Learning for Tomorrow NJ

Assistive Technology 101

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) services are any service that directly assists with the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (Cook & Hussey, 2002). This law includes several specific examples including:

  • Evaluating needs and skills for AT
  • Acquiring AT
  • Selecting, designing, and repairing
  • Coordinating services with other therapies
  • Training for individual and support staff

Assistive Technology Practitioners

It is imperative to ensure that the assistive technology practitioner (ATP) has experience in the type of supports necessary. Assistive technology practitioners often have a professional background in one of several areas:

  • Engineering
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Special Education
  • Speech Pathology
  • Vocational Rehabilitation

Based on the needs of the patient, the chosen ATP may vary. It is important to remember that every ATP must be able and willing to work collaboratively. A transdisciplinary approach is best when implementing technology. The more information that can be shared among the team, the better supports the individual will receive. Thus, lower the likelihood of technology abandonment and increasing independence and success.


Assistive Technology in Schools

The goals of assistive technology in many schools are often access to grade-level curriculum, communication, mobility, mental health, and more. Tools that are recommended may require individual and staff training, along with home support for maximum impact. Assistive technology practitioners that are willing to train the student and staff, rather than to only provide an evaluation, may be beneficial for a district with little technology experience or limited child study team staff. School districts may also discover that the technology recommended for one student can benefit others with minimal modifications.

Next Steps

Providing assistive technology for learners can be the tool that truly ensures a life of independence and success. Feel free to contact Learning for Tomorrow NJ for evaluation and training opportunities.
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Tech Doesn’t Replace Good Instruction

I often hear parents and educators exhibit concern over the role of assistive technology. Many fear that by providing a student an iPad they are sending the student and school district the message that reading instruction is no longer necessary. This thought could not be further from the truth.

Providing research-based instructional practices in reading, writing, math, and more is  the responsibility of a school district. The schools must provide an individualized education to each student with an IEP based on  data collection and valid research.

Technology does not replace the requirements, it is merely a complimentary tool. There are many ways that technology can be implemented. In many scenarios, students are receiving instruction in math and reading without significant technology support, while using an iPad to gain access to grade-level electives, history, and science. In other scenarios, technology helps students maintain access to grade level curriculum throughout the school day. These descisions are made by the IEP Team based on indivual student needs.

Technology is not a bandage, but rather a tool that supports learners with a variety of needs. Contact Learning for Tomorrow NJ for a free consultation today.


IDEA and Assistive Technology

In 2004, federal law mandated the consideration of assistive technology for students “to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities.” (20 U.S.C. 1400(c)(5)(H)) IEP teams must determine if assistive technology will support the unique needs of the learner. Many students with disabilities struggle with reading, writing, mathematics, vision, hearing, listening, communication, organization, and more. Almost all students can benefit from a form of low or high technology supports. More and more schools are providing laptops or tablets to all students, but very few are providing the individualized software and hardware to help students overcome their disabilities. In addition, many schools do not provide the staff training to support a smooth implementation of recommended technology.  

IDEA defines an ‘assistive technology device’ 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 functional capabilities of a child with a disability. (20 U.S.C. 1401(1))

IDEA defines an ‘assistive technology service’ as any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes –

(A) the evaluation…

(B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices…

(C) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing…

(D) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices…

(D) training or technical assistance for such child, or …the family of such child…

(F) training or technical assistance for professionals… (20 U.S.C. 1401(2))

Learning for Tomorrow NJ is working with individuals, schools, and workplaces nationally to ensure the learners have the technology that fits their individual needs and their environment is able to support the learner and their technology needs.


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