SSPS:Assistive Technology

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Defining Assistive Technology

The term “assistive technology device” is defined in rule 6A-6.03411(1)(b), Florida Administrative Code 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 student with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of that device.”

This definition mirrors the definition found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) section 300.5 of Title 34, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The definition of the term “assistive technology device” is based on how the technology is used rather than specific types of technology.

Defining Assistive Technology Service

The term “assistive technology service” is defined as any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes, but is not limited to: (1) evaluating of the needs of a student with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the student in the student’s customary environment; (2) purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices for students with disabilities; (3) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing assistive technology devices; (4) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs; (5) training or technical assistance for a student with a disability or, if appropriate, that student’s family and (6) training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers or other individuals who provide services to, employ or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of the student.

This definition mirrors the definition found in the IDEA 2004 (34 CFR §300.6).

Ranges of Assistive Technology

The state and federal definition of assistive technology device avoids the inclusion of specific types of technology, leaving it up to the T/IEP team to determine what is assistive technology for a student. As a result, many types of technologies have been identified as assistive technologies over the years by various T/IEP teams.

Examples include:
  • Simple or low technology (e.g., pencil grips, tactile rulers, light pens, page holders, highlighter tape, correction tape, paper communication systems, visual supports,video magnification, bold lined paper)
  • Mid technology (e.g., timers, talking photo albums, digital recorders, calculators, spell checkers, switch-operated toys and appliances, single- and multiple-message communication systems requiring simple training of no more than one or two sessions)
  • High or complex technology (e.g., computers, mobile devices, alternative keyboards, switch-control systems for computers, communication devices, word processors, graphic organizer software, text-to-speech software, text scanners, devices requiring an expert to train the user to a proficient level over time)

These are only a few examples, and they illustrate the range of technologies and devices that a T/IEP team may consider and may be investigated as part of equipment trials and selection.

Assistive Technology Evaluations

Assistive technology evaluations are conducted for the purpose of assisting the T/IEP team to select, obtain and use assistive technology. Not all students who require the use of assistive technology will require a full evaluation by the district’s Assistive Technology (AT/CORE) Team. T/IEP teams may decide to collect data on the effectiveness of an assistive technology for a program accommodation and make recommendations as a T/IEP team.

At times, the T/IEP team may need additional expertise when considering an assistive technology recommendation. At those times, the T/IEP team should review the T/IEP to ensure that “Assistive Technology Services” is indicated under Related Services and the “Need for Assistive Technology” is indicated under the Special Considerations. The T/IEP team should submit a referral for service to the AT/CORE Team. An AT/CORE Team member will complete an observation of the student and make recommendations to the T/IEP team.

In some cases the AT/CORE Team will recommend a formalized evaluation after the initial observation. At that point, the T/IEP team must convene a meeting to make a recommendation for re-evaluation (MIS #809) and obtain consent for reevaluation (MIS #444). The 60-day timeline for completion of evaluations applies to reevaluations considering assistive technology. The 60-day timeline begins on the day the T/IEP team makes the recommendation for an assistive technology evaluation and not the day the Consent for Reevaluation is signed by the parent/guardian/adult student. If equipment trials are recommended, the trials will be completed subsequent to the evaluation and are not considered part of the evaluation process.

Possible team members to conduct an assistive technology evaluation include:

  • Persons with personal knowledge of the student, such as a parent, other family member or guardian
  • One or more persons knowledgeable in the area of curriculum, such as the general education teacher or special education teacher (or both)
  • One or more persons knowledgeable in the area of language, usually a speech-language pathologist
  • One or more persons knowledgeable in the area of motor skills, often an occupational or physical therapist

This is not an exhaustive list, and there can be any number of additional team members related to the needs of the student such as: an assistive technology specialist, an audiologist, a counselor, an instructional assistant, a physician, a social worker, a teacher of the visually impaired, a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing, an early intervention specialist, a nurse, a rehabilitation engineer or a vocational counselor.

