Assistive Technology in the Classroom
by Tara Peifer, DRT Advocate
Many children experience difficulties in the school setting, but for those children who have disabilities their obstacles can be more pronounced. In some cases, a student needs an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to provide internal supports within the classroom. One of the supports that may be necessary is Assistive Technology (AT).
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology (AT) describes various auxiliary aids which help support the educational capabilities of a child with a disability in the classroom. This equipment uses the child’s strengths to support and enhance their ability to achieve and navigate course materials to provide access to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
What is a Free Appropriate Public Education?
When a child with a documented disability enters the public school system in the United States, he or she is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This includes providing modifications, accommodations, and supports for the student’s experience to be equal to that of children without disabilities. FAPE is defined as special education services that:
- Have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
- Meet the standards of the State education agency
- Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
- Are provided in conformation with the individualized education program required under section 1414 (d)
An appropriate education consists of education within a regular classroom, education in a regular classroom with auxiliary aids (which includes AT), or special education classrooms with or without a modified schedule. The special education classroom may have several optional or modified components based on the curriculum of the teacher. As a result, there may be other services available to these students such as assistive technology, medical services, occupational and speech therapies, and/or counseling services. Ultimately, all children who are school-aged are entitled to a FAPE if those students have a documented disability as defined by Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA).
Does IDEIA cover AT?
The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) is a federal law that ensures states and public schools meet the needs of children with disabilities through the provision of early intervention, special education, and related services. IDEIA requires all IEP teams to consider AT needs for all children with disability. According to Wrightslaw, IDEIA 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…
- (E) 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))
What are some examples of Assistive Technology that are used in the classroom?
Although there are many students who use AT in the classroom, the AT is customized to meet the needs of the individual student. The key to success with implementation of AT in the class is to have an effective assessment which addresses the specific need of the student. Here are some examples of Assistive Technology:
- Alternative and Augmented Communication Devices
- FM Amplifiers
- Pencil Grips
- Braille Printer
- Adapted Switch Toys
- Digital Readers
How do I know my child needs AT?
In most cases the IEP team determines whether or not a child would benefit from AT. Assessments are often completed internally through the school system, but can be requested from an independent AT specialist.
Who do I need to contact regarding an assessment?
If you think your child may benefit from AT in the classroom contact your IEP Team. Your child’s IEP team should consider whether your student can gain assistance from AT during every IEP meeting. For an independent evaluation you can contact your regional AT Centers or for more information:
- Assistive Technology in ADA – Information and Technical Assistance on ADA Standards from the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
- eParent Special Needs Resource Directory – A directory of nationwide centers that help children and adults with disabilities gain access to adaptive technology and that provide hands-on consultations, demonstrate products, make recommendations and referrals. and present workshops on technology use
- RESNA Position Papers – Position papers on the use of various AT.
About the Arthur
Tara Peifer is a Disability Rights Tennessee advocate. Tara is an Austin Peay State University graduate with a degree in Social Work. Previously she received her Associates of Science in Interpreting Education (American Sign Language) and worked as an advocate for special education and assistive technology. As the wife of an Active Duty First Sergeant in the U.S. Army, she has had the opportunity to volunteer in her military community and served as the Family Group Readiness Leader for many years. Tara grew up in West Palm Beach, FL and currently lives in Clarksville, TN with her husband and two children.