2001 Conference Proceedings

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Tools to Help IEP Teams Consider the Need for Assistive Technology

Penny Reed

IEP teams in school districts across the country are struggling to appropriately "consider" each student's need for assistive technology. There are several issues that perpetuate this struggle. They are (1) lack of information about the assistive technology itself, (2) lack of knowledge about matching the assistive technology with the specific student need, and (3) lack of a process for "consideration".

The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative has addressed these issues with several specific products that are available at no charge. These include the AT Consideration Guide, the AT Quick Link for Considering the Need for Assistive Technology and the AT Consideration Wheel.

The AT Consideration Guide is a form that the IEP team can use to guide them through the consideration process. It asks specific guiding questions and provides space to answer them. The questions are:

Answering these questions can help the IEP team to focus on the specific tasks, the current intervention and services, and the potential assistive technology that might be tried. It is available to download as a pdf file from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative's web site, www.wati.org.

There are basically only four outcomes that can result from consideration of the need for assistive technology:

  1. The student is doing fine, therefore no assistive technology is needed.
  2. The student is already using assistive technology, therefore it should be continued and documented in the IEP.
  3. The student is not using assistive technology and may benefit from it, therefore some should be tried, (or it is being used, but is not effective or not working, and something different needs to be tried). The need for trial use of AT then must be documented in the IEP. When this is done, a specific piece of hardware or software is NEVER listed in the IEP, but rather, the needed features are described.
  4. There is not enough information therefore an evaluation/assessment is needed. The Assistive Technology Consideration Guide can also be used to document each of these situations for future reference.

The AT Quick Link is an interactive PowerPoint slide show mounted on the WATI web site that also directs the IEP team through a process and provides lists of the types of assistive technology that may need to be considered by the IEP team for each of the following areas: Mechanics of Writing, Computer Access, Composing Written Materials, Augmentative Communication, Reading, Learning/Studying, Math, Recreation and Leisure, Activities of Daily Living, Mobility, Control of the Environment, Positioning and Seating, Vision, and Hearing. Users can click on hyperlinks to move around within the AT Quick Link program to find assistive technology suggestions that will help them move forward with their consideration process.

The AT Consideration Wheel is a low tech aid, similar to the AT Quick Link. The AT Consideration Wheel is a wheel made out of card stock that the IEP team members can physically turn to view the same lists as stated above. The advantage of the wheel is that it is portable and can be stored in a calendar or notebook, taken to IEP meetings, and passed around the group. The AT Consideration Wheel was designed in response to a request from national groups of non special educators including building principals, who are involved in IEP meetings and are very uncomfortable trying to "consider" the need for assistive technology.

All three of these items will be presented and discussed. Examples of their use will be provided along with the opportunity for the participants to discuss the potential use in their respective situations.

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