Assistive Technology Evaluations for Students with 504 Plans

For students with a 504 plan, the 504 team conducts the assistive technology evaluation. The AT/CORE Team is available for consultation with the 504 team and will assist with the equipment trial process, if warranted.

For additional information for 504 Evaluation for Related Services visit the 504 Manual.

Equipment Trials

Equipment trials are for the purpose of determining the educational necessity of a specific type of assistive technology and to assist the T/IEP team in determining what features are required. The process of equipment trials involves training parents/guardians, the student, and school team members on each type of equipment. An implementation plan is developed with the T/IEP team to outline training and data collection for the trials. Multiple pieces of equipment may be tried with the student. The length of each device trial may vary. At the end of the equipment trials, the T/IEP team must reconvene to make a recommendation regarding type and use of assistive technology needed by the student. The T/IEP must be revised to reflect these changes.

As a courtesy, the District School Board of Pasco County (DSBPC) will assist families to obtain durable medical goods through Medicaid or private insurance by conducting equipment trials. In these cases, the case manager should notify the appropriate related service areas (occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech/language therapy) for assistance.

School Concurrence for Medicaid or Privately Funded Equipment

Florida Medicaid and some insurance companies require School Concurrence documentation for a student to obtain durable medical goods. In these cases it is best practice for the parent/guardian to coordinate with the outside agency and contact the school prior to trials to ensure collaboration. Families will need to sign a Release of Records (MIS #791) allowing this contact.

School Concurrence is the school personnel’s professional acknowledgement that the prescribed equipment is required as a medical necessity for the student. Additionally, it indicates agreement with the information provided in the agency’s written report.

Implications for staff: In order to make this determination, the following procedures are recommended by the Office for Student Support Programs and Services

  • Two school professionals must be involved in determining School Concurrence. One concurring professional must have knowledge in the specific area of the equipment being recommended (i.e., Occupational Therapist for access method, Speech/Language Pathologist for communication skills, Physical Therapist for positioning, etc.) and the other professional should be an individual who also serves the student.
  • The concurring professional must make at least one observation of the student using the prescribed equipment.
  • After the concurring professionals have read the report by the outside agency, they should determine if they concur with the information provided in the report and the prescribed equipment recommended. If additional questions need to be answered or data collected, the school-based team may request the equipment from the AT/CORE Team in order to conduct equipment trials.
  • If additional data are collected and an observation completed, the school-based team should review this information and sign the School Concurrence in agreement with the report and prescribed equipment. If the school team is not in agreement with the recommendations made by the outside agency, the school professionals should contact the agency in order to collaborate and determine next steps.

T/IEP Team Assistive Technology Consideration

At each T/IEP meeting, the team should consider the use of assistive technology to assist the student in meeting his/her T/IEP goals. In order to make this decision, the T/IEP team must consider what skill area or goal the student is unable to demonstrate and if assistive technology would enable the student to perform the skill more efficiently in the least restrictive environment, or with less personal assistance.

Assistive Technology Consideration Flowchart

The DSBPC has developed a screening tool to assist the school team when considering the use of assistive technology. It is recommended that students be screened at every T/IEP meeting to determine if assistive technology should be included as part of the T/IEP. This form was designed to assist teams in determining resources necessary to address student AT needs in the educational environments. The team may choose to use another form of documentation for this consideration.

Assistive Technology Screening Form

Additionally, students may require pre-requisite skills to properly utilize various types of assistive technology. To assist T/IEP teams, the DSBPC has developed skills checklists for various types of assistive technology. Lack of pre-requisite skills do not preclude the use of assistive technology; however, school teams will need to develop a plan to teach necessary skills and monitor student progress.

Skills Checklist for Word Processing
Skills Checklist for Mouse Use

Documenting Assistive Technology on the T/IEP

If a student is using assistive technology to access FAPE, it must be documented on the T/IEP. The T/IEP should include assistive technology under various sections including: Special Consideration, Goals (if applicable), Program Accommodations, and Related Services. The Present Levels Statement should clarify the need that is being addressed by the assistive technology (i.e., “the student has difficulty producing legible writing”).

