2003 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 


Gayl Bowser, Coordinator
Oregon Technology Access Program
1871 NE Stephens
Roseburg, OR 97470
Phone: 541-440-4791
Fax: 541-957-4808
Email: gayl.bowser@douglasesd.k12.or.us

Penny Reed, Director
Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative
357 N Main Street
Amherst, WI 54406
Phone: 715-824-6415
Fax: 715-824-5323
Email: preed@wi-net.com

Evidence based decisions are essential in the selection acquisition and use of assistive technology. Strategies to guide the assistive technology decision making process have become increasingly important as more and more technology alternatives become available. IEP teams, IFSP teams, transition teams and rehabilitation teams are all charged with examining an individual's need for assistive technology. Today's service providers must be able to objectively document the impact of assistive technology on an individual's performance before recommending its long term use. Despite these important factors, there is a great deal of confusion as to how to make evidence based AT decisions.

This presentation offers teams a framework or "thought process" to support the development of data collection strategies appropriate for a variety of assistive technology applications. It is intended to help service providers develop a plan for gathering data in specific situations.

Almost all assistive technology questions can be answered if the team assigned to consider them

  1. Frames the question in a way that allows it to be answered
  2. Identifies the information that will be needed in order to arrive at an answer
  3. Collects and analyzes the specific data and general information
  4. Uses the collected data to formulate an answer to the question.

Framing the question means to adjust the original request of question about assistive technology until a question is articulated that gets at the root of the difficulty. Once common error that teams make when they begin to address a question about an individual's need for assistive technology is that they do not frame the question in terms of a functional life skill. The question should never be "Does Sam need a computer?" Rather an appropriate assistive technology question should indicate the difficulty that Sam is having because of his disability and the tasks for which assistive technology might be beneficial.

Once the task is identified, there are four basic ways to gather data. They are 1.) Interviewing the individual; 2.) reviewing finished products created by the individual; 3.) observing the individual's performance in completing the task; and 4.) video taping the individual doing the task. Each of these data collection strategies has a specific role to play depending on the initial assistive technology question.

When observing a student there are a variety of variables that can be measured. They include speed of response, accuracy, spontaneity, frequency, duration and latency. Each type of data yields a particular kind of information about the individual's performance. Decisions as to the kind of variables to be measured affect the potential assistive technology decisions the team might make.

Once data has been collected, it must be analyzed. Factors to consider in data analysis include identification of the minimum acceptable performance, error analysis and the representation of collected data in a way that is meaningful to the team.

With a thoughtful eye to data collection, teams that consider assistive technology needs will be able to use evidence based practices to answer many questions regarding an individual's need for assistive technology. The team will be able to address questions such as "What is the difficulty the individual is experiencing?"; "Is there a need for assistive technology?"; "What assistive technology is needed?"; and "What is happening with the assistive technology that is in use?".

Alberto, P. & Troutman, A. (1999). Applied Behavior Analysis for Teachers (5th Ediction) Upper Saddle Rive, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Bowser, G. & Reed, P. (1995). Education tech points for assistive technology planning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 7,4, 325-338

Bowser, G. & Reed, P. (2001). Hey! Can I Try That?, Roseburg, OR: Oregon Technology Access Program and Oshkosh, WI: Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. May be downloaded from http://www.edtechpoints.org

Korsten, J., Dunn, D., Foss, T., & Francke, M.K. (1993) Every Move Counts: Sensory Based Communication Techniques. San Antonio, TX: Therapy skill Builders

Lehman, J.F. & Klaw, R., (2001) From goals to Data and Back Again. Pittsburgh, PA: Kid Access Inc.

Reed, P. (Ed.) (2000). Assessing Students' Needs for Assistive Technology. Oshkosh, WI: Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative

Reed, P. (2001) Resource Guide for Teachers and Administrators About Assistive Technology. Oshkosh, WI: Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. May be downloaded at http://www.wati.org

Siedman, I.E. (1991) Interviewing as Qualitative research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. New York: Teachers College Press.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.