Third Thursday - Understanding Assistive Technology

Video Controls: Play | Pause | Stop | Mute | Unmute

Video Transcript:

Hello, I'm Donna Owens, the program director for the OCALI Family Center. And this is Third Thursday. On the third Thursday of each month, OCALI presents a presentation on a topic of interest to families of individuals with disabilities, both children and adults. And each of these presentations are recorded and archived on the OCALI Family Center web page. We have several that are housed there already. You can check those out. If you see something on the Third Thursday that you think another family might benefit from, please direct them to the OCALI Family web page so they can view them, too.

Tonight, our topic will be an overview of assistive technology. And we have with us Jan Rogers, who is the program director for the OCALI Assistive Technology Center. And Jan is going to be leading us through the basic definitions for assistive technology, the range of assistive technology, devices that might be able to support children, and to talk to us about the rules and some guidance for choosing assistive technology for your child. And, Jan, I want to thank you for taking the time to be with us and to do this with us tonight. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Donna.

So just for our first question, I just wanted to ask you, just simply, what's a definition of assistive technology?

Well, I think you can see on the screen that the definition is really-- the technical definition is assistive technologies, any device, item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether it's acquired commercially off the shelf or whether you produce something or tweak something and modify it, that can be used to increase, maintain, or improve the function of a child. So really, I think if you think about that definition, it's pretty all encompassing. It doesn't give us a lot of guidelines to work with in terms of parameters that would narrow things down, other than it's going to help a child be able to function more appropriately.

I think we oftentimes think of AT also as kind of a scaffold or a bridge to help a student get across something that's challenging for them. So, for example, if you have a struggle reading, assistive technology may be able to provide some text to speech for you so that you can then get that information in an auditory way. And then you can actually kind of bridge over that reading difficulty that you're having. So it applies to many different areas.

When should a parent consider the use of assistive technology to support their child?

Well, there's actually a number of, I think, reasons why you might think about assistive technology. And it really, again, gets back to the function part of things. So if you're having difficulties functioning at school and accessing the curriculum and participating in the way that other kids are participating, then you might want to think about some assistive technology supports, along with other accommodations and instructional strategies that you might use with a student.

So if you're having challenges with communicating or reading or writing, computing math problems, managing and getting around in the hallways and moving from class to class, difficulties hearing or seeing, those are all things that might tip off a parent to think, maybe we need to have some of those discussions and an IEP meeting about what kinds of assistive technologies might also support my child.

Very good. So can you give me some specific examples of assistive technology that might support a child across a whole various areas? You've given us several already. But are there others maybe that you didn't mention that you would like to?

Yeah, I think we can look at different areas-- and we kind of talked about some of those-- so communication, augmentative communication, seating and positioning, alternative access, if you have difficulties accessing the computer, hearing aids, things that might help you to be able to hear or to see. Some of those things are all things that you can think about. The hearing aid one gets into more of the personal products. And so sometimes those things aren't covered. So there are things that are excluded. So you'd have to really kind of look at and think through how they impact the child's learning.

You've given us some examples of AT across a number of different areas. Well, what should a parent do if they think that their school-age child would benefit from assistive technology?

I think one of things that they probably would want to do is to talk with the child's IEP team. Each year at the annual IEP meeting, there is a time during the IEP when that conversation of could this child benefit from assistive technology should occur. In our Ohio IEPs, we have a question very much directed to that in the Special Considerations and Special Factors section. So it really needs to be more than just a do we think so or do we not think so. It needs to be a bit of a considered discussion.

So I think within that discussion things like-- Are you struggling with participating? Could you be more independent if you actually had some type of assistive technology? Could you use less adult support and supervision if you had some type of technology to support what you're doing? I think those are the kind of questions that you would want to ask and that you would want the team to have some conversation about.

So there should be a brief conversation. It shouldn't be a long, lengthy conversation. You're not anticipating trying to do an entire assessment during the IEP meeting. But what it does is it should lay the groundwork for kind of three things when you get finished-- Does this child need assistive technology? And maybe the answer is no. Do we not know enough information? And do we need to then kind of figure out that maybe we need more assessment to determine that. And maybe the child's already using something, but that something that they're using, in terms of assistive technology, isn't quite meeting their needs anymore.

