AT in Education: Return to Document Contents

VI. ADDRESSING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM


A. THE INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)

IDEA requires that IEP teams consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services. All teams must consider whether assistive technology is required for the child to benefit from a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The team also needs to determine the type of device(s) and/or service(s) required to derive educational benefit from the instruction provided. Some students will not require technology to meet the goals on their IEP, but many students will benefit from the use of assistive technology.

    The IEP team must consider whether assistive technology is necessary for the student to:
  • achieve educational or social goals;
  • gain meaningful benefit from the education; or
  • make reasonable progress in the least restrictive environment.

The team should analyze what is required of students without disabilities of the same age and determine how many of these requirements could be completely or partially fulfilled by the student with a disability, if that student had access to appropriate assistive technology. As with other kinds of special education services, cost should not be a consideration when making a decision about whether a particular assistive device should be provided, but it may be a consideration when choosing between several equally appropriate options.

    The results of the evaluation should be described in the applicable sections of the IEP which may include:
  • the present levels of performance;
  • goals and objectives;
  • related services;
  • supplementary aids and services;
  • modifications to the regular education program; and/or
  • specialized equipment.

A flowchart and related discussion regarding a process for determining assistive technology services for students is located in Appendix C of this document. This may be a helpful resource for teams as they work with individual students.

B. INCLUDING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN THE IEP

There are three places in the IEP where assistive technology is commonly addressed.

Annual Individual Education Program Goals

Assistive technology can be included in the annual goals and benchmarks established on an IEP. How assistive technology will contribute to achieving the goal must be clearly stated. The inclusion of assistive technology in the IEP requires an explanation of how and why the technology will be used to accomplish a particular goal. A goal which includes assistive technology should indicate that the device will be part of conditions needed to acquire the specific skill.

Following is an example of an annual goal addressing assistive technology:
The student will follow the teacher’s directions in science class,
using an FM auditory trainer 9 of 10 times, with 100% accuracy.

List of Supplementary Aids and Services

Students with disabilities are guaranteed the right to placement in the educational setting which is the least restrictive environment. In order to be successful in the least restrictive environment, students are to be afforded whatever supplementary aids and services are necessary. Among the supplementary aids which may allow a student to remain in a less restrictive environment are a variety of assistive devices that compensate for disability and allow the student to perform educational and social tasks.

Assistive technology is necessary as a supplementary aid if its presence (along with other necessary aids) supports the student sufficiently to maintain the placement and, in the absence of the aid, requires the student’s removal to a more restrictive setting. For example, if a student with multiple physical disabilities can make independent, educational progress on his or her IEP goals in the regular classroom with the use of a computer and an augmentative communication device, and cannot make such progress in that setting without the devices, those devices are necessary supplementary aids. Supplementary aids and devices or modifications to the regular education program must be included in the student’s IEP.

The following statements are examples of those that may be documented in an IEP to address the student’s use of supplementary aids and services:
Within the regular classroom, the student will utilize word processing or other applicable software to complete written assignments, when appropriate.

Within the regular classroom, the student will use an augmentative communication device to communicate.

List of Related Services

The law states that the list of related services is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or support services. It is through this provision in the law that many school districts are providing students with disabilities assistive technology devices and services.

In order for students to be successful with assistive technology devices, they need to receive proper training on the use of the equipment. Training to use a computer, an augmentative communication device, or large print viewer can occur as a related service which supports the student’s educational program. Training on assistive technology devices can be written into the IEP as a related service.

Preparation for the use of assistive technology devices can be worked into other related services. Examples of this include situations where occupational therapy is needed prior to being able to access assistive technology devices or exercises that are needed to prepare the student to use a computer keyboard or a communication board.

Under the IDEA, a student must be receiving special education in order to be considered eligible for related services. However, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the student may be eligible for related services without eligibility for special education. Refer to the Legal Requirements information relating to Section 504, found in Section III B of this document.

C. PREREQUISITE SKILLS

Mastery of certain prerequisite skills or typical developmental milestones is generally not necessary in order for students to make use of assistive technology. Many students benefit from assistive technology even though they do not have the prerequisite skills. For example, students may benefit from an augmentative communication device even though they have limited verbal ability. Likewise, students with little to no use of their hands could benefit from a word processor or computer even though they might be unable to pass a keyboarding test.

D. PARTICIPATION IN ASSESSMENTS

States are required to include children with disabilities, with accommodations when necessary, in state and district-wide assessment programs. For children who cannot participate in regular assessments, states must develop alternate assessments. According to the U.S. Department of Education, not all students with disabilities must participate in assessments, but the decision as to which students will not participate must be made by each individual student’s IEP team. The IEP must include a statement of why the student will not participate in the assessment and also indicate the alternate methods by which the student will be assessed.

For students who require accommodations, some of which may be assistive technology, the appropriate accommodations should be listed in the student’s IEP or Section 504 accommodation plan.

    Examples of possible accommodations in test presentation, response mode and setting are the following:
  • oral administration;
  • large print;
  • Braille version;
  • administration in an individual or separate room;
  • extended time; and/or
  • multiple test sessions.

Modifications vs. Accommodations

It is important to note the difference between modifications and accommodations. The following distinction is made according to the Nebraska Department of Education’s “Accommodations Guidelines for the Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities” document of March 2006. Information on how to access the complete document is found in the Resource section of this guide, located in Appendix D.

Accommodations do not reduce learning expectations or alter the content of the material
to be mastered. Accommodations provide access to receiving information and express-
ing what has been learned.

Modifications refer to practices that change or reduce learning expectations and
content. Modifications may increase the gap between the achievement of students with
disabilities and expectations for proficiency at a particular grade level.

CONSIDER THIS: Guidelines for Decision Making
    Rothstein and Everson (1995) suggest several guidelines for decision making regarding assistive technology, including:
  • Look for simple solutions;
  • Consider the learning and work style of the student;
  • Consider the long-range implications of the student’s disability and the device;
  • Look at each device for ease of use and maintenance, timeliness, adaptability, portability, dependability, durability, and technical support needed;
  • Investigate all options;
  • Compare similar devices from different manufacturers; and
  • Purchase devices only after consulting with a professional.

Source: Rothstein, R., & Everson, J. (1995). Assistive technology for individuals with sensory impairments. K. Flippo, K. Inge, & J. Barcus (Eds.), Assistive technology: A resource for school, work, and community (pp. 105-129). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

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