2000 Conference Proceedings

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A MODEL FOR DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING AN ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY LAB

Jill Tullman, MS CCC
Los Amigos Research and Education Institute
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

Molly Doyle, MS, CCC
Program Director
Center for Applied Rehabilitation Technology (CART)
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

Clare Miller,MPA
Family Resource Specialist
Dept of Community Affairs
Harbor Regional Center

Pam Hellman, MA OTR
Occupational Therapy Consultant
Harbor Regional Center

The demand for assistive technology information and services is growing at a rapid rate however there continues to be a lack of programs or personnel who are competent in providing AT services. The few programs that do provide services tend to be center-based and therefore not easily accessible or convenient to all individuals.

To help address these issues, the Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CART) an existing AT program received a grant from Harbor Regional Center (HRC) a state funded agency, to establish an AT lab within the regional center. The agency requested that a lab be developed to ensure AT information and consultation services were readily available "in house" in order to help increase awareness and benefit of AT by staff, families and individuals with disabilities. The lab would also help staff and families make appropriate referrals to CART or other programs for AT evaluations.

The grant was initiated two years ago and a third year of funding has been approved. In Year 1, an advisory board was established to determine AT needs and priorities. The board decided that the lab should focus on two AT areas, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and computer access/use, as these were the primary needs of the clients they served. In addition, the lab would also provide AT information, referral, consultations, education and training. During Year 1 initial resources and equipment were purchased. CART staff also conducted several inservices for staff and families on a variety of AT topics.

In Year 2 a speech pathologist was hired on a part-time basis to provide AT information, referral and consultations in the areas of AAC and computer access. The speech pathologist also conducts inservices for staff and families.

Information and Referral (I & R): The majority of I & R reources fall under the areas of AAC and computer access or use. Recently resources have been expanded to include information on feeding, ADL and mobility aids as an increased number of individuals are requesting information in these areas. The speech pathologist also maintains a current list of AT service providers in order to make referrals to appropriate agencies.

Consultations: The purpose of the consultations is to provide individuals and their families with general information and impressions related to AAC and computer use. Information provided is not meant to serve as or replace a comprehensive evaluation, which is typically warranted, when determining optimal strategies or equipment to enhance an individual’s abilities.

During the consultations, individuals and their families are introduced to AAC and computer access, typically at an introductory level. Frequently, other therapists, educators, counselors, and case managers participate in the consultations. An individual's current skills and needs are discussed, impressions are shared and goals are identified. This coordinated team approach helps ensure goals are implemented and that the individual receives the services and equipment he needs. In addition, during the consultation, information regarding AAC and computer access/use is disseminated to a wide range of people, helping to further increase their knowledge and understanding of how AT can benefit individuals with disabilities.

The speech pathologist is available for consultations approximately 8 hours/week. Over the past year approximately 100 clients have been provided consultation and followup services. Approximately another 350 individuals, including caregivers, service providers and staff have benefited from the services the lab provides.

Inservices: Inservices on various topics related to AT implementation have been provided to regional center staff, parents and service providers. Ongoing need assessments are conducted to identify training needs and then inservices are provided as appropriate.

Expansion of the AT Lab

Due to the positive response and feedback the lab has received from clients, their families, and staff at the Regional Center, services are expanding.

Areas of expansion include:

  1. hiring an occupational therapist to assist with consultations and AT information dissemination
  2. increasing the number of hours consultation services are available
  3. purchasing additional equipment in the areas of AAC and computer access/use
  4. providing AAC evaluations for adults with developmental disabilities who present with severe communication disorders.

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