Which is very common, because assistive technology is very tied into your environments and your tasks. So what tasks you may do one school year, as you progress in the grades, may change. So then your demands and the use of your assistive technology to support those tasks may be quite different.

Well, then what is the school's responsibility for assessing a child's ability to benefit from AT?

Well, the school is responsible if, during that discussion, that brief discussion if you're having IEP, if you then decided that, yes, we need to know more information, there does need to be some type of assessment that occurs. At that point, the IEP team really needs to consider whether they have the expertise within their IEP team to do that assessment. Or whether they may need additional people on their team. It's fairly common for an IEP team to be able to do that assessment with all the members that are already sitting on the team.

But sometimes the type of technology the student may benefit the most from may be a little more complex. And so they may want to ask somebody else to join the team, who has a little more expertise in that particular type of technology for the child. So I think there's a lot of ways that that can get handled. But I think that, ultimately, it should be a team process. That's kind of the bottom message and bottom line all this. You'll get your best results if you have a team involved in that decision making.

OK, so first of all, it's bringing it up to the IEP team.

Yes.

And-- for that discussion. And then the school has a certain responsibility then for providing an assessment.

Yes.

Then tell me this, how is the determination made about what assistive technology might be appropriate?

Well, once the team has conducted an assessment-- and that may include the speech pathologist looking at the student's language skills, if they're considering a speech device-- speech generating device. It could be the OT looking at how the student's able to access that speech generating device, if they're still thinking about communication. If they're looking at writing skills, the OT may be looking at how are they holding their pencil? Are they able to interact with the computer in the same way that the other students are?

You may pull in an adaptive PE specialist to have conversations about some of their motor things. Or a physical therapist if you're thinking about mobility items for around the school. So there's a number of different team members you may pull on there. So once that process starts to unfold, part of the process is then to do a feature match. So your team is really going to be thinking about, what features of technology best meet the needs of the student?

So we typically don't make a leap to the technology-- the end product technology immediately. We want that team to be able to really think through the student has needs in what we call a SETT framework. So we look at the student, the environment, the task, and then the tools. So first we look at all the student's needs. And all those specialists should be able to bring that information to the table. And then we would look at the environments in which the student needs to be able to participate.

So does the student need to work at school at a desk? At a desk that's more of a grouped desk with lots of other students? Do they need to be able to do homework at home? So there's lots of different things that you need to think about in terms of environment. Is it a quiet environment, if you're thinking about speech generating devices. Does the volume need to be loud enough to get over playground experiences, if the child's outside on the playground.

So those are all the environmental considerations. And then the tasks are really those things that are about, what do they need to be able to do? That's the question that you're asking there, is what does the child need to be able to do? Do they need to be able to write a paragraph? Do they need to be able to speak and answer questions and comments? Do they need to be able to walk down the hallway to get the cafeteria? So what do you want the student to do? And you need to be very specific about that.

Once you've identified all those things, then you can start to match up features of technology that could help to support that student in all those areas that you've identified. And it's through that feature match that you then can find out some technologies that work. I think the other thing to think about is that there are many features that might benefit a student, but there are also many, many, many pieces of technology that might have those same features. So what you're really looking at is there could be four or five items that might meet the needs of the student, if you're looking at just those features. So that's what you're trying to do is find the features that match the technology, that match the needs of a child.

So it can be a complex decision-making process.

Yes.

And you don't come in and say, I think my child would benefit from-- I talked to a vendor and-- So it's not that you choose the tool first. You go through an assessment process.

Correct.

And it's a comprehensive process.

It is very comprehensive. And it's a very systematic process. It should be a very systematic process. And it should be also a process that contains trials of things. Once you start to make some determinations on items that you think might work and that have the features that you're looking for, then you're going to be doing trials. The team should also be collecting data to make sure you're getting the outcomes that you want. So it's very outcome based in terms of what you expect the technology to be able to do for the child. You're really looking for that technology to be able to provide some type of support, whether it's the independence or the participation or access, so that they can do more than what they're currently doing for themselves.

