.

Referral:

Does the student experience any deficits in performance that might be remediated or compensated for by the use of assistive technology? Identifying the specific tasks that the student needs to be able to do is the first step in determining whether there is assistive technology that might be of help. In many school districts it is the child study team that will first address this question. They will need to determine if assistive technology should be tried as part of the prereferral process and whether to refer for further assessment or evaluation. The implication for school districts here is that widespread awareness level training about assistive technology is needed and resource materials must be available to child study teams.

Evaluation:

Can the student be accurately evaluated with standard assessment procedures?

Does the use of assistive technology as an accommodation during testing enhance the student's performance?

What types of assistive technology solutions would enhance the student's educational performance?

Are the services of a specialist needed?

Is an extended evaluation needed?

The evaluation team must determine whether evaluation can be effectively and fairly completed without accommodations and modifications including assistive technology. They must also decide whether assistive technology, if needed, can be identified immediately, or whether an extended period of assessment might be required. The implications for districts are that the evaluation staff must be familiar with assistive technology, have access to it, and be able to operate commonly used assistive technology, including both hardware and software.

Extended Assessment

Does the type of technology we are trying actually do what we thought it would do for the child?

Which of the technology solutions tried is most effective?

Extended assessment is a trial period of several days or weeks that are specifically designed to allow the child to use one or more assistive technology devices in their customary environments and for functional tasks. It is often required when a child must acquire new skills in order to use the assistive technology or when a child cannot clearly communicate their preferences. The implications for school districts are that staff must have access to a variety of assistive technology either through owning, borrowing, or renting it. Their staff must know the process for requesting an extended assessment and be able to use data to make appropriate recommendations.

Plan Development

Is the assistive technology that is being considered needed for the child to meet one or more of the goals on the plan?

Are assistive technology services needed to enable the child to use the device?

Was a specific assistive technology device identified in the plan?

Has periodic review been included in the plan to identify unanticipated problems with assistive technology and review them? The IEP Team and IFSP Team (for children in Early Childhood Special Education) are the bodies that are empowered by law to determine whether assistive technology is required (1) in order for the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) or (2) in order to benefit from the educational program. If needed for FAPE, it should be part of the specially designed instruction or if needed to benefit, it should be part of the related services. Implications for school districts are that they must provide training in determining when assistive technology is necessary and training in writing assistive technology into the IEP or IFSP.

Implementation:

What actions need to be taken to assure that the AT the child needs is used effectively?

Who is responsible for each of these actions?

Who is responsible for monitoring each aspect of the implementation of AT goals and objectives.

The service delivery team that works with the child on a daily basis has many details to attend to in order for assistive technology to work properly. They need to determine the places and times when the assistive technology will be used, the person(s) responsible for managing and supporting its use, and the type and amount of support the child and other staff may need for successful use. The implications for school districts are that time must be set aside for the staff to meet and work together and to network with other personnel and obtain materials and training resources.

Periodic Review

Are the assistive technology devices and/or services that were provided being utilized?

Are the assistive technology devices and/or services functioning as expected?

Have long range plans (including transition) for the student's assistive technology use been made?

Monitoring the utilization, effectiveness, and appropriateness of the AT on a regular basis is critical. There is nothing sadder than to invest time and money in the selection and purchase of assistive technology, only to have it sitting unused or under used. In addition, identifying future AT needs and planning for them in a timely manner are essential if the AT user is to have the device(s) available in future environments. The implications for school districts are that responsibility for periodic review should be clearly assigned and procedures for transition should include consideration of AT needs.

In summary, the Education Tech Points are a flexible framework that can be used in a variety of ways by individuals, teams, and policy makers to meet the assistive technology needs of students with disabilities. (Note: A resource manual: Education Tech Points: A Framework for Assistive Technology Planning has been developed and is available from the presenters.)

References

Bowser, G. & Reed, P. (1995). Education Tech Points for Assistive Technology Planning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 12, 4, 325-338.

Langton, A. and Hughes, J. (1992). Back to Work. Team Rehab Report, 3, 4, 14-18.


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