ADHD Assistive Technology; Assistive technology (AT), also known as adaptive technology, is a general term that consists of assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with special needs or disabilities. AT is neither a place nor a tangible thing. It is a process itself that involves selecting, identifying, and using technology to promote better independence of people with disabilities by enabling them to perform activities that were formerly “not doable” or tasks that they had trouble accomplishing (Behrmann & Schaff, 2001).
Assistive technology is one form of intervention that provides enhancements or altered methods to disabled persons by utilizing the available technology in order to accomplish certain tasks. Over the years, several researches show the efficiency of AT in helping students with special needs or learning disabilities (cited in GreatSchools, Inc., 1998. It has shown to aid individuals reach their full potential in and out of the academe. Generally, assistive technology aims to compensate the student’s areas of difficulty and disability. In the study of Higgins & Raskind (2000), AT was effective in improving students’ skills deficits.
The United States Congress has recognized the importance of assistive technology in the lives of individuals who have special needs (Technology Resources Center of Marin, 2008). It came with the definition of the terms “assistive technology device” and “assistive technology services” in the federal law of the amended Individual with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, better known as IDEA (P.L. 108-446) (Georgia Project for Assistive Technology, 2007)
IDEA 2004 defines assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.” [20 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Section 1401 (25)]
The term “device” covers a relatively wide range of items, thus it is crucial to recognize that assistive technology devices include hardware, software, and individual devices. In fact, almost any tool can be regarded as an assistive technology device except for medical implants as stated in the IDEA definition. This broad definition of “device” allows educators and therapists to individualize assistive technology devices in order to cater to the varying needs of each student. These include the use of technology as an instructional tool for students having trouble completing typical school tasks such writing and mathematical calculations. In this case, a desktop computer with a word-processing program may work well as a solution. For students with physical disabilities such as a visual and audio impairment, the use of Braille (tactile locator dots) and hearing aid, respectively, seems to be very necessary.
The assistive technology definition of device doesn’t only limit itself to seemingly high-end or innovative tools. It also includes simple and low-technology devices often available in many local stores and even in households. For instance, keyboard with large prints in high contrast colors helps students with visual difficulties. A simple pencil grip can also be used to improve handwriting skills by enhancing the grasp and control over the object (Georgia Project for Assistive Technology, 2007). Even the popular game tool “Pick-up Sticks” can also be considered as an assistive technology device that aids individuals to control their unnecessary hand movements. In some cases, educators have to go as far as constructing a device just to meet a student’s special need.
Assistive technology service is defined by IDEA as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes: Evaluating the needs, including a functional evaluation in the individuals customary environment; Purchasing, leasing, or providing for the acquisition of devices by individuals with disabilities; Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing of devices; Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs and; Training or technical assistance for individuals with disabilities or where appropriate, the family of the individual with a disability.” [20 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Section 1401 (26)] (P.L. 108-446)
Practically, assistive technology service is the service provided by the government and local agencies to aid in the ease of selection and acquisition of assistive technology devices. This assistive technology definition addresses the many aspects of service that commences with assessment, identification of needs, and acquirement of equipment needed in giving assistance to individuals with disabilities. Sometimes, it may even be necessary to provide follow-up services such as trainings and seminars.
In review, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, as a federal law promoting for the protection and rights of persons with special needs and disabilities, has clearly characterized assistive technology definitions of devices and services, as well as any other aspects evidently associated with these terms. These provisions have also been integrated in the State Rules for Special Education. Thus, it is a right for every individual to receive appropriate assistive technology devices and services in a timely manner to meet his/her unique needs for learning as evaluated by the sole authorities.
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Behrmann M., & Schaff, J. (2001). Assisting educators with assistive technology: Enabling children to achieve independence in living and learning. Children and Families, 103 (3), 24–28.
Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (2007, July). Definitions of Assistive Technology Devices and Services. Retrieved from http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/DMGetDocument.aspx/Definition%20of%20Assistive%20Technology.pdf?p=6CC6799F8C1371F6B5A350C4F422D37B14FA76A2B2C4FB177CA3869EED08AF05&Type=D
Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (2007, July). Definition of Assistive Technology. Retrieved from http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/DMGetDocument.aspx/Definition%20of%20%20AT%20ppt.pdf?p=6CC6799F8C1371F645DDFEC46AD82D819098D07205C273BE8B0C621244C2A599&Type=D
GreatSchools, Inc. (1998). Assistive technology for kids with LD: An overview. Retrieved from http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/assistive-technology/702-assistive-technology-for-kids-with-learning-disabilities-an-overview.gs
Higgins E.L., & Raskind, M. H. (2000). Speaking to read: The effects of continuous vs. discrete speech recognition systems on the reading and spelling of children with learning disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15 (1), 19-30.
Technology Resources Center of Marin. (2008). Assistive technology definition of devices and services. Retrieved from http://trc.marinschools.org/documents/AT-AACdefinition.pdf
US Department of Education. Individualized Education Program (IEP). Retrieved October 4, 2006, from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,dynamic,TopicalBrief,10,
US Department of Education. Public Law 108-446. Retrieved December 3, 2004, from http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/pl108-446.pdf