Assistive Technology

IDEA defines an assistive-technology device as "any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities." Such devices can range from the simple, such as penholders or cup holders, to complex, such as computer voice communication or robots. Such tools can offer greater independence, freedom and opportunities for the disabled in the pursuits of their hopes, goals, and dreams.Some of the current preferences towards assistive technology we use in the classroom are:

  • Personal Digital Assistants There are multiple varieties of these. We use two different types in the classroom to help students better comprehend orginization and scheduling.
  • Highlighters/Low Tech Such low tech tools are easy to use and often make a world of difference for students, often leading to a new found excitement to use 'technology' while learning.
  • Tape recorders and Audio Books Students record their own vocal reading as well as listen to pre-recorded stories to help improve their reading and listening skills
  • Handwriting Without Tears is an all inclusive program that offers students with fine gross motor challenges materials such as lined paper and comfortable pencil grips to help improve handwriting.
  • Talking Calculators and Classroom Play Money Both of these are very low tech options which help students in multiple areas as well as offering real world applications.

Assistive technology should be addressed in every IEP and with every student. Whether low tech or high tech, students who struggle academically and emotionally can be benefitted in various ways with such materials. Being well into the technology era and having advanced so far in special education, nearly every need can be touched on and benefitted through assistive technology.

Universal Design takes assistive technology pieces which are available for students, in whatever modality, and creates a plan to assess, deliver, and monitor the use of such materials.

According to AECT, Instructional Technology is the practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.