ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT: A TEAM APPROACH
As in all areas of special education, coordinated teamwork is crucial. The traditional team has expanded, contracted, and transformed itself into a fluid arrangement that is constructed to meet the needs of the student. Team members can include any adult who provides a service to the student, the student, and the student's parent(s):
The assistive technology specialist functions as a member of this team. His or her role is to provide assistive technology and consultative expertise to help the team make an informed decision. The specialist should follow five basic steps to manage all of the team members' expertise and direct it to provide some benefit to the student:
Gather Information to Identify the Student's Needs
II. Formulate a Plan to Identify and Test A Range Of Possible Solutions
III. Conduct the Consultation to Determine A Promising Solution
IV. Implement the Solution As an "Extended Consultation"
V. Follow-Up the Consultation to Ensure That Desired Outcomes for the Student Are Met
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY CONSULTATION: A TEAM APPROACH
I. INFORMATION GATHERING PROCESS
A. Gather information to answer six questions.
- Who is this student?
- What is this particular student being asked to do?
- In what environments do we ask this student to do these things?
- What tools will help this student do these tasks in these environments?
- Is an assistive technology consultation necessary and appropriate for this student?
- What types of assistive technology devices and software programs will be most effective for the assessment?
B. Compile data gathering results into some type of decision-making framework, e.g., the SETT Framework
"When completing a SETT Framework, several other methods of gathering data are critical. They include: observations of the student involved in the ordinary tasks presented by the natural settings in which the student operates; discussions with the significant people who share those settings with the student; and, possibly, a review of other strategies and tools that have been tried with the student.
C. Contact student's IEP Team Members to obtain existing documents:
1. Reports from professionals, parents, prior technology consultants
- Student IEP
- Assistive Technology Referral form
- Video of student in customary environments doing required tasks
D. Review documents to learn more about the student's:
- Goals and Needs
- Cognitive, Academic, Physical, Motoric, Sensory, and Communication Skills, Abilities, and Levels.
- Behavioral Factors, Presenting Problems, and Medical Background.
- Classroom Environment including Available Hardware, Software,
- History of Assistive Technology use
- 5 Communication Assistance, Systems, and Interaction
a. Intelligibility of Communication
b. Language Comprehension Level
Dealing With Communicative Frustration)
- Interview IEP Team, Team Contact Person, Family Members, Student.
- Observe student to learn true demands of customary environment, gain insight into current functioning.
G. Use results of above data analysis and selected internet resources
at-advocacy.phillynews.com/index.html to select/use appropriate process tools:
- PSAT - to assess motor and cause and effect abilities.
- Assessment Software (e.g., Laureate Learning Systems - for switch access, cause and effect, academic levels)
- Environmental Assessment
H. Use results of above data analysis and selected internet resources
at-advocacy.phillynews.com/index.html to select/use appropriate product tools:
1. Physical Characteristics Assessment (PCA) for computer access.
- Interactive Checklist for Augmentative Communication (INCH) (use if the person has an AAC device)
- AT Assessment Guide
- Lifespace Access Profile for severe disabilities
FORM A PLAN TO IDENTIFY AND TEST A RANGE OF POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
- Use results of decision-making framework to prepare for the assessment.
- Identify student's strengths to capitalize on and needs to be met by technology. For example:
- 1. Functional communication skills
- 2. Functional reading skills
- 3. Functional sensory abilities (hearing, vision, tactile/proprioceptive)
- 4. Needs
a. Increased auditory input
b. Adapted method of access
c. Age/grade appropriate software
1. Type his name correctly (Adapted keyboard).
C. Identify goals based on strengths/needs for technology to address. E.g., using the chosen device/peripheral/software, the student will:
- 2. Follow directions and respond appropriately to the program's
- auditory prompts (Instructional software).
- Spontaneously request an activity (Communication device).
D Develop a list of possible solutions and products to bring to the assessment.
E Factors to Consider When Choosing Technology For The Assessment:
- Effectiveness: Does this device/peripheral/software meet the specific needs of the end user?
- Compatibility: Will this device/peripheral/software be compatible with what the student has access to in school or at home?
- Operability: Can the user operate it effectively?
- Operability: Can the family and staff learn to operate/program/adapt it appropriately for the student's use. If not, is there training available?