Very good. Now, what about the situation when some children will have a private provider-- a private speech language pathologist or a private OT-- that will make a recommendation to the parent for a particular kind of technology, piece of technology. Now, what can a parent do in that situation?

I think probably one of the best things that a parent can do is to really help link up their school-based team with their private providers. And to have those people function as a team together. And we talked earlier about sometimes you might want to bring in extra people on your IEP team to start the AT assessment process. That's the perfect place to start if you do have private providers, to invite them into those discussions.

Oftentimes, private providers see students in a very clinical-type setting. So that whole thing, if we're thinking back to the SETT process-- the student, the environment, and the tasks-- when you're in a clinical setting, it's a little harder to determine those environments and tasks naturalistically. One of the things that we're required to do by idea, is a student-- if they're receiving an assessment through a school-based team, as it needs to happen in the child's customary environment, which is the school. So bringing all those people together to make those decisions will really, really be helpful, I think. And I think you'll have a lot better outcome, then, too, as a result.

Right, so you make that person a part of the team and a part of that discussion.

Yes.

It's not a prescription that comes in from outside. But this is a discussion and this is what we are considering and we want your expertise.

Absolutely, yeah.

Yeah, yeah, that team process, which is the foundation of the IEP in every case.

Right. Somebody else, too, that oftentimes we bring into teams are the vendors. And vendors are very knowledgeable about their devices. And you would want to bring in maybe multiple vendors. But it gives, oftentimes, an opportunity to do trials, too, through vendor products. Sometimes you can't find those products to do the trials or you may not have that product in your district. But you can do a partnership and you can do some teaming with some of the vendors to kind of help with that as well.

Are there resources that families might be able to depend on, and even schools to depend on, if you want to try a number of different devices, but you can't purchase all those devices? What resources are available to help with that part of the process?

Yeah, absolutely. There are a number of different resources for that. OCALI, our center, has a statewide lending library. And it's focused primarily on school-based services. So any school district can borrow equipment through are lending library. They can take it for three weeks and try it out, do some of the data collection that we talked about. And then when they're finished with that item, they can either send that back to us after the three week or they can renew. Sometimes, if there's nobody else backed up against them, we'll do one more renewal on it, so they can have a six-week trial.

There's also AT Ohio, which is part of a national Tech Act Programs. Each state-- and all 50 states have one of these programs. And most of the programs have a lending library function. So they're also a resource that you can go to to also borrow equipment.

So we have the OCALI Lending Library specifically for schools. It's generally for--

Correct.

--school assessment teams. But AT Ohio is not school specific.

No.

So it would be appropriate for adults--

Yes.

--if they want to try some specific technologies, assistive technology devices, as well. And that's AT Ohio--

Yes, AT Ohio.

--here.

OK, and then you connected that also to the AT Tech Act and said that for those who might be listening to this from other states, there would be AT Tech Act Programs in other states that might have very similar programs.

Yes. Absolutely.

Very good. I do want to make sure that families know about resources that might be available to them.

Their programs can be a little different from state to state depending upon how they've chosen to spend their Federal dollars in their Tech Act Program. But many of them have reuse programs, which is if people no longer need equipment, they may turn it into them, and they may then send it back out to somebody else. Some of them have computer redistribution programs. So they'll take in old computers, refurbish them, and then send them out for a small fee to individuals.

Some of them offer up low-cost loans for assistive technology. But again, you would need to check with your individual state, because they're all very different.

Now, what's the school's responsibility for providing AT for a student?

Well, in terms of the school district's responsibility, in terms of actually requiring the assistive technology, the school district is mandated to actually provide whatever the student needs at no cost to the parents. So it should be free to the parent and the child. But that doesn't mean they have to fund it. So by acquiring it-- they can acquire it by either purchasing it or renting it or they may already have it within their district and they're not using it. Another student has grown out of it and doesn't need it anymore, so they may redistributed it to a different student. So there's really a number of ways they can do that.

If we're talking the larger funding picture, school districts have that obligation to provide something. But also, they can tap into other resources as well. So if they want to first try looking at other types of either private funding sources, they can check into those. Families can do that as well. Families may have private insurance that they prefer to use. The district can't require a family member to use their private insurance, if it depletes the insurance over the course of the lifetime of the insurance. Many of our insurances have lifetime caps.

