Assistive Technology (AT) devices and services can allow students with disabilities to participate in and benefit from the general education curriculum and to meet Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals.
AT Devices and Services: IDEA 2004 and PA Chapters 14 and 711 define AT as both devices and services. The law makes it clear that the purpose of AT is to improve the functional capabilities of the child with a disability.
Assistive technology device means 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 the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device (34 CFR 300.5). The term AT device may refer to complex devices or software, as well as simple “low-tech” devices and solutions that may be available to many learners, but which the team decides are required by the student with an IEP as part of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).
Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (34 CFR 300.6). AT services may include Assessment of AT needs • Providing for acquisition of AT through purchase, rental, or other means. • Selecting, customizing, or adapting AT devices. • Other services are those that are necessary to enable the student and/or IEP team to use any AT devices specified in the IEP.
AT is a special consideration. For every student with an IEP, federal and state regulations require that the team consider the student’s need for assistive technology devices and services.
What does it mean to consider AT? Consideration of AT, in the context of IEP development, review, or revision, is intended to be a collaborative process in which team members (including the student and family members) determine whether AT devices or services are needed for the student to access the general education curriculum or meet IEP goals. Helpful questions to guide teams in considering AT can be found in the school-age Annotated IEP.
See also AT Consideration.
Documenting AT in the IEP
A student’s IEP should clearly reflect the AT needed, describe the manner in which it will be used, and define the supports required for its use. Because appropriate AT devices and services can take various forms for students with broad ranges of academic and functional needs, team members need to understand the various options for thoughtfully considering and including AT in the IEP document.
Once considered, as described above, AT devices and services can be appropriately documented in the IEP in a number of areas. The following sections of the IEP are appropriate locations for documenting AT: • Special Considerations • Present Levels of Academic Achievement • Transition Services • Participation in State and Local Assessments • Goals and Objectives • Related Services • Supplementary Aids and Services • Program Modifications and Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) • Supports for School Personnel
Regardless of where in the IEP AT appears, the IEP document should clearly reflect the AT needed, describe the manner in which it will be used, and state the supports required.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who is responsible to provide AT for a student who needs it?
It is the responsibility of the local educational agency (LEA) to provide AT, as identified within the IEP. IDEA states that, “Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in §§ 300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s special education, related services, or supplementary aids and services.”
State and federal law do not require that the LEA purchase AT as needed in the IEP. It is appropriate for LEAs to purchase, rent or borrow AT, or to utilize AT that is acquired (with family permission) through a student’s insurance . In the event that no alternative funding is available, the LEA remains responsible for the timely provision of AT needed as specified in the IEP. When AT is provided for a student through a funding source other than the LEA, the LEA remains responsible for any costs related to repair, maintenance, or replacement of AT that is specified in the IEP.
Is it the responsibility of the LEA to provide AT for use at home or other locations?
On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased AT devices in a student’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE (34 CFR 300.105). This may include providing AT devices or software when needed for homework, or for functional skills that are necessary across environments, such as communication using an augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) device.
Should a specific AT product be named in the IEP document?
When describing the AT needed by the student, it is best practice to describe the features rather than a product brand name, because most devices and software have multiple features, not all of which may be required by the student for FAPE. Listing the features can provide a more accurate description of what is needed by the student and may be particularly helpful in providing backup or temporary replacement for the AT in the event of breakdown. However, it is also acceptable to name a device in the IEP, when the IEP team determines that it is necessary. In this case, the document should clearly describe the multiple systems a student may use for a particular purpose, in the certain event of device absence or breakdown.
If the student needs AT, should the IEP contain an AT goal?
The use of AT should allow the student to meet IEP goals, engage successfully in curricular tasks, and participate in academic and social life. Use of AT is not just an educational outcome, but rather a means to achieve in these areas. For some students, it may be appropriate to develop a goal for learning to use certain technology. In most cases, AT is appropriately embedded in a goal (e.g. Using x, student will…).
PaTTAN Publication: AT in the IEP
The information above is available as a PaTTAN publication entitled Assistive Technology in the IEP: A Guide for IEP Teams.