Monday, January 18, 2010

Assistive Technology: The New Big Thing or Not?

I thought that when IDEA was amended to require assistive technology in the 1997 amendments that a large explosion in gadget litigation was on the horizon. I predicted cottage industries in specific gizmos. When I learned about interactive whiteboards, I thought that many children with disabilities would benefit. Here is an example of how whiteboards can be used. This is an eSchool News article on whiteboards. Better yet, here is a video of how whiteboards (a combination of chalkboards, the internet and some kind of Cajun magic) work. There is even a federally funded center on Technology and Disabilities.

As often is the case, however, my crystal ball was a bit,... er foggy. There have been some developments but very little caselaw. I'm not sure why.

No Technology in BrightonImage by Sammy0716 via Flickr

I just came across a study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy that concludes that assistive technology is a more effective intervention than many others. An abstract of the study may be reviewed here. Unfortunately, one must "purchase" the entire study. If any of you do purchase it, please consider recycling it to me if that is not an intellectual property law violation. I'd like to read it.

In any event, what has been your experience with AT? Is it being used? Is it working? Am I just jonesing for a fight for no good reason? Has there been any litigation out there?


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  2. Jim I think it is because both the fields of disability and assistive technology are so heterogeneous.

    And "assistive technology" is hard to define.

    Take a laptop computer. On the student's desk at home, it's just a tool. Put the laptop in a learning center and add an IEP that allows the student to take all written tests on the learning center's computer. Suddenly, it's "assistive technology".

  3. Liz,

    Thanks for your insight.


  4. Consideration of AT should be documented in a student's IEP at least once each year. Many IEP team members are not sure what to consider. AT is hard to define because no two students are alike. The unique needs of a child drives the AT. Matching appropriate AT to a student takes careful planning, direct instruction and responsible data collection to determine its effectivness. Correctly matched AT, when paired with effective intervention, builds a bridge for learning unlike no other.

  5. Thanks Brenda,

    To paraphrase former Justice Potter Stewart, I can't define AT, but I know it when I see it.

    Well maybe I know it when I see it; maybe not.


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