Caps.

So again, it becomes the discretion of the family, whether they want to use their insurance money for that purpose. Many choose to do that, because they want to actually have control of that assistive technology. And they want to be able to use it in a broader way than what might just be used within the school. They also want to use it at home for social things and other kinds of activities. They just feel like they prefer to do that.

However, when you're in that situation, if a school district accepts technology that a parent has paid for, and if it's needed, if it's been identified on the IEP as a needed item, then that school district is then responsible for-- if there's problems and the equipment gets damaged at school, then the district is going to be responsible for the repairs on the damaged equipment so that the student still has the device to be able to use it for the needed school items. So it really gets back to, again, that question of, is this needed for the student to be able to access, participate, and be independent within the school environment. And if the answers are yes, then the district is responsible for providing for that student.

I see that. But if the school provides it-- say, if the school purchases this assistive technology device, does that mean it stays at the school? It can't go home?

No, not necessarily at all. Again, it's really an IEP team decision. And it's based upon the needs of the student. So if we go back to thinking about the whole assessment process and all the tasks and the environments and the needs of the student, if the needs of the student are to be able to-- I'll give you an example. If the student needs to be able to write, and that student has writing challenges, and the team has determined that some type of either laptop computer with some reading-writing software on it that would provide lots of support for that student is necessary, and that student is assigned homework at home, then it would seem very legitimate for the student to be able to take that assistive technology into the home environment and be able to use it for, again, their school requirements. So we've got an environmental change. There would be school versus the home. But we also have a task that's the same across both environments.

So it's not just tied to the school.

No.

But it would have to be written into the IEP.

Correct.

Yes, right.

And it's the decision of the IEP team, which includes the parent as a part of that team.

Certainly. You keep emphasizing the comprehensive nature of this-- of the assessment decisions and also of the use of the AT, I think. And you don't make it a school-home only. If it's a support to the student for a particular task, and that task occurs at home, then that assistive technology needs to be available to the student at home, as well.

Which also kind of brings up another thing that we probably need to talk about briefly, is that if we're going to be moving things between the school and home, which we do need to, then-- and there always needs to be a service part to the AT. We didn't talk about that earlier. We probably should have. But I think what we need to say about that is that the AT is just the technology. And the technology is one part of good instruction for a student that can support good instruction.

So it's also the piece of the instruction, the specialized services that would all surround all of that, the training of parents, the training of the child. So it's not only the definition of AT that gets talked about in idea. But it's also the service that's also another piece of that. And it's particularly important when you're going to be sending things home. Parents need to know how to use those things. So definitely parents and students need to know how to use the items, as well as any other caretakers who are involved with the child.

Right, that training piece. Because the use of AT may not come to you naturally.

Correct.

And it would require some training and some support in those different environments, in order to incorporate it into your everyday living and working.

Right.

So that makes sense to me. That does make sense. And I think you touched on this, if parents should purchase a device for a student, and some parents might do that-- and iPads are one of the technology devices that I know that are so common now. That they would send it in and say, I want my child to use this. But that device should also be considered through the IEP team and its application or support for that student.

Yes, absolutely, that's another-- it could be another piece of assistive technology. Really, doing the backtrack back to our definition, AT can really be just about anything. And so many things that are commonly used in the environment can become assistive technology for a student, when that student has a disability and when that piece of technology supports or provides a scaffold for that student. So, yes, sometimes iPads can be an assistive technology. But, again, thinking about that whole process of assessing and making determinations about feature matching, it's really important to sit down and think through all those things before you jump to the conclusion that just because an iPad has been helpful for one student that it might be helpful for your student.

It's really about looking at the features of what's on the iPad, the features of the apps that would be contained on the iPad, and then making those determinations about whether they fit the needs of the student in terms of their needs, tasks, and the environment.

And how that's going to be used. So it's going to be beneficial.

Yes.

That makes sense. If a child needs AT, say, for functional living issues, are there sources of funding that parents might explore? I'm thinking about, I don't know, wheelchairs, glasses, that kind of thing, that I don't necessarily see schools purchasing. But, as an AT expert, can you just speak to that a little?

