What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.
- AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
- AT can be high-tech: special-purpose computers.
- AT can be hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices.
- AT can be computer hardware: special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
- AT can be computer software: screen readers and communication programs.
- AT can be inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
- AT can be specialized curricular software.
- AT can be much more—electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more.
Assistive Technology is much like a spectrum itself and I say that because it can help so many with so many different disabilities or challenges that they are facing. Since assistive technology is such a broad spectrum I can only talk about my experience with it and how it has helped and impacted my son in terms of academics. I hope to provide helpful information to you so that you may dig deeper if it is a topic that interests you.
I have always viewed Assistive Technology as a life jacket to help the individual not only function and grow but to be included. I had heard about assistive technology but did not know much about it until my son had his thorough assistive technology evaluation performed by Communicare and my eyes were opened to how much he was been held back and excluded. They evaluation was two parts first observed Clinton in the classroom for about two hours which included obtaining work/handwriting samples from the teacher and also speaking with the teacher. The second part was a three hour one-on-one evaluation in which they not only tried out different software with Clinton but gained further insight into his challenges with one on one testing. The evaluation showed that Clinton could benefit from twenty-two different assistive technology tools/strategies and I have listed below what Clinton currently uses:
- Chrome Book with touchscreen no external mouse.
- Head Phones with a Boom Microphone
- Co: Writer (word prediction software)
- Speech-to-Text (dictation)
- Graphic Organizer
- Read & Write for Google
- Word Banks
- Microsoft Office
- Visual Schedule
Technology is ever evolving which makes it very important to go slowly so as not to overwhelm the student and it is very crucial this is a TEAM effort meaning what is done at school needs to be done at home and vice versa or you will not see the true benefit of assistive technology. In the coming months and years the technology that helps Clinton will need to be modified, it is an evolution of sorts but one that must be done at the students pace not the parents or teachers. It is easy to get excited anticipating all the ways your child will benefit from Assistive Technology but let us remember there it is not just as simple as turning the computer on, it takes time, effort, patience especially when the child is receiving other services such physical, occupational or speech therapy. I never want Clintons learning to be strictly technology/screen based or strictly paper based, I believe in reaching for a balance where he gets a little bit of both.
Below are some books and links I hope can guide you if you believe Assistive Technology is something you or your child needs:
Thank you for reading!