Assistive technology included in the T/IEP should be described by the features needed to accomplish the task and not list a specific type or brand by name.

  • Dynamic display
  • Voice output
  • Word prediction
  • Visual enlargement
  • Word processing
  • Laptop computer
  • Dynavox
  • CoWriter

Low-tech equipment that is readily available at a school site can be provided to a student when determined appropriate by the T/IEP team. Items that fall into this category include but are not limited to: tape recorders, spell checkers, calculators, access to word processing (classroom computer or portable word processor), manual communication boards, low tech communication devices such as single message or multi-message devices, pencil grips, accommodations for handwriting (slant board, specialized paper, etc), objects for communication, etc.

Any student that is using school-issued assistive technology in the school, home, and community setting must complete the Equipment Loan Agreement form.

Equipment Loan Agreement Form

Home and Summer Use T/IEP Considerations

The T/IEP team must consider the requirements for use of assistive technology in the summer or home environment. For example, if the student uses a word processor to type assignments at school, the student would likely need access to word processing in the home environment to complete homework. In addition, the T/IEP team should consider socialization and generalization of skills for students using assistive technology to communicate.

The need for assistive technology to be used in the home setting should be listed under Program Accommodations with the location listed as “Home.” The need for this accommodation must be clarified in the Present Level Statement.

Similarly, the need for assistive technology must be considered for summer. If the student is participating in ESE extended school year service or course/credit recovery, the student may need access to assistive technology in order to complete assignments. Additionally, a student may need access to assistive technology to complete summer assignments as part of secondary course requirements.

The need for assistive technology to be used in the summer should be listed under Program Accommodation on the Extended School Year Services Page with the location listed as “Home.” The need for this accommodation must be clarified in the Present Level Statement and ESY should be identified under Special Considerations.

Equipment Loan Agreement Form

Assistive Technology and the Funding Matrix

Assistive technology is addressed in several sections of the Matrix. Some levels of the matrix require assistive technology services to be completed such as an Assistive Technology Evaluation Report. Other levels on the matrix allow for services to be provided by school-based personnel. You will have several options to choose from at each level. For additional assistance, please contact with your school-based Compliance Teacher.

If the options below are checked on the Matrix, an Assistive Technology Evaluation Report is required. Additional options are also available under each of the levels that do not require a formal Assistive Technology Evaluation Report.

Domain A - Curriculum and Learning

  • Level 3 - Low/vision aids or use of electronic aids with assistance. The report can be generated by either the Assistive Technology Team or the Teacher of Visually Impaired.
  • Level 4 – Use of assistive technology with supervision for majority of learning activities.

Domain C - Independent Functioning

  • Level 4 – Special Equipment/Assistive Technology for personal care with frequent assistance. This report can be generated by either the Assistive Technology Team or by the school-based Occupational and/or Physical Therapist.

Domain E – Communication

  • Level 4 – Daily assistance and/or instruction with communication equipment.
  • Level 5 – Continuous assistance and/or instruction with communication equipment.

Personally Owned Assistive Technology Equipment

When a parent/guardian requests the use of personally owned assistive technology equipment, whether professionally recommended, medically prescribed, or privately purchased in a student’s educational setting, the T/IEP team must convene in order to consider the request. The T/IEP team must determine if the student requires the features of the assistive technology to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). This requirement generally excludes wheelchairs, walkers, gait trainers, hearing aids, low vision aids, and glasses.