Right. There are a number of funding sources. All of them are quite unique and different. And they do change pretty frequently, in terms of the rules and the regulations that apply around them. So I wouldn't want to speak specifically to any.

Right, yeah.

But looking at some of the state programs, the Medicaid programs, some of those programs, the vocational rehab programs, all those programs are places where you can look. DODD programs, some of those-- the waiver programs and some of those will also support. And then looking at private philanthropic organizations. There's a lot of different organizations that have a particular theme to what they will provide funding for. Sertoma's oftentimes done hearing kinds of things, speech and hearing things. Lions Club often does vision things.

So looking for that agency that can also provide some funding support. Sometimes they'll be special diagnostic groups, like the Muscular Dystrophy Association sometimes can do some funding, or some of those others where it's unique to a diagnosis. So there's really a lot of things to explore. And I think the best that people can do is go out and explore all those things.

We did provide a slide to show you some of the funding streams. And then we also provided some resources to help you kind of look through. And we've got some things on our OCALI website that I think probably would be helpful to the audience.

And I think, also, thinking about some of the more complex devices, too, vendors might be a good resource for funding. Not that they're going to fund it, but they know how. They've gotten it funded before. Is that a reasonable--

Yes, that's very reasonable. Yes, in fact, most of the vendors-- the wheelchair vendors or the durable medical equipment vendors are the ones-- and the complex medical needs-- that are very knowledgeable, because they live that on a daily basis, in terms of submitting funding things. So they are sometimes very helpful. And oftentimes, even on many of their websites, they have kind of "how to's" to make it through some of the funding.

Oh, do they? Yes.

Yeah, so I think checking on some of the websites also would be helpful.

Very good. Now, can you tell the parents that are listening to this about what AT resources we might have available here through OCALI? If they needed to know more about assistive technology and learn more-- I do know that our assistive technology web page, OCALI web page, has some resources. Can you kind of lead us through what some of those resources would be?

Sure. The AT center website is actually set up so that it kind of takes you through starting from just having very basic information to the assessment process, which includes both consideration and assessment, the AT tools, AT implementation, and then some professional development information, and then onto our assistive technology internet modules. So each of the categories we kind of pull them apart so that we can provide lots of different resources and make it very resource-rich behind each one of those buttons that's on our initial home page.

So if you're looking specifically just to kind of get a general idea about AT, and you're kind of new to all what AT might be, you would want to hit the AT Basics section. And that section will really provide you with information. There's, I think, three different videos. One to kind of take you through just what is AT in general. One to kind of take you through all the different areas of AT more specifically. And then one that kind of takes a person through what an IEP might sound like or look like, which is kind of a nice thing, I think, to kind of help parents have a feel for what that might be.

It also then goes into some just general resources that we have. We have a nice AT Resource Guide. Our AT Guide has a number of different chapters. And each of the chapters kind of hits a different topic. So topics such as AT Consideration, AT Assessment, AT in the IEP. It kind of goes through each and everything that you might want to know about. So that completely manual is found in that Basics category. But then as we go into some of the other areas, then it'll break up that manual into other pieces and parts that match more with the more specific information you might be looking for.

Right, so parents could be prepared for this--

Yes.

--AT discussion just by reviewing this information, to get to know what to expect, what are they going to be talking about, and what is this about consideration. And that would be a good place--

Yes.

--for them to start.

Yes, a very good place for them to start. I think they'll find lots of resources that are very family friendly in that button. Then, when you really get into that AT assessment process, if you go to the AT Assessment button, there's more information behind that button that talks about the consideration process, and specifically about assessment. There's also a lot of resources for the teams. So if the teams are looking for forms and things to help guide them in the process, you'll find all those things under that AT Assessment category.

And then the AT Tools has a lot of information on how to do the selection process. And it also provides you with links to places to help you find apps and software and hardware. So if you're kind of looking for those kinds of things and you're trying to figure out some of that-- how do I match the features to the actual tools? That section can help to guide you to some other resources that will help with that.

