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How Assistive Technology Services Can Go Awry

From the National Assistive Technology Research Institute (NATRI): To illustrate the importance of good assistive technology assessment, Bell, Rylance, Bliss, & Blackhurst, (2000) conducted a case study that revealed problems that can occur when developing, implementing, and evaluating assistive technology services for a specific student.

The context: "We studied ‘Madelaine’, a middle school student (6th grader) with Mobius syndrome, whose legs end just above the knee and whose left arm ends just below the elbow joint. At the time of the study, she was performing at an average level on achievement tests in reading and below average on math. She performed well in primary school, but her grades in social studies and science deteriorated when she moved to middle school.

"Her full inclusion plan was revised so that she would receive special education resource services for one period each day. She is very independent, but was slow in performing written tasks because her handwriting is very poor. Peer transcribers were often used to assist in the preparation of written work. A plan was needed to teach her how to use a computer."

In order to enable Madelaine to use the computer for her work, a chording keyboard was provided. This apparently seemed to match her needs very well, but there were several problems with the way the policies and procedures were carried out:

Numerous problems were identified in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of assistive technology services for the student. The report summarizes the primary problems that were identified (see report - click on title above).

"There were rather obvious implications for the actual practices of school administrators (e.g., policy making), operation of IEP Teams (e.g., decision making), working with parents (e.g., training), collaboration among special and general educators (e.g., communication), and the role of those responsible for assistive technology services (e.g., training, monitoring, and evaluating). Virtually every instance which resulted in less than best practice could have been prevented if appropriate policies and procedures were in place and implemented properly."

This case study illustrated so many flaws that it serves as an excellent resource for beginning ECE teachers seeking to overcome obstacles in implementing assistive technologies and devices with students (and their families!) These flaws in the practices can easily occur without good follow-up. - submitted by Laura Curry

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