Assistive technology evaluations are typically conducted by school staff, such as special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Assistive technology evaluation is a team process that involves assessing a student's learning needs and the benefits of assistive technology (AT) to support those needs. This article will provide an overview of the evaluation and referral steps that special education teams or AT team coordinators can use to plan, implement, and track AT needs and student progress.By evaluating a person's assistive technology needs, they are much more likely to identify the AT devices and services that will improve their functional capabilities. Unfortunately, there is often a mismatch between technology and the user which leads to the abandonment of the technology and, consequently, to the loss of the desired result.
Studies and surveys indicate that the potential user abandons up to 80% of the assistive technology.This is often because the technology was not well suited to the capabilities, needs, preferences of the user, the task to be performed, or the context of use of the technology. Therefore, it is essential to identify the right tool for the job. This 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. In education, this is often referred to as the SETT framework: student, environment, task and tools.SETT was developed by educator Joy Zabala, Ed.
D., as a four-part model designed to promote collaborative decision-making at all stages of the design and delivery of assistive technology services. It is used in schools across the country. By asking the right questions up front, it is possible to identify the best tools for preparing that meal.Similarly, to identify the most appropriate technological learning tools for an individual, it is necessary to first know the person, the nature of the task and the environment in which they will perform it. This is especially true when identifying technological tools for students.
The Education for Persons with Disabilities Act (IDEA) instructs school district IEP teams to consider whether a student needs assistive technology devices and services to achieve their goals and then integrate AT that proves effective into their IEP.Depending on their experience, teams may request external IT specialist services to carry out specialized evaluation and training, recommend specific assistive technologies, and coordinate the needs assessment process. However, input and participation from all team members are essential for successful results.Additional reconsideration and evaluation should be carried out as needs change, tasks change, performance improves or current technology no longer meets a student's needs. For more information on how to start an AT evaluation see our Services page.Rather than a “one-time event” led by a specialist, it's better to think of assistive technology evaluation as a collaborative process through which a team (e.g., special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists) works together with individuals, families, school teams and other providers. This process involves gathering information about a person's abilities and challenges; conducting trials with various assistive technologies; exchanging ideas on possible solutions; minimizing learning deficits; harnessing learning strengths; and evaluating effectiveness.For K-12 students, The People with Disabilities Act (IDEA) instructs school district IEP teams to consider whether a student needs “assistive technology devices and services” to achieve their goals.
This process of considering a student's abilities and disabilities while evaluating their need for assistive technology applies to all students.