And then AT Implementation kind of brings it and pulls it altogether. So that when you finally get to the point where you have your devices and you've kind of made all your decisions, there's now time that teams need to spend thinking about how are you going to implement this in the classroom? So how does this fit with the curriculum? How are we going to design things so that they work on the assistive technologies? Many of the technologies need to be programed or things need to be loaded on them. Communication devices, you need to have vocabulary that's relevant to the activities and things that are going on in the classroom.

So you can get some ideas of things that can help out in how you go about programming some of the tools so that they'll actually do the things that you want them to do. So that you can then implement and you can have the outcomes that you want from your students. And then the AT Professional Development category provides you with a long list of different types of things to kind of develop more knowledge about AT. If you really want to take that deeper dive and get much more involved in assistive technology from university programs to our assistive technology internet modules, that's a good place to go and find all those resources, to.

And this is a resource, not just for parents and families.

Correct.

This is a resource for the professionals that they're--

Yes.

--going to be working with, that are making these AT decisions. But it's all here and it's available--

Yes.

--to everyone.

It is.

Yes.

Yep.

Very good, very good. Now, can you talk more specifically about ATIM, the Assistive Technology Internet Modules?

Yes. We have been in the process for the last three or four years in developing Assistive Technology Internet Modules. We had an initial set of about 11 modules that were up at the beginning of last year. And those initial modules were things that covered kind of all the basics of what you would need to know in the schools. So, again, assessment consideration, implementation, transition planning, AT overview. There's just a really broad range of topics that you could find within those 11 modules. So it really gave a good foundational basic knowledge of practicing and using AT within the schools.

This past year, we've been able to work collaboratively with the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. And we've been able to take one of their very key products that they've had online for a very long time. It's kind of the go-to for most schools, the WATI Assistive Technology Manual that they use for assessing students' needs. And we are now taking that and putting that into ATIM modules to make that a more user friendly format for people.

So it's really been exciting, because we added 12 new modules this past year. We're going to be adding 14 new modules this school year. And we'll do another 12 the following year, to have a total of 38 of those modules. And those cover all the various topics of assistive technologies, so all the domains that we talked about, communication, reading, writing, math, recreation, leisure, activities of daily living skills. Those will all be covered in those. And they give the reader very good information on how to think about doing the assessments in each one of those categories individually.

So if you're struggling with how to do that with a particular student, looking and working your way through each of those modules would be really, really helpful, I think, for teams. Also, most of the modules are two-part modules, because there's a lot of content there.

It sounds like it.

A few of the modules are a little more than two parts. They may go up to three parts, as well. Again, a lot of information, but it's provided in, I think, a very digestible way. The ATIM modules are very much kind of modeled after our AIM modules, our Autism Internet Modules. So they have all the same features, which are advanced organizers and case studies and videos and pictures. There's just a lot of supports and there are pre- and post-tests. So we're finding that a lot of our ATIM modules are starting to be used by university programs, as well. Which is really exciting for us, because that's where we need to be capturing our next generation educators so that they have this information as they go out and they began practice. So very exciting that they're starting to be used in that way.

So this assistive technology web page is a portal to basic information, introductory information, about assistive technology, what it is, the definition, the considerations, the assessment process, professional development resources are there, and, also, then, the portal to the ATIM modules. So it's, like you said, a really deep dive into the specifics of assistive technology. Maybe more than what a parent might be getting into. But if you're looking for an AT team and they're looking for some specific information, this is the level of information that you would get in college coursework.

Right, absolutely, yes.

And that's through our Assistive Technology Center web page as kind of the opening to this.

Yeah, you can find all this on our web page, the AT Center web page. But the ATIM modules are also on our home page of OCALI, so you can also find them easily there, as well.

Very good, very good. Now, there's another resource that you were going to tell us about, as well. So can you talk about the SIFTS?

Yes, SIFTS is a project that we started probably about three years ago, as well. And what we came to realize is that school teams had a lot of difficulty with making that feature match of what their student needed to the technology products and the features of the technology products. They very well know their students, their students' needs. They very well know the environments that their students function in. And they also very well know the tasks that their students need to complete. Because those are the things that all the students are doing in the classroom.

