Assistive technology device

According to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), assistive technology (AT) device is “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” (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997).

Assistive technology service

Assistive technology service refers “any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device” (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997).

Discuss the role that the IDEA has had on the application of AT

IDEA concerns itself with the need of serving children with disabilities in an environment of least restriction. IDEA wants inclusion in education, in each State. It also looks into individual students with any form of disability have an individual education plan (IEP). IEP is a program of a particular student with a disability.

IDEA has statements that make references to AT services and devices, which the IEP must take into account when developing a program for the benefit of a student with disabilities. The IEP team must establish whether the AT will allow the student to achieve set goals in the education system, which the student cannot achieve due to disability.

They also must establish whether the learner will need AT device while in and outside the school. Likewise, IEP must also if the AT will help the student participate widely in educational programs, and augment their communication abilities.

Any positive establishment of the issues under evaluation results into satisfying the needs of the student by providing the necessary AT services or devices, which help the student achieve his or her educational needs.

Discuss the definitional ambiguity of assistive technology

There exists ambiguity with the reference to the definition of AT as Golden notes. The US federal law recognizes the term as “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” (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997).

Golden notes that this definition can be specific with reference certain elements such as the purpose of AT. For instance, it covers assistance in education, accessibility of the environment, competition, promotion of independence, and improvement of quality of life (Golden, 1998).

Lewis also notes that AT has two main functions. It can enhance a student’s ability to counteract effects of disabilities, and AT also offers alternative methods of doing tasks such that AT compensates what the learner with a disability lacks (Lewis, 1998).

Thus, assistive technology presents diverse meanings to different people based on their views, use and specific requirements. Lewis notes “in the area of rehabilitation, the term refers to technologies, such as mobility devices, environmental controls and adapted equipment” (Lewis, 1998).

Professionals working in “the areas of physiotherapy and occupational therapy focus on technologies that support access, and quality of life issues when referring to AT” (Lewis, 1998). These individuals also use the terms “adaptive technology or rehabilitation technology in reference to AT” (Lewis, 1998).

In the teaching area, “AT means the inclusions and adjustments given to a student’s learning program” (Lewis, 1998).

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) defines AT with this view as “the software and technology which helps people with disabilities and special needs to overcome the additional challenges they face in communication and learning” (Becta, 2003). Becta also uses others terms such as “instructional technology or information technology, special education technology” (Becta, 2003).

The usage of the term is dynamic and changing. For instance, “the term inclusive technology is popular in the business world” (Becta, 2003). Some critics have suggested that the name should be e-inclusion rather than assistive technology. This is because AT focus gives priority to technology over education.

They argue that e-inclusion is appropriate because of the social justice and inclusion debates. At the same time, e-inclusion shows the use of technology to enhance learning and other inclusive activities for students with disabilities and learning problems. Thus, e-inclusion would be appropriate because it covers technologies, learners, and activities.

Thus, AT provides different meaning to different professionals. For instance, to a physiotherapist it may mean a physical tool that aid movement, while to a teacher it may mean a software program that helps students read and write. These many meanings can lead to confusions among “professionals in identification, consideration, allocation and implementation of assistive technology” (Becta, 2003). This ambiguity in the definition of AT requires collaborations among these professionals.

Assistive Technology can provide students with a tool system that can improve their functional capabilities at school, in the home, and in the community and workplace. Discuss the following:

What are the indicators that would suggest an evaluation is warranted?

There are situations where the student has self awareness of the various factors of his or her disability and has recognized the need for inclusion in learning. Thus, this is the primary indicator for any need for evaluation. There are also cases of self-advocacy where the student needs to disclose his or her disability status in order to get inclusion programs as stipulated in the federal and state laws.

There are cases where the student seeks confidentiality regarding his or her documentation, handling of grievances, and evaluation of learning progress. These may indicate that there is a need for AT evaluation to provide useful information for inclusion and learning.

Students may also engage the faculty in the provision of AT and inclusion to allow them be independent and access learning aids and curricula. In this respect, a student may conduct a self-evaluation concerning his or her dependent on AT and propose the necessary AT, justification for the new AT devices and how to get the new AT devices.

A student may also decide to choose a suitable AT for his or her disability and decide on long-term AT devices and how to acquire them. At the same time, he or she may also identify issues with his or her existing AT devices and seek appropriate support and service from faculties or service providers.

Describe both a formal and informal evaluation

Both formal and informal evaluation strategies are suitable in the evaluation of learners with disabilities. Formal evaluation applies standardized systems or certain standards of instruments, which are academically suitable for learners with disabilities. There are standardized referenced tests, which compare a student’s performance to previously established standards rather than using performances of other students. Standardized referenced tests use standardized data for scoring such as age, ethnic group, or gender.