- These criteria will also be important in making recommendations.
F. Use Dependable Resources/Guides to Select Devices/Peripherals/Software
The Handbook of Assistive Technology, Gregory Church, Sharon Glennen.
G Test everything before using it in the consultation!
III. CONDUCT THE CONSULTATION TO DETERMINE A PROMISING SOLUTION:
In a universe of variables, these are some of the more salient questions that present themselves in assessment and in making recommendations.
The specialist should try to answer as many of these questions as possible using the process and product tools in step one. Unanswered questions from step one will need to be answered during the presentation; answered questions can be verified during the consultation.
A. PRACTICALITIES: Personal considerations.
- Does the student understand what is happening?
- Is he/she tired, hungry, nervous, over - stimulated?
- Does he/she fatigue easily?
- Is medication a factor?
B Interpersonal considerations:
- Are the appropriate/knowledgeable team members present?
- Is one person willing to take the lead in sharing information?
- Who should be communicating with the student throughout the assessment?
C Physical Considerations if the person is ambulatory:
- Can the student turn on the computer/device, or load the software?
- Is the student able to use the positioning of the device or computer/peripherals to their best advantage.
- Physical Considerations: If the person is non-ambulatory:
- Is seating/positioning optimal, or at least representative of habitual seating/positioning?
- Are options available for changing/experimenting with seating or positioning of equipment (e.g., cushions, lumbar rolls, adjustable tables, mock laptrays)?
D Sensory Considerations: Visual:
- Is the room lighting too soft, too bright?
- Incandescent vs. florescent lighting?
- Is the distance from the visual display appropriate?
E Sensory Considerations: Auditory:
- Can the student benefit from (or be distracted by) additional auditory feedback?
- Is the ambient noise level in the room distracting?
- Are the rate, pitch, and intonation variables reinforcing or distracting?
F Sensory Considerations: Tactile/Proprioceptive:
- Can the student perform better with a keyguard, wrist rest, different keyboard or switch design?
- Level of sensitivity needed?
G Cognitive/Linguistic Considerations
1. What is the student's functional communication skill level?
(i.e., can he request, label, initiate, maintain, take turns, protest, predict, and correct communicative breakdown)?
- Communication: what is the student's representational thinking? Can he go from concrete to abstract; from general to specific?
- Can he/she derive meaning from symbols?)
- Can he combine two symbols to make a new message?
- Can he use an increasingly specific menu system?
H Environmental Considerations
- Are different input modes necessary to accommodate a variety of user positions
- Is a mounting system required?
- Will the device need to be moved several times?
- Will the user's environment require different output modalities?
I Behavioral/ Social-Emotional Considerations
- Motivation: Does the person want technology?
- Personality issues: Does the output represent the user?
- What are the expectations of the student, parents, and team for technology use?
- Give the student a voice in the assessment and selection process.
J SELECTION AND RECOMMENDATION.
To select and recommend appropriate devices for purchase is not a mystical experience. It flows logically from the steps outlined above.
- Criteria For Device Selection
- Compatibility - Interfacing with other devices, difficulty in cable hookup, obsolescence
- Ease of assembly/programming/troubleshooting
- Does this product really meet the needs of the end user?
- In meeting these needs, are other important areas compromised?
- Flexibility of input and output options
- Will it take a long time to learn or program?
- Is specialized training necessary?
- Is it available?
- Is daily maintenance/charging necessary?
- Is the startup routine reasonable?
- Personal Acceptability: how does the student feel about it?
IV. IMPLEMENT THE SOLUTION AS AN "EXTENDED CONSULTATION." The team develops an action plan that includes:
- Services and/or devices the child may need for the trial period
- Length of trial and when it will begin.
- Criteria for how they will know the student can do what s/he needs to do.
- Ensures someone is responsible for each aspect of the action plan. (See www.wati.org/englishforms.html for forms that address implementation of the solution(s) that were generated).
V. FOLLOW-UP TO ENSURE THAT DESIRED OUTCOMES FOR THE STUDENT ARE MET
A. Technical Support
1. On Site
2. Telephone Consultation
3. Vendor Contact
1. On Site Training
2. Consultant / Agency / District Workshops
3. Model Schools Program
- RIATT course guid
1. To Other Consultants
2. To Transition Services