Where things kind of fell apart was they had sometimes difficulty understanding what are the features of AT and how do they match up with all these things that my student needs. So what we tried to do is to create a tool that would help support that process. So that when the team got to the point of trying to match features, they would have some type of support to help them along the way. So, hence, we developed SIFTS, Student Inventory for Technology Supports.

SIFTS is really an online survey tool. So it provides teams with the opportunity to go through and answer a series of questions about a student. And when they get finished with all the questions, those questions will generate a list of possible AT features that might be useful to the student. It's not intended to be all encompassing. It's not intended that every item that gets generated on SIFTS would necessarily be a good match for the student. It's just saying that there's some connection there, but we don't know how much of a connection there might be.

So, really, you get this long list of features. We give you text descriptions of the features. We give you pictures of the features. And, in some cases, we give you videos of what the features look like, too. So if you don't know what they are when we give you this long list, you have lots of supports built into the product that you can turn on and off as you need them. So if you need to know what it looks like, if I need to see what word prediction looks like, then I can see a video of what word prediction is.

What we hope from doing that is that, A, we help teams to understand the questions they should be asking. And that, B, they learn about the features. We don't take those features and then apply them to products, because we could never keep up with the myriad of products that are out there. There are just too many. But what a person could do then, is we've given a couple suggestions at the onset of SIFTS that tells people where you could plug-in your features that you get so that it will generate a product that will contain that feature.

So we're letting them take that next step then. And, again, the team should be having conversations around that long list of features they get, to really think through, OK, so we got all these features, which ones do we think really would benefit our student? Which ones maybe aren't such a good match for right now? Or maybe we don't see that as our priority. So it's really still very much a team product. It's not meant to be a replacement for an assessment in any way, shape, or form.

It's not meant to be the complete assessment. It really is just a place to help support the team to give them a scaffold to be able to get through the process, so that they can make a good, informed decision. Ultimately, we help that people, because of using it, they know the questions they need to ask. They learn about all the different features. And they don't need to use it again. Eventually, they learn all these things from using the product and so then they can quit using the products.

Right, they'll be able to move ahead through this assessment process on their own. But when you're new to this, you're a new team, and you're around this student that you haven't made assistive technology decisions before, this can guide you through that process.

Right, yeah, exactly.

That's what that is. So it's putting that information and that resource in the hands of the school team that needs it around this particular child. So schools and parents do have available to them and accessible to them the resources and supports they need to make some good solid decisions about assistive technology. It's not something that some expert from wherever, California, has to come and tell you.

Right.

It's who knows this kid the very best of all?

Right.

They're team, their parents, can go through this process and make those descriptions.

Right. Now, we have just a few of the sections open. So we don't have them all open and what we're hoping to have open eventually. But, currently, we have communication, organization, and we also have handwriting open. Were working, and should have up, access for computers, communication devices, and mobile devices in the near future. And then after that, we'll be hitting some other categories, as well.

It just sounds like it's a wonderful collection of resources that you've pulled together, I think, for families and for schools on assistive technology. And I'm old enough that I come from the time-- I remember when assistive technology discussions around an IEP table we're frightening. They were frightening for school folks, because assistive technology could be so expensive at the time, that they almost didn't even want to talk about it. And so few people even felt like they had the capacity, the ability, to do the assessment, that it made assistive technology, in some places, almost unattainable. And this makes it seem very attainable, very accessible, and in the hands of the people who need to make the decision. Thank you for all that work, Jan. For you and the whole AT team.

Thanks.

Thank you for that. And thank you for this time, for the information. It's been fantastic. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me.

Thanks.

Third Thursday: Understanding Assistive Technology
October 15, 2015

On October 15, 2015 I will interview Jan Rogers, OCALI Assistive Technology Center Program Director. She will talk with me about the wide range of assistive technologies (AT) available to help students and adults with disabilities function more effectively in learning, communicating, and navigating their daily lives. Jan will address how parents can access assistive technology services through the IEP process, who should be involved in the decision-making process, an easy way for parents to understand how the team should approach the decision about what AT devices are most appropriate, and even the issue of funding AT devices. Jan will also introduce you to accessible AT resources where you can further your knowledge and understanding of AT.

Download Handouts (PDF)