Three question marks, light bulbs, and two human hands

3 Key Questions When Considering Assistive Technology

Author: Michelle Patterson;

In the last blog in our assistive technology (AT) series, we broke down the four components of the SETT framework- student, environment, tasks, and tools. Specifically, Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams cannot select tools until they have a clear vision of the tasks required of the student. Teacher preparation programs can build capacity with their preservice educators by facilitating reflection on how the right AT can support tasks.  In this blog, we provide three questions to help you guide preservice educators as they consider not only if a student needs AT, but why.

Ease and Efficiency

Ask: Does AT support the student to complete the task more easily or efficiently?

Consider the student with dysgraphia who has a passing grade in a course but takes four hours longer than their peers to complete legible written homework assignments. Using AT, such as keyboarding or speech-to-text, allows the student to complete the task more quickly. By reducing the focus on legibility, the student can now focus on the content of their writing. Providing the student with the right AT allows this student to complete tasks at a pace commensurate with their peers.

Answer: If AT can shorten the time or effort needed to complete a task, AT may be required.

Least Restrictive Environment

Ask: Does AT support the student to complete the task in an inclusive or least restrictive environment (LRE)?

IDEA requires schools to ensure that students with disabilities receive instruction in the same setting as students who are nondisabled. Removal from the classroom only occurs after implementing supplementary aids and services has proven unsuccessful. Consider the student with dyslexia who is not reading on grade level and is currently pulled out of the general education classroom to have assignments or tests read to them. If provided with accessible instructional materials (AIM) and AT (e.g., text-to-speech) the student can complete tasks while remaining in their classroom with their peers.

Answer: As the student can use AT to complete tasks in their inclusive classroom, then AT may be needed.


Ask: Does AT support the student to complete the task successfully with less personal assistance?

Consider an autistic student who currently requires a person, such as a paraprofessional, to prompt them to complete the steps of a task. The team provides the student with AT in the form of a visual schedule and a reminder application. With the AT in place, the student completes the tasks independently. As the student can use AT to complete the task independently with less assistance from others, AT is needed.

Answer: If the student can use AT to complete tasks independently, AT may be needed.

More questions?

How confident are your preservice educators in their skills to make AT decisions?  We’d love to have you share in the CIDDL Community how you are building their capacity.  Stay tuned for our next blog in our AT blog series for tools to support collecting data for decision-making.