Narrator: How does an IEP Team consider assistive technology for a given student? IEP Teams usually have many informational sources at their fingertips. Student records, previous IEPs, testing data, parent insight, and teacher observations provide a great deal of information about a student's strengths, challenges and needs. For example, much can be learned by reviewing current and past experiences and determining which tools and techniques have been effective and which ones have not worked. Yet, when considering Assistive Technology, not all IEP Teams fully utilize this information. This short video provides a simulated example of Assistive Technology Consideration within the context of an IEP meeting. It is not a perfect model, rather just an example of how AT Consideration might look in a typical IEP meeting.
Narrator: As you observe this simulated meeting, keep in mind that the end result of Assistive Technology Consideration should be one of these three decisions:
The first decision is that based on all of the information that the team has reviewed, the student is making adequate progress with the instruction and supports that are available to all students, and therefore, Assistive Technology is not needed for this student. When indicating this choice, an IEP Team should be able to provide solid rationale to support this decision.
The second possible IEP team decision is that Assistive Technology is needed, and may already be in use. The IEP team should be able to describe the assistive technology and state how, when, where and by whom it is to be provided. Specific information about the assistive technology devices and/or services should be documented within the IEP.
The third possible IEP team AT Consideration decision, is that assistive technology is needed, but that the team is not sure which devices and services are most appropriate. In this case, the IEP Team states that it will gather more information and will explore other possible resources to provide a more adequate assessment of the student's current need for AT. This may require the involvement of other district personnel or external resources from outside the district. The IEP team should document the AT services that will be pursued within the IEP.
Narrator: This is Josh, a 4th grade student with a learning disability who has a number of needs but is not currently using Assistive Technology. Josh's IEP Team is conducting its annual meeting to discuss Josh's IEP and his needs. Identified with a Learning Disability as a second grader, Josh spends nearly the entire day with Mrs. Carter (his fourth grade general education teacher) but receives supports from the special education teacher, Mrs. Valencia and other school personnel. Let's join Josh's IEP meeting already in session.
Narrator: Josh's IEP Team members include the Special Education Teacher, Mrs. Valencia, his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Carter, Josh's mother, and Mrs. Rivera, the school principal. This is the annual review of Josh's IEP, so there is much to talk about. The team is just about ready to address whether or not Josh needs assistive technology.
Narrator: As the discussion of assistive technology consideration begins, Mrs. Valencia, the Special Education Teacher and Case Manager, uses this form to keep track of the discussion points. (The complete form is available as a downloadable resource). On the top part of the form, Mrs. Valencia writes Josh's name and the date of the meeting.
The team is then asked to select an area of concern where Josh is not functioning as independently or as successfully as possible because of his disability. There are several areas from which to choose, but Mrs. Valencia asks the members to select one area of the greatest concern for the initial discussion, and that, if agreed later, the team could come back and use an additional form to discuss another area of concern. After a brief discussion, the team unanimously agreed that the first area of concern for Josh is "Reading".
Mrs. Valencia: ....So let's talk about the struggles Josh is currently facing in the class, particularly with reading. Mrs. Carter, would you like to share a bit about Josh's performance in your class?
Mrs. Carter: Yes, Josh is a wonderful boy but he truly struggles with reading. Currently, he is in my lowest reading group and the one that struggles the most. While we are focused on fluency and the early stages of comprehension, Josh continues to struggle with the basics of phonics. His decoding skills are a particular challenge. The practice text and books we are using with Josh are first grade, beginning of the year. He tries but it is a struggle. He needs time and practice. Our reading period, which is 30-45 minutes, does not offer enough time, practice, and one-on-one structure that he requires. I will say that when someone reads to him, Josh does seem to understand. He is a good listener.
Josh's Mom: I fear that reading is Josh's downfall. He is bright and the things he wants to talk about and reflect on are incredible. Nighttime is a particular time of interest for him. He always seems to want to talk about the sky. He often asks thoughtful questions about the moon and the stars or why something operates the way it does. It brings me to tears when I think of how thoughtful and considerate Josh is. Yet, try to engage him in reading at nighttime and he argues, avoids, and simply doesn't want to do it. He'll listen to his father or me read to him, but he does not want to read out loud. He does volunteer to read silently, but I am almost certain he doesn't know the words and instead, looks at the pictures or daydreams about different things.
Mrs. Valencia: So are we in agreement that we want to find a way to help Josh to improve his reading skills? Or, should we be focusing on his strengths, such as listening? Can we do both? How can I put this into words that express what Josh needs most?
Narrator: Initially, the IEP team members agree that they want Josh to develop word decoding skills and become a better reader.
Mrs. Rivera: I don't know Josh that well, but I imagine we've tried a number of decoding interventions this past year. What have we tried? What appears to work? What components does he struggle with?
Mrs. Valencia: The simple answer? Time and practice! If Josh were to have enough time to practice the decoding principle, I believe over time he would get it. Now, within this time and practice, he needs to see the word (and its components), hear the word, get a mental image (to contextualize the word), and then practice sounding it out and hearing what he is saying in the process.
Mrs. Carter: This year we have tried a number of things to assist in Josh's reading development. He has his daily reading group and during center time, he either goes to Mrs. Valencia, reads in the pod with a parent volunteer, or sometimes with Miss Chris, a paraprofessional who is available to us at different times during the day. I know he used to go to Mrs. M's for speech, but that doesn't appear to be part of his program this year.
Josh's Mom: With Josh's avoidance of reading, we tend to have a regular reading time right before bedtime. As I mentioned, he generally wants us to read. We usually read the books Mrs. Carter has assigned for class, so that Josh is at least hearing the literature books to prepare for this assignments. He does get access to some words when he plays his computer games, Club Penguin being one of his favorites at the moment.
