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Introduction to AT
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Overview

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AT and Idea

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Device Selection

Trends and Issues

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Trends and Issues

Assessment Trends | Cultural and Family Trends | Universal Design Trends | Training Issues | Funding Issues | Maintenance Issues

There are several trends and issues that arise when selecting, acquiring and using assistive technology. There continues to be a general lack of information among professionals, administrators and parents on the availability and use of devices to promote access to the general curriculum. Efforts must be made to ensure that parents and professionals become aware of the existence of these devices and the legislation that supports their use. Assessment, cultural & family concerns, device design, training, cost, and maintenance are issues that must be addressed.

Assessment Trends

It is vitally important that AT assessments take place where the AT will be used, with team input by persons actively involved in the child's life. We begin with an understanding of both the child's abilities and barriers to learning and then examine the general curriculum to determine specific tasks within daily routines. We then work together to identify a range of AT solutions for the student to try out before determining the most "useable" solutions. This approach assumes the participation of a student, to the highest extent possible, with assessment and re-evaluation as an ongoing process.

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Cultural and Family Trends

A critical component of AT selection and use is the involvement of the family in the selection process to ensure successful educational and social outcomes for children with disabilities (Judge & Parette, 1998). When families are involved in all aspects of decision making, the likelihood of success increases and satisfaction with assistive technology devices and services is promoted. However, recognition of the family's needs at home and in community settings must include the realities of family life, the lack of family-friendly training and supports and other related issues (Parette, 1999).

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Universal Design Trends

Universal design is defined as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." Technology manufacturers are encouraged to follow suggested federal guidelines to design products that are accessible to more users. By applying this broader design standard, classroom technology will be able to be used by all children in more invisible and normalized ways.

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Training Issues

Administrators, professionals and parents require awareness level information on how AT can benefit education, as well as working knowledge on how the AT works. This information is basic to the planning for, acquisition of and effective use of various technologies. Technology planning in school districts often neglects issues of AT Hardware, software use and ongoing training. Recent studies report a lack of training and technical assistance both in the operation and integration of the technology into the curriculum, a lack of computer access due to incompatibility of old and new technologies, and a lack of appropriate and specialized software for severely disabled students. With more children with disabilities entering inclusive educational settings, general education personnel must look to alternate means of access and learning.

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Handout - Funding AT
Funding AT

Funding Issues

Although the school district is identified by law as a provider of assistive technology devices and services, funding issues must be considered by the team. The use of AT equipment for non-educational purposes in other environments must also be addressed. Students may need the same technologies or different technologies to participate in after school athletic programs, in recreation or family activities. Device ownership issues must be addressed to ensure technology use in all of the student's life environments.

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Maintenance Issues

The integration of technology into natural settings requires ongoing and immediate support. As stated earlier, when AT use is successful, devices and equipment that are worn or outgrown are replaced. AT not meeting student needs are modified, replaced or abandoned, either temporarily or permanently. School district policy and procedures must address these ongoing maintenance, repair and necessary upgrades of technology.

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