There are several possible outcomes to the T/IEP meeting:

1. T/IEP team could determine the personally owned equipment is neutral for FAPE and/or medically prescribed. The outcome is that the equipment is utilized in school and training is provided, if needed. The T/IEP team should use current school policies related to personal items brought to school.
2. T/IEP team could determine the personally owned equipment is not required and usage does not impede a FAPE. The T/IEP must state current assistive technology the school is offering to address the need and include a statement as to why the personally owned equipment is being used. The T/IEP team should utilize current school policies related to personal items brought to school.
3. If the T/IEP team is unable to determine if the personally owned equipment is required for FAPE or additional data is required, then the appropriate personnel are contacted (i.e., PT, OT, D/HH, VI, SLP, O&M, PI, AT/CORE Team) to assist the T/IEP Team in determining if personally owned equipment is necessary for educational progress. This may require observations, consultations, or a formal evaluation (formal evaluations would require the reevaluation process). Written input will be generated to outline the features and rationale required for a FAPE. The T/IEP team must convene to discuss written input.
a) The T/IEP team may determine the personally owned equipment is not required and usage does not impede FAPE. The T/IEP must state current assistive technology the school is offering to address the need and include a statement as to why the personally owned equipment is being used. The T/IEP team should utilize current school policies related to personal items brought to school.
b) The T/IEP team may determine the personally owned equipment is not required and usage impedes FAPE. The T/IEP team must issue a Prior Written Notice of Denial (MIS #821) to inform parent/guardian equipment will not be used within the school environment. The T/IEP must document what assistive technology features/accommodations are required to address the need and provide FAPE.
c) The T/IEP team may determine the personally owned equipment will fulfill the requirements for FAPE. The DSBPC is responsible for providing the necessary assistive technology equipment. The T/IEP team creates an implementation plan outlining usage of the personally owned equipment including: determining systems compatibility, identifying training needs, progress monitoring, and creating a back up system, if warranted.
Personally Owned Equipment Flowchart

Assistive Technology and Transition

The DSBPC is responsible for providing a plan for the transition of assistive technology as a student prepares for postsecondary education, vocational placement, independent living and community experiences. The T/IEP team must “invite a representative of any participating agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services” (34 CFR §300.321(b)(3)).

If assistive technology devices and services are needed by a student to benefit from a secondary educational program, it is likely devices and services will be needed for postsecondary education, training, employment and other postsecondary activities. In order to ensure the transition of assistive technology devices and services upon graduation, it is important to facilitate a successful transition. The following information provides guidance to T/IEP teams:

At age 14: Independence in using and understanding technology is a key factor in successful transition upon graduation. Therefore, training the student to use the technology independently may need to be addressed as early as the student’s age 14 or eighth grade TIEP, whichever occurs first in order to meet the student’s transition service needs. Additionally, self-advocacy training may begin at this time to help the student learn how to advocate for needed technology devices and services, both in secondary educational environments and ultimately in postsecondary settings.

At age 16: For a student with technology needs, the TIEP should include a statement of needed assistive technology transition services for the student, including the provision of assistive technology by agencies and/or supports, responsibilities and service linkages. The needed assistive technology transition services for the student could be the replacement of current technology, continued support for current technology or funding of new technology to support additional postsecondary responsibilities.

Funding of Assistive Technology

It is the responsibility of the DSBPC to provide assistive technology in order for a student with a disability to receive a FAPE at no expense to the parent/guardian. The DSBPC is not obligated to provide a specific type of assistive technology at the parent/guardian’s request, if another type of assistive technology can also meet the student’s needs and meet the district’s responsibility to provide FAPE.

For assistance with questions regarding funding for assistive technology contact the Office for Student Support Programs and Services.

Disagreements Between Parents/Guardians Regarding Assistive Technology

At times the T/IEP team and parents/guardians may not reach consensus. IN those cases the DSBPC must:

  • Inform the parents/guardian of the district’s proposals or refusals, or both, regarding the student’s T/IEP
  • Provide the parents/guardians with a written copy of the T/IEP that includes not only those items upon which the parents/guardians and district agree, but also those items the district proposes as essential for the provision of FAPE
  • Provide a Prior Written Notice of Denial (MIS #821) of refusal regarding the student’s T/IEP and those items the district does not consider essential for the provision of FAPE
  • Advise the parents/guardians that they have a right to seek resolution of any disagreements through processes such as requesting formal mediation or initiating an impartial due process hearing

Links for additional information