2002 Conference Proceedings

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A MODEL FOR ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT AND TRAINING IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

Sherry Ruditsky, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech Language/Assistive Technology Specialist
Adaptive Technology Assessment Center
Ventura County SELPA
Susan Pray
Speech Language/Assistive Technology Specialist
Adaptive Technology Assessment Center
Ventura County SELPA

The Adaptive Technology Assessment Center (ATAC) was initiated by the Office of Special Education of Ventura County Superintendent of Schools in 1990. The Center is now funded by the Ventura County Special Education Local Planning Area to provide services to all school districts within this SELPA. The main purpose of ATAC is to provide direct assessment services to students, resulting in recommendations for meeting the needs of these students for picture symbol communication systems, electronic communication devices, and adaptive technology which might include computer access, specialized software, or other assistive equipment. The Center serves students with varying levels of learning, communication, cognitive and motor abilities in both special day class and general education environments. ATAC is dedicated to increasing access to the curriculum for these students.

The training that the ATAC team members received at ATACPLA 99 added to their sense of empowerment regarding their qualifications to provide a strong leadership role in assistive technology for the school districts in the Ventura County SELPA. The goal for the ATACP certificate project evolved to include an expanded training program throughout the County SELPA.

This paper reflects the process that was undertaken to develop training and to expand the ATAC team leadership role for assistive technology implementation in Ventura County. Initially, several hours were spent developing a vision and mission statement for ATAC. The next step was to develop a Preliminary Action Plan based on the pending commitment of the Ventura County SELPA Operations Cabinet members (i.e., Directors of Special Education for the 21 school districts in the county) to approve increased hours for ATAC personnel to develop this project.

In addition, at the suggestion of the SELPA Director, the ATAC team personally called cabinet members before the next cabinet meeting to inform them of these plans. Several individual points were discussed with each member, including thanking them for sending the team to ATACP and the need for this project in Ventura County. The team also made sure that the SELPA Director had a copy of the ATAC year-end report to present to the cabinet members to refresh their memories on the AT services that had been provided during the previous school year. The politics involved in this decision process was a learning experience in broadening the team's knowledge about the finer points of decision-making by committee.

The Cabinet approved the funding of two full-time positions at the County SELPA level to implement these goals. Since then, the ATAC team has been committed to staff development and has designed and implemented a 5-day training program for educators to increase their knowledge and expertise in the field of educational assistive technology. This staff development program provides the participants with training in the legal requirements of IDEA and assistive technology, as well as providing them with hands-on computer experience and exposure to the software and resources that support alternate access to the curriculum for students with disabilities. The goal of the AT Leadership Program is to improve support for students needing this assistance at both the school district and school site level.

Additional services include providing one-on-one assistance to educational staff and students, as well training on equipment and software, loaning of equipment when possible, and troubleshooting technology problems. ATAC personnel provide in-service education on a regular basis to the educational staff and parents in the Ventura County SELPA. Scheduled training programs and workshops are provided throughout the school year.

ATAC team members continue to provide assistive technology and augmentative communication consultations or assessments. The ATAC team provides written reports reflecting appropriate technology recommendations for the students receiving ATAC assessment services. The central concern continues to be the highly labor-intensive process of providing direct service to students in special education.


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