Informal evaluation methods employ the use of non-standardized items like as teachers’ feedback, observations, developmental ratings, performance results, checklists, interviews, which are academically suitable for learners with disabilities. Informal evaluation methods depend on the knowledge, evaluation experience and judgment of the person who carries out the evaluation.

We must note that some of the evaluation items may fall under both informal and formal items. For instance, we have standardized and structured observation procedures consisting of instruments. On the other hand, we may also have informal observation techniques with formal and professional evaluation. In some case, the evaluation process may use formal rating scale and use professional observation in assessing the learner’s behavior, motivation, strength, and weaknesses during an evaluation procedure.

Describe the Principles of Universal Design (CAST) and how it has impacted the application of computer based assistive technology for individuals with disabilities

The idea of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) emanated from Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). UDL strives to achieve universal ranges of product design built for the widest ranges of disabilities. This is necessary instead of resorting to other items, which are difficult to adapt, costly, and inconvenient.

Therefore, UDL focuses on the following agendas. First, UDL seeks to have several means of representation. This enables learners with disabilities to have multiple channels of acquiring information and knowledge. Second, UDL looks at a number of possible ways of expression.

This enables learners to demonstrate their knowledge in a number of ways. Third, there are also ways of engagements. This focuses on capturing learners’ interests, providing motivation, giving challenges, and implementing different AT measures. Thus, the purpose is to assist learners with disabilities achieve their academic goals, and help teachers in delivering curriculum content that students can master, meaningful, understandable, and engaging.

Discuss the role and importance of assistive technology in the lives of individuals with disabilities

AT has several roles in the lives of people with disabilities, and there are wide ranges of devices to cater for different forms of disabilities. AT devices allow people with disabilities to access, manipulate and control their environments. These devices include certain keyboards, mice, switches, and remote controls. There are also devices that help such people move from a point to another such as automatic door openers, ramps, and Braille signs.

These devices also assist in daily life experiences. There are devices for eating, walking, dressing, and even brushing teeth. These devices include adapted toilets, special utensils, mugs, shower stalls among others. There are also listening devices to assist deaf or people with hearing problems. Such devices include amplifiers, hearing aids, typing telephones, and captions on TV.

Communication or augmentative devices allow people with disabilities hear or communicate effectively with others. Such devices include voice output devices, computers, picture boards, and computer software. There are also computer-based instructions that help people to read, learn mathematics, write and learn other subjects too.

People with disabilities also have mobility devices to assist them with their movements safely and independently in their environments. These devices include wheelchairs, adapted vehicles and walkers. There are also devices that can position people to retain good postures or avoid exhaustion. Such devices include the adapted chairs, standers, and tables among others. People who have visual difficulties in accessing information may use magnifiers, books on tapes, large-text prints, and talking computer programs.

Describe how computer based assistive technology has impacted the areas of reading and writing for students with disabilities. Include in your response the potential barriers and solutions offered by AT from a multi-disability perspective

Computer-based AT can address many challenges in reading and writing among learners with disabilities. There are recognition networks, which allow the student to identify and recognize patterns in the learning environment, such as letters, voices, colors, pictures, words, and among other complex patterns and give meaning to them.

Learners have different recognition abilities. For instance, a learner who has a talent for English may have an aptitude for recognizing changes in sentence lengths while reading. Likewise, a learner with visual difficulties may use tactile and optical character recognition (OCR) as a means of recognition.

Strategic networks “give the learner instructions on performing tasks by monitoring and carrying out actions” (Rose and Meyer, 2000). For instance, strategic networks enable learners to develop their writing, listening, and problem solving skills. Learners with disabilities can achieve and enhance skills and thinking abilities using experience, practice, and reinforcement. However, learners are unique and have different learning characteristics which affect the learning outcomes.

Affective networks consider what is essential and offer learners the motivation for learning. Learners have several diverse motivating factors, which depend on individual differences in emotional state, culture, interests, level of difficulty, and performances outcomes among others.

These are computer-aided AT that support learning i.e. writing and reading. However, learners’ abilities and their applications of these technologies in learning environments vary considerably. Meyer and Rose note “UDL approaches to instruction and curriculum development provide flexibility in the presentation of information, multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge, and diversity and choice in the content of lessons and assignments to support students’ diverse interests and learning styles” (Rose and Meyer, 2000).

Thus, traditional forms of assessment, materials, and instructions like lectures, text materials, and written tests may present challenges to a number of learners. This is because educators develop such materials with broad needs of students. This means that merging AT and traditional methods of learning present serious challenges to instructors.

