Assistive Technology (AT)
The Bottom Line
AT consideration is federally required and must:
Be considered at minimum at every annual IEP meeting
Be individualized to each student's unique needs
Address both lack of progress toward IEP goals and participation in the general curriculum
Considered using the SETT framework
Be documented in the IEP and/or PWN
These are your day-to-day useful tools containing many examples. The rest of this page (below this section) is guidance.
IDEA 2004 specifies that schools must consider Assistive Technology (AT) needs when developing IEPs for all students with disabilities. In the law, AT is defined as both a "device and a "service":
AT Device: "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 functional capabilities of a child with a disability." Despite the word “technology,” not all AT tools are high-tech. AT ranges from simple adaptive tools (like pencil grips and highlighters) to high-tech tools (like text-to-speech and speech-to-text software).
AT Service: "any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device."
Consideration of AT doesn't begin and end at the annual IEP meeting, and it should be an ongoing process as the IEP is implemented. When considering AT, as with any other support included in an IEP, it is crucial to consider each area of functioning by itself. A student's needs in the area of reading will necessitate different supports than the student's needs in the area of math.
Access vs. Progress
Students need to access the general curriculum/environment and their special education program, but a student's disability can have an adverse effect on their ability to do so successfully. The most common reason that students receive AT support is to support access (i.e., their ability to access a general education text book, participation in classroom activities, communicate with others, etc.). Accommodations, modifications, and paraprofessionals can also be used to support access, but AT tools have the advantage of allowing students to function with relative independence from adult aid.
It is less common, but students may also need AT in order to make progress toward their IEP goals. For example, an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) tool might be a key component of making progress toward a functional communication goal for a student with a low incidence disability.
When the IEP team has identified an issue regarding access and/or progress, SETT helps the team to identify what, if any, AT tools match the student's needs. It may sound intimidating because of the acronym, but SETT is very similar to the mental process that IEP teams use to identify appropriate accommodations, modifications, or applications of paraprofessional support.
Begin by considering attributes of the Student, then the Environments the student participates in, and then the Tasks required for active participation. Finally, use this data to identify the AT Tool features that will support the student in completing the identified tasks.
Our AT Consideration Handout is a quick one-pager that explains what to consider, how to identify AT tools for trial, and how trialing devices and adding them to the IEP works.
AT trials can begin at any time and do not need to be incorporated into a comprehensive evaluation or preceded by a PWN. If a case manager plans to trial an expensive tool or a tool that is physically placed on the body (e.g., weighted blanket, compression vest, FM system, etc.), it is best practice to communicate with the parent in advance so they understand the plan and can give their consent. Document this contact in the SpEd Forms Communication Log.
In most cases, AT trials are a simple, informal process. After a tool has been identified that appears to be a good match for the student's needs, the student tries it out by using the tool during their normal daily routines. To determine if the tool increases the student's access to curricular materials and/or supports the student in reaching their IEP goals, the IEP team typically considers data that is either already available or easy to collect, such as: anecdotal reports, informal observations, progress monitoring data for annual goals, or student work. You may find this action planning resource (100% optional) helpful when planning a trial.
After the case manager reviews trial-relevant data with members of the IEP team and determines that the tool is necessary to provide the student with FAPE, the tool is added to the IEP via a PWN.
Documentation of AT consideration must occur annually as part of the IEP development process. The AT Consideration Form is an optional tool that teams can choose to use to help guide this process. It is not required, but can be helpful in making a thorough consideration.
In SpEd Forms, AT should be documented in the Assistive Technology section of the IEP. (You do not need to put it in the accommodations/modifications section, goal section, etc.):
Check the appropriate box. ('Yes', 'No', or 'More data needed')
Provide a brief description of the AT tool (try not to use brand names) with what it helps the student accomplish and where in a specific environment.
During subsequent IEPs meetings — If the student continues to benefit from AT in place, check the 'Yes' box, and keep AT tools that are needed listed.
During subsequent IEPs meetings — If an AT tool is no longer needed or is no longer effective, but once was, check the yes box, and write a brief reason it is no longer needed or it is ineffective and plan to trial other assistive technology to fill the need.
If you need more data and you're unsure if the AT will benefit the student you should check the 'More data needed' box, and make a comment as to what you are going to trial.
If AT is a new accommodation or tool in the IEP, the consideration of AT should be documented on the PWN under either question (1) Actions proposed or refused (if adding AT or refusing an AT request) or question (4) Other options considered (if AT was considered, but determined unnecessary). *Note: there are SpEd Forms drop-downs available to assist you in this task.
FAQ: If technology is available to all students, when do you have to document it in the IEP?
Even if the technology is available to all students, it becomes “Assistive Technology” and must go in the IEP if the team has determined that the student needs it in order to receive FAPE. Otherwise, the student might move out of the district, to a district that does not have the technology available to all students and it would not be clear from the IEP that the receiving district must provide the (assistive) technology to the student.