Often the missing link in a child’s educational progress could be an Assistive Technology (AT) tool that can help a student complete a math problem quicker, read a story better, use a computer with greater ease, or track text more accurately; increasing a child’s confidence, independence and motivation to learn.
Often a child with multiple developmental delays is trying to overcome other existing challenges while trying to satisfy a task at hand. This is especially true for a child who has multiple deficits such as physical, speech and language, gross motor, fine motor and cognitive delays.
For example, take a student with fine motor (eye hand coordination, writing) and cognitive delays who has difficulty with handwriting and is working on connect-the-dots to show an understanding of counting numbers sequentially, in the classroom. If the teacher or parents don’t closely monitor which aspect is playing a greater role in preventing the child from completing the assignment, then it could be misinterpreted that the student lacks an understanding of numbers. Whereas, introducing a proper tool such as a touch device may solve the underlying problem and allow the child to complete the task at hand, more efficiently.
Since low-tech changes such as a pencil griper, slant board, elevated keyboard, text in larger print or tracking software can make a tremendous difference in a child’s learning, we asked Stanislaus County of Education (California) to help us understand some commonly asked questions about AT.
SNIMC: What is Assistive Technology (AT)?
SCOE: In the school setting, AT includes equipment and/or material that enable a student to take part in the classroom curriculum. This could be anything ranging from a slant board to allow a student to write easier all the way to a voice output device that allows a student to participate in classroom activities.
SNIMC: Who determines if the child requires an AT tool?
SCOE: The IEP team should determine when a student requires more than what the classroom curriculum provides. The student’s SLP or classroom teacher often makes this referral.
SNIMC: Who is responsible for conducting an AT assessment?
SCOE: In Stanislaus SELPA, AT assessments are conducted by the SCOE Assistive Technology Department. Some districts have their own Assistive technology Specialist who also double as the speech and language pathologist (SLPs) or occupational therapist (OTs).
SNIMC: Should the AT goal be in the IEP document?
SCOE: Any type of adaptation that a student would benefit from his/her education should be included in the IEP.
SNIMC: Who trains the teacher/staff in using the AT device?
SCOE: The person who is recommending the equipment should be in charge of servicing the staff. It is important to have a plan in place to decide who is responsible for programming/setting up and supporting the equipment.