2003 Conference Proceedings

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The Essential Elements of an Assistive Technology Assessment and Assessment Report

Deb Case, M.Ed., Project Manager
National Assistive Technology Research Institute
Department of Special Education & Rehabilitation Services
University of Kentucky
229 Taylor Education Building
Lexington, KY 40506
Day Phone: 859.257.9489
Fax: 859.257.1325
Email: dacase0@uky.edu
Email: dcase@cinci.rr.com

Elizabeth A. Lahm, Ph. D., Co-Principal Investigator
National Assistive Technology Research Institute
Interdisciplinary Human Development Institute
University of Kentucky
314 Mineral Industries Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0051
Day Phone: 859.257.5410
Fax: 859.323.1901
Email: ealahm1@uky.edu

Two factors impact the exposure and use of assistive technology (AT): legislative implications of the consideration of AT during IEP meetings and access to the general education curriculum for children with disabilities, which includes access to and participation in statewide assessment. Children with disabilities are often at a disadvantage in accessing the general education curriculum. Limited to no access prevents them from actively participating in educational activities and thus learning. Yet, the majority of children in special education can participate in the general education curriculum with adaptations and modifications. Assistive technology (AT) is one form of adaptation and/or modification. AT devices and services can enhance the abilities of children with a range of disabilities enabling them to access, participate in, and benefit from general education curriculum (Golinker, 2002).

Twenty plus years of research and experience illustrate that increased expectations, full access to the general education curriculum, and appropriate educational and related services, aids, and supports will positively affect the education of children with disabilities (IDEA, 1997). The EHA was instrumental in that it mandated the individualized education program (IEP). The law required that each student qualifying for special services have an IEP, in which the educational services required for that student to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) are documented. The EHA also brought assistive technology into the realm of education, placing emphasis on the use of educationally related AT (EHA, 1975). Subsequent law, under the auspices of IDEA, continued to support assistive technology by including a definition for AT devices and services. Assistive technology devices and services were first defined in the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (PL 100-407) in 1988. This definition was altered slightly and included in IDEA. In addition, IDEA is recognized for redefining special education, related services, supplemental aids and services, and reevaluation, and mandating the consideration of AT (IDEA, 1997).

Lahm and Nickels (1999) regard assessment as critical to the success of assistive technology intervention and compliance with legislative mandates. In addition, AT assessment is conducted to: (a) enable individualized family service program (IFSP)/individualized education program (IEP) teams to make informed decisions; (b) identify and provide the IFSP/IEP teams with functional recommendations for integrating individualized solutions into educational environments; and, (c) aid the child/student in accessing the curriculum alongside peers, while moving toward meeting IFSP/IEP goals and objectives. The culminating assessment report is equally important as it serves to (a) guide the IFSP/IEP team in implementing devices and services, (b) provide identical information to all professionals providing service to the child, (c) justify technology purchases, (d) provide foundational data for monitoring progress, and (e) provide clear documentation of device and service recommendations for the team.

Because of the legislative mandates requiring the consideration of AT during IEP development and access to the general education curriculum for children with disabilities the need has increased for determining the appropriate AT to meet child/student needs through AT assessment. AT assessments, however, are not conducted with any consistency or congruency as standardization in the field of AT is lacking. No standardization exists with regard to those conducting AT assessment, the assessment process, the actual assessment, or the ensuing assessment report. The purpose of this study is to look at two of those components, the actual assessment and the assessment report and validate the elements that are essential for inclusion in AT assessment and AT assessment report writing.

In order to establish validated essential elements of the AT assessment and assessment report, a content analysis was conducted of 20 AT assessment instruments and related materials These items included assessment protocols, assessment reports, frameworks, models, and other relevant materials for use in the assessment of children/students served through IDEA (birth through age twenty-one). The components (elements) of each of these materials were entered into a spreadsheet and analyzed across materials. The items appearing in 20 percent or greater of all assessment tools or in 20 percent or greater of two instrument categories (protocols, information gathering, models and frameworks, or reports) were then used to create the preliminary essential elements of AT assessment for the study.

A data collection tool with a web-based interface was developed for access by 19 experts in the field of AT and AT assessment. Brief descriptions of 192 preliminary elements developed through the content analysis accompanied the elements to anchor participant understanding and enhance validity and reliability. The study ascertained (a) the importance of each element, (b) the wording and description of each element, (c) the extent each is actually practiced in AT assessment and assessment report writing, and (d) why the item is or is not incorporated in practice. Elements were rated as to their degree of importance - essential; important, but not essential; or not important - with regard to AT assessments and reports. Those elements receiving an 80 percent or greater rating of essential were identified as essential elements. In addition, those elements receiving a 50 percent or higher rating of not important were eliminated. Elements receiving a rating of important or not falling specifically into the essential or not important categories were appropriately identified. The Delphi technique was implemented to obtain consensus on each element, and thus validate the essential elements of AT assessments and reports. It is our belief that validating the essential elements of assistive technology assessment and assessment reporting will lend itself to higher quality assistive technology services.

The research study described above, the results of the study, as well as future implications of the study - the essential elements of AT assessment and AT assessment reports - will be presented with attendee discussion strongly encouraged.

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: (a) explain the importance of congruency in AT assessment practices, (b) outline the elements essential to AT assessment, and (c) outline the elements essential to AT assessment reporting.


Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975 (PL 94-142) 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.

Golinker, L. (2002). Funding for assistive devices and services in the individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) of 1997. Retrieved January 23, 2002, from http://www.ucpa.org/ucp_printdoc.cfm/1/12/74/74-74/732

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 (PL 105-17), 20 U.S.C.S. 1400 et seq.

Lahm, E. A. & Nickels, B. L. (1999). Assistive technology competencies for special educators. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(1), pp. 56-63.

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