Thursday, September 8, 2016

Making Your Assistive Technology "Work"

The post below applies to all those who currently utilize assistive technology or are considering the addition of assistive technology. It is critical when working with technology to ensure it consistently meets the needs of the user, whether it be a child or an adult, and that the implementation be thoroughly completed to promote a greater level of independent success. Below you will read about 6 steps that everyone should be sure to go through to help to ensure the selected technology is the right technology.


Does your assistive technology "work" -- that is, does it give you the results you want?  Assistive technology (AT) is more than just the tangible devices and software -- it's also the proper selectiontraining, application strategies, and technical support necessary to produce results.  If your technology tools fall short of expectations, you may be missing one or more of the following services.

1.  AWARENESS - Discover what’s possible

To get the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.  But what if you don't know what questions to ask?  Free classes can provide you with valuable background information on "what's out there"; a personal consultation can provide more focused information.
  • AT awareness classes
  • Personal consultation in your home or school

2.  ASSESSMENT - Select the right technology tools

Let's face it: you can pound in a nail with a screwdriver, but it's a lot easier with a hammer.  You will get the best results with tech tools thoughtfully matched to the user’s abilities, the particular task, and the environment or context in which they perform the task.  See the Assessment tab for more detail.
  • Solutions customized to student's abilities, tasks, and learning environments
  • Formal AT assessments (including report) for learning issues

3.  SUPPORT - Acquire and set up the tools

Nowadays, purchasing technology is only the first step - you also need to ensure compatibility with your system, and may also need to download it, install it on your computer, configure it to the user's needs, and verify that it works with other technology.
  • Expert guidance selecting and acquiring technology
  • Technical assistance with downloads, installation, and configuration of software and devices

4.  TRAINING - Learn how to operate the devices or software

Hands-on training not only teaches the user how to operate the device or software in question: it also provides him or her with the confidence to use it.  With the right training, students will know what features are available, what they do, and how to operate them.
  • Hands-on skills training for students, family, and providers
  • Professional development for educators

5.  STRATEGIES - Apply the tools effectively

Whereas skills training teaches "how do I operate the technology's features", application training teaches "how do I apply those features to become a faster reader, more effective writer, or better learner".  Both are required to realize success.
  • Application strategies for various devices and software
  • Guidance matching the tools to the task
  • Collaboration with teachers, parents and learning specialists

6.  IMPLEMENTATION - Integrate use into school and home

Implementation is "making it all happen" -- from planning training sessions to getting materials in alternative formats (electronic text, audiobooks) to dealing with the realities of actually using the recommended tools in class and at home.  See the Integration tab for more detail.

Why assistive technology is important...

Paraphrasing the legal definition, assistive technologies, or “AT”, are tools (and associated supporting services) that help an individual work around the functional limitations imposed by a disability.  AT for learning disabilities and learning differences includes not only computers and high-tech devices, but also innovative uses of everyday technology like voice recorders, cameras, and smart phones, and even low tech items like day planners, pencil grips, highlighters, and sticky notes.
Assistive technology can be a great equalizer, helping to level the academic playing field.  The right technology tools can reduce the impact of learning barriers, leverage a student's strengths, or provide an alternative means to accomplish a task.  And AT can provide greater self-confidence -- an "I can" attitude -- and thus improve self esteem and social life.
With the right supporting services, AT users can benefit from the full potential of their assistive technology, and perhaps achieve their own full potential as a result.
Parts of this article were adapted. Please visit the website Technology to Unlock Potential to access the original article written by Shelley Haven, ATP/RET and to view the many other resources available.

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