Mrs. Valencia: So, Josh struggles with reading, particularly decoding, but he learns well from listening, and loves to use the computer. Should we be thinking about ways to use computer technology to support his need to learn 4th grade content?
Narrator: After more discussion, the team agrees that Josh's reading skills and fluency may improve over time with continued practice, but, mostly he needs to be able to learn required information from grade level books that he cannot read independently. Josh struggles with reading, particularly decoding, but listens attentively when content is presented to him orally. So, the team agrees to support Josh's need to learn content from textbooks, while focusing on one of his strengths, which is listening.
Mrs. Valencia: Let's recall some of the points we made earlier about the accommodations we have tried with Josh in the past.
Mrs. Carter mentioned the daily reading groups, and reading with a parent volunteer in the pod
Mrs. Jones & I both noted that Josh attends well when someone reads to him.
Narrator: The team wholeheartedly agreed that the lack of time to practice reading and decoding is a barrier for Josh. And with the additional time & volunteers that have been provided at school and at home in the past, Josh continues to struggle with reading.
Finally, the team admitted that another barrier may be Josh's own reluctance to engage in reading.
Mrs. Rivera: So, is there a way to address Josh's need for reading and learning 4th grade academic content, so that he can keep pace with his peers? Can technology play a role in Josh's learning? How can we make that happen?
Mrs. Valencia: I think that we can agree that Josh is highly motivated by computers. It seems that we should tap into that motivation.
Josh's Mom: Now, I should mention Josh loves the computer and anytime he is allowed to play a game on the computer or on the Wii, he is all over that. Does he get any computer time during the day?
Mrs. Carter: Now, Josh, like the rest of his peers, will have a session on typing with the computers later in the winter. We do this for all the 3rd and 4th graders, especially before the state assessment time when they'll complete the state assessment on the computers. So, I know he'll get access to the computers then. Also, I have access to the laptops but we only use them for writing activities and we haven't had too many just yet. The pod has a number of computers that students can use, but our class has not had anything particularly assigned.
Mrs. Valencia: We have been using the computer with Josh for a while since we knew, from talking to his parents, that he had the interest. I only have one in my classroom and this is often designated for my work. I have allowed Josh to get on to Starfall to play if he has had a particularly good day. However, there is nothing planned or organized on the computer, especially when it comes to reading development. I think I could sign out the laptops like Mrs. Carter shared.
Mrs. Rivera: I think we're talking about more than just computer access. Josh's team has done a great job of identifying his strengths and needs as they relate to his difficulties with reading grade level materials independently. We have also begun identifying and matching technology features that may support his needs. We know some other students have used technology to listen to books which would seem to be a feature that might also benefit Josh. What we really need help with is finding software or hardware that has those features that match best with Josh's needs. I don't know what we have access to, but I expect Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Valencia might be able to find some solutions for Josh.
Mrs. Valencia: I think we are agreeing that Josh needs some kind of special technology to assist him in the learning process. We could look online. I've heard of a website that might help us come up with a solution. I think it's called The Matrix.
Mrs. Rivera: Oh, yes, it's the TechMatrix. My son showed it to me. It helps you locate these kinds of tools based on what you need. I'm sure he can teach me how to use it.
Josh's Mom: There is a really good tech person at the school district where Josh attended kindergarten. He is also a special education teacher and I've heard that he's very good with specialized technology. Maybe they would let him help us too.
Mrs. Rivera: That reminds me, Tom Smith, our district technology coordinator has helped set up and support some of the assistive technology devices that are used in other buildings. I'm sure he would be a great help to us. We just need to pool our resources and make this work.
Mrs. Valencia: Yes, we seem to have lots of knowledge about assistive technology right here in our district, but if we run into roadblocks or still require additional consultation, I heard of a fee-for-service program at the Cartwright Center in BigTown. I met a woman there by the name of Clara who does Assistive Technology consultations with IEP teams. Perhaps we can call her if we need something specific.
Mrs. Rivera: I'm also aware of a framework called SETT, that we can use to guide us. The letters S-E-T-T stand for the Student, the Environment, the Task and the Tools. There are forms and guidelines that I'll download and distribute to everyone on Josh's team. I think that our IEP Team can use this framework to meet Josh's assistive technology needs. I'm sure we can do this.
Mrs. Valencia: I'll add our collective comments to the remainder of the Assistive Technology Consideration Checklist. We agree that Josh can likely benefit from some form of assistive technology to enhance his ability to keep up with reading assignments at the 4th grade level, which are difficult for him to master without support. Josh has good listening skills and is motivated by computer technology. We understand that there are software programs that can read books to students. We feel that such a program would help Josh immensely, as he currently relies on others to help him with reading and/or to read to him. Mrs. Rivera's son and Tom Smith should be able to help us to locate some programs online. If we need more assistance to help identify the best programs to try with Josh, we can likely consult with Clara at the Cartwright Center.
Mrs. Valencia: It looks like we've come to a decision about assistive technology consideration for Josh. We're in agreement that Josh needs assistive technology. We just need to gather more data and we'll use the SETT framework as a guide. We'll involve outside consultation only if necessary. Thank you all for your input. And now we can move on to the next item in Josh's IEP....
Narrator: Josh's IEP Team knows the challenges that he faces. They have identified some of the strengths and needs and have analyzed the types of interventions that have succeeded and those that have failed in the past. They are trying to use what they know to determine the best interventions for Josh. At this point, the IEP Team has indicated agreement that assistive technology should be considered. The team will gather more data and will seek help from persons within the school district and possibly some help from outside the school district, if necessary, to identify prospective assistive technology solutions for Josh.