Statewide Assistive Technology Training Approach for Providers of Young Children with Disabilities
Saoramento County Office of Education Street Address:
Day Phone: 916 228—2396
Fax: 916 228—2311
Nancy Robinson, Ph.D. CCC—SLP
San Francisco State University Street Address:
Day Phone: 415 405—2170
Fax: 415 338—0916
Santa Barbara County Office of Education Street Address: Sonata School
Day Phone: 805 688—4060 ex 30
The presentation reviews a statewide technical assistance model to increasing access to information and training materials for providers and families of citizens with disabilities.
Statewide Assistive Technology Training Approach for Providers of Young Children with Disabilities
The presentation reviews a statewide training and technical assistance model to increasing information access and training materials for providers of young children with disabilities and their families. The Supporting Early Education Delivery Systems (SEEDS) is a training and technical assistance project at the Sacramento County Office of Education supported by the California Department of Education, Division on Special Education. SEEDS mission is to provide support to local education agencies (LEAs) in their efforts to develop, implement and enhance early childhood special education programs for young children with disabilities and their families. SEEDS staff, visitation sites and consultants provide training and technical assistance to LEAs serving infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers with disabilities. This program year, SEEDS staff created a work group on assistive technology to develop a product that would support the infusion of AT use in early intervention programs throughout the State. The SEEDS Workgroup for Early Education Technology (SWEET) focused on developing a strategy for increasing access to and use of assistive techno) for infants/toddlers with disabilities and their families. The SWEET workgroup modeL including the process, product and outcomes will be reviewed with participants to inform them of parenthood for increasing the knowledge base of provides in4the field of early intervention that will support more global use of AT for young children.
The SEEDS workgroup on Early Education Technology (SWEET) supports Assistive Technology, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication, for young children with disabilities and their families. The implementation of AT and AAC includes both high technology and low technology opportunities for young children as vehicles to enhance access to communication and learning in natural environments. Technology applications for young children and their families are effective tools that enrich learning environments. Further, early opportunities for technology can provide a gateway for children with disabilities to experiences that they may not have adequate access to due to their inability to connect with the environment through typical sensory/physical ways. The principles that SWEET espouses include:
1. A focus on family involvement in all aspects of the formulating and employing the
use of assistive technology devices both high and low technology (Parette & Brotherson,
2. The participation of the families in the use of assistive technology devices are in
the child’s daily routines taking place in the home and child care settings (Dugan,
Millbourne, Campbell, & Wilcox, 2DD4; Judge, 2001; Mistrett, 2001; Stremel, 2005)
3. The tools must be user friendly and easily adapted to the environments of the child
and family (Judge, 1996)
4. Families are able to access the devices readily from providers, a lending library,
and/or information sheets that are readily available and provide simple directions on
using the equipment or activity.
5. Assistive technology assessment and intervention is addressed in a team-based
collaborative manner with the family as an integral member of the decision—making team
(Judge, 2DD2; Long, 2003)
6. AT is a consideration for every child during the development of the IFSP/IEP
7. AT is a strategy to foster learning and independence (Long, 2003;. Sullivan 6 Lewis,
SWEET recognizes the DEC Recommended Practices on Technology Applications and promotes
best practices when considering the use of AT for young children and their families. The
following headings organize the DEC Recommended Practices on Technology Applications
(Stremel, 2005) and provide a guide for the development of the SWEET resources on AT:
1. Professionals utilize AT in intervention programs for children
2. Families and professionals collaborate in planning and implementing the use of AT
3. Families and professionals use technology to access information and support
4. Training and technical support programs are available to support technology
The primary purpose of the SEEDS website on AT is to help providers access up to date information, links, materials, and training modules on how to use AT with infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The group recognizes the issues with underutilization of AT for young children due to lack of knowledge about its use by parents and providers as well as limited opportunities for providers to access training to increase their background and skills in incorporating AT strategies in the individualized educational plans of very young children who may benefit from AT support (Sawyer, Milbourne, Dugan, & Campbell, 2005; Weintraub, Bacon, & Wilcox, 2004). Studies have demonstrated that young children’s learning and development can be enhanced by the use of AT as a vehicle for accessing activities in their natural environments (Langone, Malone, & Kinsley, 1999; Mistrett, 2001; Sullivan & Lewis, 1995) . The AT website will increase the knowledge base of parents.
ideas concerning AT use with very young children and provide training opportunities that will offer them ways to provide AT for infants and toddlers from a best practice perspective highlighted in the current AT literature and research.
The SWEET Workgroup Process
One of the SEEDS Program Specialists took the lead in creating a work group of experts in the field of assistive technology for young children with disabilities. Experts were selected from their visitation sites where they participated in exemplary assistive technology projects. A specialized consultant with background in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) was selected to represent the higher education perspective. SEEDS covered the costs of travel and per diem for work group participants.
• The work group met monthly over a six month period to develop and implement action plans.
The following steps in the process were undertaken:
• The facilitator conducted a thorough review of the literature, projects and websites
on the topic and compiled a handout on AT information
• The group identified the AT product (a SEEDS web based training and informational
• The group developed an action plan for accomplishing the product development and
• The group identified venues where the product would be introduced to consumers
(SEECAP among others)
• The facilitator developed a set of guiding principles that were used as a criteria
for assessing the appropriateness of websites on AT for young children that would be
included as part of the SEEDS product
• The group assessed the appropriateness of existing websites on AT for young children
• The facilitator worked with SEEDS staff in the development of the web pages added to
an existing SEEDS website and acted as a conduit of information for the workgroup
• Training modules were designed based on best practices and current research in the
• Training modules and the web based technical assistance on AT was introduced through
existing statewide conferences and meetings
• Core and specialized consultants in AT were trained on accessing and using the web
based product for training and technical assistance opportunities.
A thorough examination of existing websites on the area of assistive technology for infants/toddlers was completed by the facilitator and verified by work group members using guiding principles as a guide for measuring the appropriateness of each website. The links were divided into five categories:
c. Best practices
The SEEDS facilitator worked with the existing SEEDS staff on the design and development of the pages on the website. The workgroup considered the product as an evolving set of materials in order to create materials that would be readily available for providers before the training modules were completed. The links were offered to providers as a first glimpse of currently available resources and materials in the field. The web pages continued to grow as the work group identified more links and began the creation of individual training modules. This developmental process allowed for formative evaluation to occur as providers accessed the site and provided feedback to the work group on the ease at which they were able to access the information and use the materials. The work group established a focus group of SEEDS consultants and site visitation representatives that provided a second level of critique to help guide the group in the development of the product.
The SWEET model employed consensus-building arranged work group members through the use of a facilitative group approach to identifying, researching, developing, and implementing an assistive technology website to inform and train early interventionists in how to promote AT uses with young children with disabilities and their families. The SEEDS statewide training and technical assistance system was used as the vehicle for developing a workgroup that focused on one of the seventeen topical areas of training and technical assistance needs identified by SEEDS constituents and highlights best practice in assistive technology for young children. Training modules available on the web are then easily accessed by individual providers, school district administrators, SEEDS core and specialized consultants to improve their AT skills and increase their information on how to implement AT use in the natural environments of young children. The SWEET model as presented here is offered as a method for other technical assistance and training programs to apply in their efforts to infuse technology in early education systems throughout the nation.
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