Assistive Technology Assessments And Their Importance

S.E.T.T. Checklist clipboard with checkmarksAn Assistive Technology Evaluation assesses an individual’s or student’s need for assistive technology use and support, and is a critical component of determining the most efficient Assistive Technology options available. Assistive Technology options may include high or low tech devices such as hardware, software, apps on the computer or a mobile device, specialized equipment, adaptations to current equipment or furniture, and services which will assist an individual to accomplish something that is difficult or challenging.  For some individuals, AT (assistive technology) may support an individual to accomplish a task that is otherwise impossible to do without the support of AT. Whether it is an assessment for access to education, communication, employment, transition to post-secondary education, Activities of Daily Living, or access in their home or community, an assistive technology assessment will provide a thorough determination of AT options available. Without an AT assessment, individuals and/ or students are often given Assistive Technology that is not efficient or appropriate for the specific, individual needs. This causes frustration and ultimately leads to abandonment of the technology.  Research shows that half and possibly as much as 80% of assistive technology is abandoned by the prospective user.  Too many times this is the result of an unqualified individual or team implementing AT without a proper assessment. The assistive technology needs to be appropriate and recommended specifically considering the  individual’s abilities, challenges, needs, preferred learning style, the task to be accomplished, and the environment in which the AT will be used.  The first and  most important step in the process  is to analyze and determine the right assistive technology via an Assistive Technology Assessment. Having a certified professional assist with this step is critical.

The Assistive Technology Assessment Begins With Considering Four Main Components: The Student (Or Individual), The Environment, The Task, And The Tool (AT).

The SETT process is utilized to determine the most efficient and effective Assistive Technology tools available, that will be a good match for the student or individual, and offer the most support to attain a goal. Above all, matching an individual with the appropriate assistive technology involves asking the right questions, observing the individual or student in the typical environment, and collaborating with individuals and professionals who interact with the student daily.  This combined with the knowledge and expertise of appropriate AT available, as well as experience with assistive technology, will provide a proper AT recommendation based on  the tasks where the student has difficulties, the student’s abilities (both strengths and learning preferences) and challenges, and the environment in which the student performs those tasks.
S.E.T.T. Student, environment, task and tools info graphic for assistive technology assessment

The most effective technology tools are recommended via an AT assessment with all  of these factors in mind. The more we understand about the individual person or student, the task(activity/assignment/action) they have difficulty with, and the environment  in which they need to accomplish this task, the better we are able to determine  the best assistive technology options to help achieve the individual goals.

An Assistive Technology Assessment Is A Collaborative Process, Initiated By An ATP (Assistive Technology Professional), With Ongoing Support, Communication, Training, And Revision As Needed.

An Assistive Technology assessment is not a one-time occurrence, as follow up collaboration and training is needed for implementation and support, for individuals and students, as well as the professionals and family members who interact with the student daily. This includes teachers, parents, related therapists, nurses, administrators, case managers, other students (or employees/ employers), professors, disability service providers, TVI’s, etc. For K-12 Students, The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) instructs school district IEP teams to consider if a student requires “assistive technology devices and services” to achieve their goals, and then integrate that Assistive Technology which proves to be effective into the student’s IEP.  Determining which Assistive Technology will be effective often requires a proper “assessment of assistive technology needs”. A link to Assistive Technology and the IDEA law with explanation is Here.

Figures sitting around a table of puzzle piecesAn ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) can facilitate an assistive technology assessment; a collaborative process by which a team of professionals determine what technologies would improve a student or individual’s performance, participation and independence.  This process should consider the  learning strengths and weaknesses, physical and cognitive abilities, vision and hearing, the activities to be performed, and the environments in which the student/ individual performs these tasks, including social aspects and peers.

Accomplishing this relies on the collective knowledge and skills of the individual team members, each having individual perspectives and expertise regarding the individual/student and his/her abilities in school, at home, at work, or in the community.  An ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) can conduct a specialized evaluation and follow-up training, recommend specific assistive technologies, and coordinate the assessment process. The collaboration  of the entire team leads to the most appropriate and effective AT recommendation to support the goals and the individual/ student.

A thorough AT assessment also considers necessary supporting services such as training for student and/or staff, integration of the AT into school, work, community and home life, and technical support issues.  The development of a  plan for implementation, AT trials and for evaluating student progress with the AT is important to establish.  An AT assessment and team Always considers the perspectives, preferences and interests of the student/ individual.

A daisy player, dragon literacy software, a trackball and two ipads

This process of considering the Student, Environment, Task, and Tools applies to all abilities and disabilities while assessing assistive technology needs.

We are committed to discovering the best solution for your specific situation.  To schedule an AT assessment, contact us at dp.ATspecialist@gmail.com or use the contact form on our Contact page. To learn more about assessments and training, head over to the AT assessments and services page.