The fifth and final special factor that the IEP team must consider relates to whether the child needs assistive technology (AT) devices and services.
The definitions of AT devices and AT services contained in IDEA 2004 read as follows:
§300.5 Assistive technology device.
Assistive technology device means 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 child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.
Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes—
(a) The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
(b) Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;
(c) Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
(d) Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
(e) Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family; and
(f) 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 that child.
Assistive technology devices can help many children do certain activities or tasks. Examples of these devices are:
- devices that make the words bigger on the computer screen or that “read” the typed words aloud—which can help children who do not see well;
- electronic talking boards—which can help students who have trouble speaking; and
- computers and special programs for the computer—which can help students with all kinds of disabilities learn more easily.
AT must be considered for all children with disabilities, regardless of disability, and as is true for other special factors, consideration must be individualized. Assistive technology services include evaluating the child to see if he or she could benefit from using an assistive device. These services also include providing the devices and training the child (or family or the professionals who work with the child) to use the device.
For many children, the first line of inquiry is whether the child’s IEP can be implemented satisfactorily in the regular educational environment with the use of supplementary aids and services. Since AT devices or services can be provided as supplementary aids or services, a child’s IEP team may need to consider whether a particular child requires a particular AT device or service, or whether school personnel require aid or support to enable a child with a disability to be educated satisfactorily in the regular education environment. Section 300.320(a)(4) of IDEA requires the IEP team to include a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. This would include any AT devices and services (determined by the IEP team) that the child needs in order for the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Another topic that an IEP team may need to consider on a case-by-case basis is whether a child with a disability may need to use a school-purchased AT device in settings other than school, such as the child’s home or other parts of the community, in order for the child to receive FAPE.
The Center on Technology and Disability (CTD) is an excellent place to learn more about AT for children with disabilities. CTD has an entire section of its website devoted to the IEP process (http://www.ctdinstitute.org/library/education-k-12/iep-process) which can be very helpful to teams deciding what type(s) of AT would directly benefit a given student. CTD also offers many of its family-friendly fact sheets and materials in Spanish.