What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology (AT) is an umbrella term referring to both (1) items that are used to improve the funtional capabilities of a student with a disability; and (2) services to assist students with disabilities in the selection, acquisition, and use of various devices or materials. AT supports are as varied as the needs of our students, encompassing a wide array of low to high-tech options.
Categories of assistive technology include augmentative communication devices (visual supports, speech generating devices), access methods (switches, touch screens, head mice, eye tracking), vision aids (magnifiers, Braille displays), sensory aids (FM systems, hearing aids), motor/mobility equipment (walkers, scooters, wheelchairs), specialized software and apps (voice recognition, organization/task-management, notetaking), etc.
AT can be simple and inexpensive (highlighters, pencil grips, Post-It notes) to complex and expensive (dynamic display speech generating devices with eye gaze).
How are Assistive Technology needs determined?
When an impressive new device becomes available, many may be tempted to think about the item first wondering how it can benefit a particular student. Yet, best practice calls for teams to take a student-first approach, conducting an assessment to determine which specific assistive technology devices and services are necessary to meet the needs of the the individual with a disability.
The SETT (Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools) process provides a structure for teams to collaborate and identify what skills need to be learned, the environments in which those skills will be needed, and the assistive technology tools and services that will be needed to get there.