Evaluating and Selecting Appropriate Assistive Technology
University of New Haven
ITDML; ED 7724
Assistive technology is defined as “any device, 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” (Beard, 2011). For some students, Assistive Technology is the only way one can be successful in the education process. In the 2011-2012 school year, research was collected to evaluate the students in our school systems. The data provided our school communities with research of how many students were physically or mentally disabled. These students showed they needed assistance in order to be successful in our current school systems. The research showed over 6,000 students have disabilities and require some type of assistive technology in school systems (U.S., 2013). With this many students needing assistance, assistive technology is considered as the main source to help our students be successful. The 21st century suggests technology integration can help enhance learning in our classroom settings. Assistive technology are tools to help students be successful and given the ability to do “normal” activities. Depending on the student's needs, types of devices provided, and support within the school community can determine which type of device is best fit for each student. Assistive technology can be low tech or high tech devices used in the classroom to help assistive students from a wide variety of disabilities be successful. There are many different types of assistive technology assisting our students currently; however, more technology can be incorporated into our school systems to help meet the “no child left behind” standard of education (Raskind, 2000). Although technology can help our students be successful, there are also negatives when selecting an appropriate assistive technology for each individual. This review will look at various research articles and address these advantages and disadvantages as well as give some suggestions when choosing an assistive technology device. The review will also provide information on how to properly evaluating different types of technology to help students in the classroom experiencing disabilities.
REVIEW OF RESEARCH
In the article, Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities: A review and synthesis of the literature, Alper discusses the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. The act addressed the students needs with different types of assistive technology in education. The Assistive Technology Act is intended to protect students who were in need of devices in the classroom. When devices are properly implemented into the classroom for the appropriate individuals, the devices have shown evidence with helping students increase their self esteem (Alper, 2006). The proper implementation of technology also allowed students to live independently. Confidence was built through the support of each assistive technology device allowing students less need for assistance from other individuals during certain tasks. From there the students became capable in pursuing meaningful careers. The devices also helped students create and mature their own identity which otherwise might have been lost. Many students do not have the privilege to integrate technology into their classroom even if it is assistive technology (Kelker, 1997) due to many barriers.
Alper suggests some of the reasons why technology has been a downfall in the classroom. Alper also discusses how technology is not available to all students for various reasons. Some of these reasons include high equipment cost can hinders schools systems to provide all of their students with proper assistive technology. A lack of information and knowledge about different assistive technology devices can also deter school systems from implementing assistive technology into the classroom. Support is a necessary component to incorporating success assistive technology devices to the students and into the necessary classrooms. Without the support, proper introduction and use of assistive technology devices cannot be as successful as if the support was not in place.
In order to properly evaluate assistive technology, there are many things one need to take into consideration. First, the individual student must be properly evaluated. Once properly evaluated, the group should identify a need of the student. The students needs must be taken into consideration before an assistive technology device can be taken into account. Secondly, the student’s physical and mental ability needs to also be considered when choosing the proper assistive technology device (Kelker, 1997). It is imperative there is proper support from the family as well as the school community. Providing individuals with the proper support should play a major role when selecting the type of assistive technology device for each student. Once the students has been thoroughly evaluated through an IEP or PPT, next the device itself should be evaluated before considered in being implemented into the students school success program (Raskind, 2000).
There are different types of devices with various functioning capacities used for various types of students. Depending on the device function, cost of assistive technology, support of those involved, and background knowledge can help determine the type of device chosen for each student (Facilitated). In recent years, many studies have been done addressing how to properly implement devices into the classroom. The studies also take a look at the types of devices and the effectiveness of each assistive technology incorporated into the current classrooms. In order to have a successful integration of assistive technology, one must have effective teaching strategies as well as the knowledge of the device (Raskind, 2000). In order to be an effective teacher one must have proper instruction. Incorporating collaboration while challenging students can help increase knowledge and participation in the classroom. Classroom management needs to be a priority as well as appropriate technology use. Lastly, if used properly, technology can support and increase success in the classroom for all students. Each teacher should be well equipped to understand the devices used in their classrooms. Each student should be able to integrate the device in the classroom; however, it is not solely the student's responsibility to properly manage the device. The teacher and surrounding students play an intricate role when using the device for success in the classroom.
Assistive technology has a variety of different types offered. Each device is out into categories based on the amount of technology used with the device. These two categories are known as high tech and low tech assistive technology (Beard, 2011). Assistive technology is any item or piece of equipment that is used to “increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of life, including at school, at work, at home and in the community” (Assistive). Low tech devices do not require an extensive amount of training. The equipment is usually cheaper and less complex when it comes to the use of the device. Some examples of low tech devices are as follows:
- Large text
- Canes and walkers
- Task cards
Low tech devices are can be as simple as task cards, organizers, and light pens (Assistive). All of these device can help high functioning students with disabilities more successful in the classroom setting. For students who need help organizational skills or are visual learners, low tech devices can be useful to help structure their thoughts. High Tech devices are generally more complex pieces of equipment or programs. The devices are usually digitally based and therefore more expensive (Tools). Most of the high tech devices do require an extensive amount of training and therefore can deter school systems and teachers to reject them in their classrooms. Below are some examples of high tech devices that can assist students in the classroom.
- Hearing aids
- Communication devices with voices
High tech devices can also include but are not limited to Smart boards, amplifiers, audio pens and audiobooks (Kelker, 1997). Kidspiration is an example of a high tech assistive technology program used to help assist students with visual recognition and awareness. Whether a student needs high tech or low tech devices, each one must be evaluated and considered before it is brought into the classroom.
In conclusion, assistive technology is providing our students with opportunities they might not otherwise have. In order to effectively provide the students with the proper assistive technology one must evaluate the types of device needed. Once the proper assistive technology is decided upon, successful implementation comes through support of both the school community and the families alike. Assistive technology can be an effective tool for many of our students. Assistive technology can also hinder some of our students if it is not effectively evaluated and implemented correctly. Therefore, time and device consideration must be contemplated before it is introduced to the students.
- Alper, S., & Raharinirina, S. (2006). Assistive technology for individuals with disabilities: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Special Education Technologies, 21(2), 47-64.
- Assistive Technology Assessment - Find the Right Tools. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.techpotential.net/assessment
- Beard, L. A., Carpenter, L. B., & Johnston, L. B. (2011). Assistive technology: Access for all students (2nd/3rd ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education.
- Facilitated_Communication_Prisoners_of_Silence. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from https://vimeo.com/22621954
- Kelker, K. A., & Holt, R. (1997). Family guide to assistive technology. Billings, MT: Parents Let’s Unite for Kids.
- Raskind, M. (2000). Assistive technology for children with learning difficulties (2nd ed.). San Mateo, CA: Schwab Foundation for Learning.
- Tools for Life. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2015, from http://www.gatfl.org/assistive.php
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Digest of Education Statistics, 2013 (NCES 2015-011),Chapter 2.