2004 Conference Proceedings

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Jennifer Drenchek
Department of Human Services Office of
Education Technology for Life and Learning Center
14 Nova Court
Sewell, NJ 08080
Phone: 609-631-4698
Email: neefur74@yahoo.com 

Nicole Natale
Linda Tennant
Department of Human Services Office of
Education Technology for Life and Learning Center
10 Quakerbridge Plaza
Trenton, NJ 08059
Phone: 609-631-4698
Email: nicole.natale@dhs.state.nj.us 
Email: adnilot@aol.com 

The availability of assistive technology (AT) for students using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and switch/scanning systems is oftentimes limited. Current AT trends have focused on the development of technologies for direct selectors. AT solutions are needed for students requiring alternative means of access in conjunction with severe communication disorders.

Assistive technology devices can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of students (or individuals) with disabilities (IDEA,1997). AT is used as a tool to support achievement of Individualized Educational Program (IEP) goals and objectives as well as participation and progress in the general curriculum (Qiat Consortium, 2000). High-tech devices and low-tech devices/strategies can provide students with access to many curricular areas. The use of technology has great potential for the education of children with disabilities.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1997), "Consideration of Special Factors" requires the IEP team to consider assistive technology during the development of the IEP. Factors for consideration have traditionally included the student, environment, tasks, and tools that the individual needs to access the curriculum (Zabala, 1996). Research indicates that students using AAC systems have restricted opportunities and access to academic activities in the classroom (McGhie-Richmond & McGinnis, 1996). It is estimated that a large portion of school-aged individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) experience serious deficits in their literacy development (Koppenhaver & Yoder, 1991). Given this information, students using AAC and switch/scanning systems may require AT in order to participate in the general curriculum. However, a problem exists in the field of assistive technology for these individuals. Currently, there is a lack of readily av! ailable AT that provides access to the curriculum for reading, writing and math for individuals using AAC and switch/scanning based systems. Overcomplicated computer screens in combination with multiple keyboard strokes and standard mouse access can limit these students from using AT efficiently or effectively despite the benefits it could offer in achieving educational goals. Many assistive technologies may require adaptations to them in order for these individuals to appropriately access them. Information regarding specific ways for IEP teams to adapt AT appropriately is scarce.

The following chart is a listing of some commonly used AT tools for reading, writing, and math. Some of these technologies have features that allow for modification. A majority of these technologies can not be used directly out of the box for students using alternative switch access.

Reading Writing Math
Cast E-Reader Co:Writer Online Calculators
Type and Talk Microsoft Word Intellimathics
Read and Write Read and Write Basic Coins
Text Assist Grammar for Real World Math Real World
WYNN Word Prediction Software Math Blaster
JAWS Onscreen Keyboards Access to Math
Zoom Text Extra Voice Recognition Software Math Pad
Online Books Portable Note taker Math Type
Books on Tape Intellikeys Geometer's Sketch Pad

Strategies for the modification of current assistive technologies are listed below. They include advanced access systems to personal computers (PCs) as well as technology that modifies current AT to make it accessible for switch users. These technologies may even be utilized to access AAC systems as well.

Possible Solutions:

In conclusion, the sole provision of stand-alone assistive technologies for students who use AAC is not sufficient. The consideration of multiple technologies in conjunction with AAC for switch users is imperative for successful inclusion of students in achieving curricular goals. Research has shown that the focus of AT sometimes surrounds device or technology operation and not on the use of AT for specific tasks to achieve educational goals (Qiat Consortium, 2000). Therefore, researching, implementing and combining strategies for students with AAC, access, and AT needs is an area that requires more focus from professionals in the field so that teachers, therapists, and parents can provide students with the equipment that they need to be successful in school. The U.S. Department of Education (1998) defined what they called a "technology -based approach" as an innovative combination of technology and additional curriculum material and instructional methodologies that enable ! the technology to achieve educational purposes for students with disabilities (Schlosser, McGhie-Richmond, Blackstein-Adler, Mirenda, Antonious, & Janzen, 2000). Currently the combination of some of the technologies can be difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible. More technology solutions are needed that address the needs of this special population.


Access to Math [computer software]. (1997). Don Johnston Incorporated.

Basic coins [computer software]. (2000). Attainment Company Inc.

Clicker 4 [computer software]. (2002).Crick Software

Co:Writer 4000 [computer software]. (2000). Don Johnston Incorportated.

Cross Scanner [computer software]. (2003).R J Cooper & Associates.

Cyberlink [computer peripheral]. (1996).Brain Actuated Technologies Inc.

eReader [computer software]. (1999). CAST Inc.

Geometer's Sketch Pad [computer software]. (2003). Key Curriculum Press.

Grammar for the Real World [computer software]. (1998). Knowledge Adventure.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Amendments of 1997, Public Law No.105-17, 602, U.S.C. 1401 [On-line]. Available: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/IDEA/the_law.html

Intellikeys [computer peripheral]. (2000). Intellitools Inc.

Intellimathics [computer peripheral]. (2001) Intellitools.

JAWS [computer software]. (2000). Freedom Scientific Inc.

Koppenhaver, D. & Yoder, D. (1991). Literacy learning of children with severe speech and physical impairments in school settings. Seminars in Speech and Language, 12, 143-153.

Madentec. (10/01/2003). [online: http://www.madentec.com/]

Math Blaster [computer software]. (2000). Havis Interactive.

Math for the Real World [computer software]. (1998). Knowledge Adventure.

Math Pad [computer software]. (1998). InfoUse.

Math Type [computer software]. (1987). Design Science Inc.

McGhie-Richmond, D. & McGinnis, J. (1996). A survey of current practices and perceived needs in teaching literacy to students who use augmentative and alternative communication systems. Unpublished manuscript, Bloorview MacMillan Centre.

Microsoft Word [computer software]. (2003). Microsoft, Inc.

Read and Write [computer software]. (1996). textHELP! Systems Ltd.

Schlosser, R., McGhie-Richmond, D., Blackstein-Adler, S., Mirenda, P., Antonious, K., & Janzen, P. (2000). Training a School Team to Integrate Technology Meaningfully into the curriculum:Effects of Student Participation. Journal of Special Education Technology E-Journal, Volume 15, Number 1, Winter 2000

Text Assist 4.0 [computer software]. (2003). Mindmaker, Inc.

Tracker 2000 [computer peripheral]. (2000).Madentec Limited.

Type and Talk [computer software]. (1996). textHELP! Systems Ltd.

Qiat Consortium Leadership Team. (2000). Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services in School Settings. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15 (4).

WYNN [computer software]. (2000). Freedom Scientific Inc.

Zabala, J. (1996). SETTing the Stage for Success: Building Success through Effective Selection and Use of Assistive Technology Systems. Proceedings of the Southeast Augmentative and Alternative Communication Conference. Birmingham, AL.

Zoom Text [computer software]. (2003). AI Squared Inc.

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