Last Updated: 2 February 2022
Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team consider whether the student requires assistive technology (AT) and services (20 U.S.C. Section 1414[d]  [B] [v]). The team must consider whether assistive technology is required for the student to benefit from a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). If AT is deemed necessary, the team also needs to determine the type of device(s) and/or service(s) required to derive educational benefit from the instruction provided.
The term, “assistive technology” encompasses a vast array of devices and services that may assist persons with disabilities to participate more fully and successfully in their education and in life. Included under the category of assistive technology are equipment and instructional strategies needed by students to successfully perform a variety of educationally-related tasks (i.e., spoken and written communication, computer access, reading, mobility, learning, listening, seeing, working). Assistive technology can be used to address a student’s sensory, motor, cognitive, language, or social needs.
Assistive technology equipment may range from simple accommodations (i.e., seat position, visuals, auditory reminders) to highly sophisticated aids (i.e., computer programs, tech writing tools). These applications are often referred to as ranging from “no tech”, to “low tech”, to “high tech” (specifics can be found under the resources guide). Materials like pencil grips, slant boards, or picture schedules can be considered “no tech” solutions. “Low tech” solutions might include talking calculators, an alternate keyboard, or a screen magnifier. “High tech” solutions would include items like augmentative communication devices, a Braille keyboard, or voice recognition software.
Assistive technology services may range from short-term instruction (i.e., teaching a student to use a tape recorder for dictation) to the long-term and intensive instruction necessary for many augmentative communication interventions that can be used throughout the students lifetime if required.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the following mandates and definitions for implementing assistive technology for students identified as having a disability and requiring special education supports and services.
Each public agency shall ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in IDEA §300.5-330.6, are made available to a student with a disability if required as part of the student’s:
The term “assistive technology device” is defined 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 functional capabilities of students with disabilities.
While “Assistive Technology” is the umbrella term for technology used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities, the term “Augmentative and Alternative Communication” (AAC) is used within El Dorado SELPAs to distinguish technology specifically designed to support communication.
The term “assistive technology service” means any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. An Assistive Technology Service may include:
A multi-disciplinary team, including:
|Assessment Areas||Responsible Personnel Examples|
Special Education Teacher
General Education Teacher
Teacher on Special Assignment
Speech and Language Pathologist
Tier 1: Universal Supports of AT
Tier 2: Strategic/Supplemental Supports
Tier 3: Intensive/Individual Supports
*It is recommended that any intensive and individuals support considerations are discussed and agreed upon by the SST or IEP team members.
The AT professional can provide some or all of the following supports related to AT:
The need for assistive technology must be considered at every student’s IEP meeting. Assistive technology must be individualized to each student based on their abilities, needs, and current performance. The IEP team must consider whether assistive technology is necessary for the student to:
The following three components are considered essential in effectively planning and implementing a program that includes assistive technology applications:
In the development of the IEP document, the IEP team is required to consider special factors (IEP Form: Special Factors). As part of this documentation, the IEP team must answer the question, “Does the student require assistive technology devices and/or services?” If yes, the team should specify the type of devices, services, equipment, and/or materials needed. Further description or more information may be documented into any of the other required components of the IEP (i.e. Present Levels of Performance; Annual Goals; Special Education Services; Related Services; Supplementary Aids and Services; Program Modifications or Support for School Personnel; Transition Services).
In addition to documenting that assistive technology devices and services are necessary for the student to progress in the general education curriculum, additional information regarding the specialized and unique needs of the student may be incorporated as follows:
In addition, IEP teams need to determine whether to describe in general the equipment or material needed or to specify a particular product or brand name (i.e. an alternative keyboard, versus an Intellikeys keyboard). These decisions are based on whether a particular device or piece of equipment is being recommended because it represents the “best fit” for what the student needs. Specific equipment can be documented in the "supplementary aids and services" section of the Services Page. Additionally, if the equipment needs to be compatible with other equipment in the school environment, it might be important to be specific and noted within in the IEP or at the least in the notes section of the IEP. Otherwise, describing in general what is needed allows the IEP team more flexibility in upgrading or trying other equipment as needed without reconvening the IEP team. Furthermore, professional training for higher tech devices may be necessary. Training length and time needs to be determined by the team then, indicated specifically on the services page under "staff support" in the Supplementary Aids section.
*If the decision is made to exit services, an assessment plan must be signed and reports must indicate the need for AT/AAC or no longer required, educationally. The IEP team ultimately decides on the exiting of services.