2001 Conference Proceedings

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THE AT TOOLKIT: WHAT EVERY CLASSROOM SHOULD HAVE

Cindy L. George
George Mason University
Assistive Technologist
Phone: 703-993-3670
Email: clgeorge@aol.com 
Amie Fulcher
George Mason University
Assistive Technology Consultant
Phone: 703-993-3670
Email: afulcher@gmu.edu 
Mark Nichols
George Mason University
Graduate Studies in Assistive Technology
Phone: 703-993-3589
Email: sonofasailor78@hotmail.com

With the reauthorization of IDEA 97 (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997), the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) team must consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services to receive a free and appropriate public education. This growing awareness and the increasing demands being placed on school systems to provide assistive technology has forced school systems to address assistive technology. School systems are finding it more and more difficult to manage the growing need for providing AT (assistive technology) services and devices to students in their classrooms.

As a result of this awareness, school systems are now being faced with three major issues:

AT distribution. At present, there is an uneven distribution of assistive technology from student-to-student, classroom-to-classroom, school-to-school, and district-to-district. One classroom may have an over abundance of AT equipment and qualified personnel while another classroom may have very little or nothing at all.

AT funding. Another issue being faced by school systems is the inefficient use of funds to purchase equipment and to meet the needs of each student. The purchase of AT equipment is often replicated unnecessarily within a single classroom or school because basic technologies that should be available within these environments are not in place. Thus, when AT is deemed necessary, monies allocated to particular students are often being used for the purchase of these basics in addition to the individualized equipment and service. In addition, there is all too often equipment purchased without adequate supports that can lead to equipment abandonment. Therefore, perfectly good equipment is left sitting on shelves not being used.

Teacher/service provider training. Without prior knowledge of AT availability in specific classrooms, it is very difficult for school systems to identify training needs for teachers and other service providers. Education and awareness are two key factors when trying to effectively and efficiently use the technology in classrooms. Purchasing equipment and integrating the technology into the classroom are two different, yet equally important issues. Teachers and service providers must receive AT training in order to provide the services the students need. What specific training needs they have often are given 'after-the-fact' and with little fundamental skills.

The extent to which these issues are affecting student services is significant. The need to identify standards for AT equipment and make them available to students in each classroom/service area is crucial. Knowing that every teacher and/or service provider has available to them a standard 'AT Toolkit' customized to meet the general needs of a particular student population; from which individual needs can be expanded is the ultimate goal.

To begin identifying these AT standards, a preliminary study was conducted to identify the general use of AT within specific categories and disability areas. Resources used included high profile Assistive Technology web sites, national AT experts, and current AT literature. Table A summarizes the finding of this preliminary study.

Table A Device Types Hearing Learning Mental Physical Speech Vision Communication x x x x x x Alternative Keyboard x x x x Alternative Mouse x x x Switches x x x x Toys x x x Educational Software x x x x x x Special Software x x x x x x Adapters Low x x x x Med x x x x x High x x x x x x A larger, more in-depth study was also conducted to identify assistive technology frequently used in school systems across the country. A random selection of four school systems was identified for each state. These school systems were surveyed to find what AT they have been using with their students the past 2-years. Surveys were to be completed by professionals within various disability classroom/service categories. Information in the surveys were gathered and analyzed to determine what basic assistive technologies are being used to support the educational needs of students in school. AT was then organized into ToolKits that corresponded with disability classroom/service categories. With the organization of these ToolKits, a standard can now be implemented nationally to meet the basic-level assistive technology needs for all students. This presentation will explain the procedure and share the results of the preliminary research as well as the results of the national survey. A display of the sample AT toolkits will be available and a sample of the needs of existing AT equipment will be shared. Participants will receive 1) the initial disabilities information chart, 2) a list of AT equipment in the sample ToolKits, and 3) a list of disability services/classrooms. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Top | | Proceedings |


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