We must recognize that “flexibility in classroom management, curriculum, teaching strategies, and evaluation is an essential part in realizing that learning opportunities are accessible to all learners” (Lewis, 1998). UDL aims to eliminate “learning barriers and the need to for an inclusion of individual students with disabilities by incorporating the needs of the largest range of learners in the design of lessons and curricular contents” (Lewis, 1998).

Instructors can support recognition networks by providing several and flexible formats for learners to get information and reinforce key concepts. These formats may include video, oral presentations, highlighting, digitized text, graphic organizers and give useful information about background of the study.

We can support strategic networks through providing a number of means of expressing knowledge. These include written, oral, group presentation, PowerPoint, and so on. Likewise, we can also provide chances for practice and give immediate feedback to allow learners monitor their progress.

Instructors can support “affective networks by offering learners with multiple choices of contents and tools, giving challenging tasks, providing varieties of recognition and rewards” (Rose and Meyer, 2000). For instance, learners may choose to work independently or as a part of a group. Teachers must ensure a balance and challenging contents with suitable supports for AT to enhance learners’ engagement.

AT developments have their foundations on flexibility that support diverse learning techniques within these learning networks. Majorities of traditional teaching methods and curricular contents do not focus on the range of learners diversities that exist in a learning environment today under inclusion programs. AT approaches offer instructors chances of exploring innovative techniques to meet the diverse needs of different of learners.

Consider Anna’s needs for AT and accommodations in the areas of reading and writing. Please consider no tech, low tech and high tech solutions as part of your assistive technology plan. Please include a rationale or justification for the assistive technology selected

Some of Anna’s condition regarding reading and writing may require no technology device to resolve. For instance, Anna can choose to read as a part of group with other learners, take parts in role plays and presentations.

When we consider low technology devices, Anna may use readily available solutions such PowerPoint, highlighting texts, books on tapes, videos, and so on. This is because Anna has an IQ that is above average. It means she encounters minimal difficulties in the learning process.

Anna’s need for high technology solutions may be more elaborate than the two previous cases of no technology and low technology. These may be specific AT devices and services. In Anna’s case of recommending a solution for her reading and writing, we need specific tools.

Anna has a problem of small, fine motor movements making her have difficulties in writing. Thus, she needs high technology devices of specialized software or hardware. Suitable AT devices for Anna include a larger keyboard that gives her hand movements to type, and computer-developed voices such as the synthesized speech.

These tools will enable Anna to keep on track with her writings. Anna also needs abbreviation expander to enable her create, store, and re-use abbreviations for frequently-used words or phrases. “This can save Anna hand movements and keystrokes, and ensure proper spelling of words and phrases she has coded as abbreviations” (Rose and Meyer, 2000)..

Anna needs AT devices for writing text because she has such significant spelling problems that her teachers lack suggestions of what they are. She also has illegible handwriting that she cannot use for note-taking in class. AT devices, which can assist Anna write are word prediction, and a large electronic keyboard. These AT devices will support Anna in writing notes, which match and cover for the areas of difficulty and allow her write at level that matches her ability.

Anna still needs AT devices, which can help revise the notes she has written even if she can avoid poor handwriting. She can use text-to-speech device to review and read the notes on the screen. She also has her key words or all notes highlighted as she reads them back. This enables her visually follow them as she reads aloud. Text-to-speech will enable Anna detect errors she makes while writing. With this support, Anna has the ability of becoming independent in revision of her writings and other notes.

Anna can also use audio books and publications for a possible case of dyslexia. Recorded books will give Anna opportunities to listen and understand the text. “Recorded books are available in different formats like audiocassettes, MP3 downloads and CDs” (Rose and Meyer, 2000).

References

Becta. (2003). What the research says about ICT supporting special educational needs (SEN) and inclusion. Coventry: Becta.

Golden, D. (1998). Assistive Technology in Special Education: Policy & Practice. Reston, VA: CASE/TAM.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (1997). Individuals with Disabilities Act Amendments of 1997. Boston: United States Department of Education.

Lewis, R. (1998). Assistive technology and learning disabilities: Today’s realities and tomorrow’s promises. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31(1) , 15-16.

Rose, D. H. and Meyer, A. (2000). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Appendix

You are part of a CSE team that has just classified Anna. It has been determined that Anna has a learning disability. As a member of the CSE team you now need to begin considering Anna’s needs for assistive technology. Anna’s profile is listed below:

Anna is a child in fourth grade and has a learning disability. Her teachers have difficulty deciphering her written output, because of both poor spelling and poor handwriting. They have difficulties with how long it takes Anna to write a response. She has difficulties with small fine motor movements, so writing is daunting. Anna also has difficulties in reading textbooks; Anna could possibly be dyslexic but has yet to be diagnosed. Anna has above average IQ, enjoys being in school, and loves interacting with her peers.