Assistive technology evaluation is a team process that helps identify the best tools to support a person's learning needs. It is an important step in ensuring that the right technology is chosen for the job. The Education for Persons with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires school district IEP teams to consider whether a student needs assistive technology devices and services to achieve their goals. An assistive technology evaluation may include a functional evaluation of the student at school or at home.
It is important to include the evaluation in the IEP, including the expected date for starting and ending the evaluation. The SETT framework, developed by educator Joy Zabala, Ed, D., is a four-part model designed to promote collaborative decision-making at all stages of the design and delivery of assistive technology services. It involves asking and seeking answers to questions about the tasks the student is struggling with, their abilities and challenges, and the context in which they perform those tasks. This includes considering the student, environment, homework and tools.
When evaluating a person's assistive technology needs, it is important to consider their capabilities, needs, preferences, task to be performed, and context of use of the technology. A mismatch between technology and the user often leads to abandonment of the technology and loss of desired results. Various studies and surveys indicate that up to 80% of assistive technology is abandoned due to not being well suited for the user. In addition to considering the SETT framework, it is important to consider any additional services that may be needed for children with disabilities.
This includes occupational therapy and assistive technology evaluations for children with poor handwriting. There is also a wide range of assistive technology tools available to help people with reading difficulties that will facilitate decoding, reading fluency and comprehension. When selecting assistive technology for students, it is important to work collaboratively with individuals, families, school teams and other providers. This involves using a “best practice” approach to gather information, conduct trials with various assistive technologies, and exchange ideas on possible solutions aimed at minimizing the impact of learning deficits and harnessing the individual's learning strengths.
Additional reconsideration and evaluation should be carried out as needs change or current technology no longer meets the student's needs.