Education Tech Points
A brief Overview of Education Tech Points: A Framework for Assistive Technology
by Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed
As schools, early childhood special education programs and early intervention programs address the issues involved in providing assistive technology services, two options are available. One option is to develop a separate, parallel track of assessment and planning for assistive technology. This involves the development of a specialized referral and assessment process and the utilization of clinical settings where the special needs of assistive technology users are addressed. While there are many advantages to such a setting for individuals with complicated technology needs, it is not an efficient way to address the needs of students with mild disabilities. In addition, such a system does not take into account the physical and social factors in the user’s customary environments.
An alternative to a separate assessment and prescription system is the development of general program policies and procedures that include assistive technology. These identify the times when assistive technology questions should be asked and provide support to existing educational teams to effectively select assistive technology and implement assistive technology services. Such a system has the advantage of including everyone on the IEP/IFSP team in a familiar process and assures that assistive technology will be considered in all the aspects of the child’s educational program. We call such a system Education Tech Points. Each Education Tech Point identifies the specific times within the planning and provision of specially designed instruction that the need for assistive technology (both devices and services) should be considered. Education Tech Points offer a way to integrate assistive technology into the thinking of the IEP/IFSP team and the management system that each school district uses to ensure provision of appropriate services to children with disabilities. Key points to assist in making decisions regarding utilization of assistive technology services and resources are identified and incorporated into the regular educational planning system. They are referral, evaluation, trial periods, plan development, implementation, periodic review and transitions.
The 2012 edition of Education Tech Points manual contains text, resources, and a CD with tools and forms to help you develop an assistive technology process for an individual child or for an entire school district. Each Education Tech Point represents a point in the process of referral, evaluation and development of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) when consideration of technology use might occur. This structure provides a way to effectively organize and monitor assistive technology services while enabling programs to tailor activities to match the needs of each student. Initial Education Tech Point questions guide the IEP/IFSP team through the necessary steps to determine if a child may need an assistive technology device or service. During implementation, the Education Tech Point questions can assist the education staff to monitor the program in order to ensure that needed changes are addressed in a timely and efficient manner. Along with the identification of these key points, potential questions to be asked are suggested and implications for school districts are highlighted. The following is a summary of each Education Tech Point.
Education Tech Point #1-Consideration and Referral
For each student with a disability who uses assistive technology, there is a starting point. Because IDEA requires that every IEP team consider whether a child who needs special education requires assistive technology devices and services (34 C.F.R. § 300.324 (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1414 (d)(3) and (4) (B) and (e)), consideration during an IEP meeting is the most typical time that the need for AT is first discussed. For students with disabilities who are not eligible under IDEA or are currently being evaluated for special education eligibility, the process is slightly different. The first Education Tech Point: Consideration and Referral-addresses both situations and describes the actions teams can take as they begin to think about whether a student needs assistive technology.
Education Tech Point #2-Evaluation
Once eligible for special education, IDEA specifically states that a student’s need for AT may be evaluated as a separate stand-alone inquiry. AT needs may also be a component of an initial evaluation of the student’s eligibility for special education services. Within an eligibility evaluation there may even be questions about a student’s functional abilities that can only be answered by using assistive technology during the evaluation.
If district eligibility evaluators are capable of addressing questions about the need for AT, they should do so as part of the overall evaluation process. If district evaluators are unable to collect the information needed to help the team make an AT decision, assistive technology needs can be addressed by other team members or specialists who join the team to help evaluate the student’s needs for AT. This chapter addresses evaluation of the student’s need for AT during initial eligibility, evaluation of need for AT in response to Consideration of a student’s need for AT in the IEP process, and evaluation of need for AT for a student being served under Section 504.
Education Tech Point #3-Trial Periods
The only tech point that isn’t specifically identified as a required step in IDEA is trial periods. However, trial periods of assistive technology devices give such valuable information about the potential for assistive technology to overcome barriers posed by a student’s disability that we felt that we had to include this action step in the Education Tech Points manual. An assistive technology trial period is a little like a “test drive” of a new vehicle. When you look for transportation, you think about what you want to do with the vehicle, what features it needs to have, and how you will use it on a daily basis. After you decide on those things, you go to places that have that kind of vehicle and drive some until you find the one that works for you. Trial periods of assistive technology are the way that students can “test drive” AT until they find the device or combination of devices that meets their needs.
Education Tech Point #4-Plan Development
Each year the IFSP or IEP team must develop a plan for the next 12 months that describes the specially designed instructional goals for a student with a disability and the services that the agency or school district will provide to help the student to achieve those goals. IEP/IFSP teams are responsible for determining every aspect of the specially designed instructional program, including whether assistive technology devices and services will be provided.
Education Tech Point #5-Implementation
After an IEP team completes an assistive technology assessment and includes AT tools in a student’s IEP, the work has only just begun. Implementation planning including strategies for classroom integration, daily schedules and procedures are essential topics for the educational team to address if the AT is to become a useful tool. This chapter discusses ideas that the team can use as they integrate the use of assistive technology into a student’s daily educational program.=
Education Tech Point #6-Periodic Review
Periodic review is the federally mandated and regularly scheduled review of a student’s progress in all areas. IDEA requires that the IEP team review a student’s progress toward meeting educational goals at least once annually. During periodic review, IEP teams analyze data about student performance and adjust the specially designed instruction, related services and accommodations and modifications based on the results of this analysis.
Assistive technology use should be reviewed at least as often as other aspects of the student’s educational program. During periodic review the team asks questions about the quality, frequency and effectiveness of a student’s AT use. If needed instruction about AT, the AT services that support the student’s AT use and/or the technology itself is adjusted based on the results of the review.
Education Tech Point #7-Transition for students who use AT.
Transitions occur each year as student’s progress through the educational system. Some years they are simple passages to a new classroom in the same building, other years they involve movement to different buildings and sometimes to an entirely new set of services. No matter how simple or complex the transition, the new start always means that steps must be taken to ensure that AT use that was working well for a student is continued and AT that wasn’t working well is re-examined and improved upon. This chapter addresses transitions for students who use AT.
More information about the Education Tech Points Framework can be found in the Education Tech Points manual distributed by the Coalition for Assistive Technology in Oregon (CATO) on this website. It contains text, resources, and a CD of forms and tools to help you develop an assistive technology process for an individual child or for an entire school district.