2003 Conference Proceedings

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Sherry L. Purcell, Ph.D.
Los Angeles Unified School District
Email: spurcell@lausd.k12.ca.us

Debbie Grant
Santa Barbara County Education Office
Email: debgrant@sbceo.org

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was re-authorized by the federal government in 1997 a mandate was issued to public schools to educate students with disabilities to the fullest extent possible within the general education curriculum. This law focused attention on the fact that separate is not necessarily equal when applied to curriculum issues.

A review of this legislation (Lieberman, 2001) discussed the major concepts of the law in terms of the "ten IEP Commandments," four of which related to this principle of educating students with disabilities with the general curriculum. They are:

Specifically, schools must provide instruction based on the same state standards as is provided to students who do not have disabilities. Exceptions are made for the most profoundly cognitively disabled.

Five years after IDEA was re-authorized many school systems are still struggling to decide how to deal with this paradigm shift in the provision of special education. Efforts to modify curriculum can miss the mark and not honor the intent of the law for our cognitively able students with disabilities. A modified curriculum is not necessarily the same curriculum as that received by a student in general education.

Assistive Technology provides functional access to general education. It can be the "bridge" between the student's disability and the ability to access the same curriculum as general education peers. Functional access technologies break through the barriers of vision, hearing, processing, communication, and/or motor skills to allow students to do the same things as their general education peers. Assistive technology exists on a continuum from low-no tech to high tech (Golden, 1998; Parker, 1998). The choice of technology for a student varies depending on the type and level of severity of the disability, and on the specific task requirements in the classroom. For example, Behrmann (2001) describes this variation for adapting reading curriculum for students who have a range of disabilities.

Assistive Technology Solutions (Purcell & Grant, 2002) is an approach designed to support teachers and IEP teams as they consider the student's ability to participate in general education programs. A state curriculum framework for the content areas of English Language Arts and Reading is used as the basis for this approach. Standards are task-analyzed for performance variables and barriers to that performance. AT Solutions for overcoming those barriers are offered in a range from low-no tech to high tech. IEP goals which incorporate Assistive Technology are suggested, along with a reference guide to obtaining or making various types of AT.

This session will discuss this AT Solutions approach to elementary and secondary curriculum standards for English Language Arts and Reading. Participants in this session will learn:


Behrmann, J. (2001, November/December). Electronic materials can be important for students with disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, p. 87.

Golden, D. (1998). Assistive technology in special education: Policy and practice. Albuquerque: Council of Administrators in Special Education, Inc.

Lieberman, L. (2001, January). The death of special education. Education Week, pp. 39- 41).

Parker, A. (1998). Assistive technology for all individuals with disabilities. (Memorandum, August 24, 1998). Sacramento, CA: California State Department of Education.

Purcell, S. & Grant, D. (2002). Assistive technology solutions for IEP teams. Verona, WI: Attainment Co.

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