A student’s need for Assistive Technology is based on a case-by-case decision made by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. If your student is on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), then the IEP team MUST consider if assistive technology would benefit your student regardless of the student’s specific disability. Each IEP document has a designated section that MUST be marked as to whether or not AT was considered for your student.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
SECTION 504 AND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 affects all programs that receive federal funds, including public schools. The law states that students with disabilities must be given the same opportunities to participate in educational programs and activities as students without disabilities, AND the use of assistive technology may be considered as an accommodation. Therefore, even if a child does not meet special education criteria, it is sometimes possible to acquire needed devices through a 504 plan.
If it is determined that a 504 plan would benefit the student, the school should document in a written 504 plan what evaluations were performed and what decisions were made regarding the student.
EDUCATIONAL ASSITIVE TECHNOLOGY CONSIDERATIONS
6 Educational Areas of Need to Consider:
- Academics: Reading, Written Expression, Math, Executive Functions, Learning/Study
- Sensory: Hearing, Vision, Tactile/Movement
- Communication: Expressive, Receptive, Functional
- Physical Access: Environmental Control, Positioning, Mobility, Seating
- Behavior: Inattentiveness, Aggression, Frustration
- Computer Access
Assistive Technology Services Include:
- Evaluating whether or not the student would benefit from AT
- Providing the assistive technology device
- Training the student in using the device
- Training the parents and professionals who work with the child, if needed
THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTING ASSISTIVE TECH AT SCHOOL
Evaluating Your Student for Assistive Technology:
Determination for assistive technology should be considered by the IEP team at each initial placement, annual review and three-year re-evaluation for your student when there has been an identified concern or an area of need. If your student has not been evaluated for assistive technology and you believe that your student would benefit from this service, contact your child’s IEP team or Section 504 Coordinator to start the evaluation process. If your student’s IEP/Section 504 team is unable to determine what AT devices and/or services would be best for your child, then a formal AT evaluation may also be necessary. The formal AT evaluation is performed by a qualified professional in a timely manner. In some cases, this presents a problem as there is currently a shortage of qualified AT evaluators in many areas. The school or district may choose to use their own personnel to conduct the evaluation.
My Student Has Been Found Eligible. What Should the Team Consider?
- What tools (devices/services) are necessary to support the student’s needs and goals across all educational environments (playground, classroom, library)
- Issues related to design and selection of the device, as well as maintenance, repair, and replacement of devices
- Training (to use the device) and ongoing technical assistance needs. What is necessary not only for the student, but also for family members, teachers, service providers, and other people who are significantly involved in a student’s life?
Consider this comprehensive list of AT recommendations Adapted from Payson Unified School District #10 to help identify areas of need for your student here.
What if I Disagree with the School’s AT Decision?
If parents disagree with the recommendations, they have the right to an independent evaluation at the district’s expense. Parents need to be aware that they may have to assume the cost of an independent evaluation if the results do not differ from the one provided by the school or district AND if the school or district can show that the original evaluation was appropriate.
Some situations in which parents and school personnel should meet to resolve disagreements include:
- Parents disagree in writing with the IEP
- Parents believe their child is not receiving appropriate assistive technology devices and/or services
- Parents believe that additional devices and/or services are needed
Who is Responsible for Purchasing and Providing Supports?
Schools are responsible for providing assistive technology devices and services if it is determined by an IEP/Section 504 team that the child needs them to benefit from his or her educational program. Lack of availability or cost cannot be used as a reason for denying AT devices or services. In addition, a child is allowed to take a device home if it is needed to provide Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to him or her and to benefit from his or her educational program as determined by the IEP team.