Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Assistive Technology May Help Your Child Succeed


When a learner is struggling in any the area of life and nothing seems to help, both parents and professionals often turn to technology as a solution. Using what is called assistive technology (AT), a toddler can color with an adapted crayon, a teenager can use word prediction software to become a successful writer, and an adult can use speech-to-text technology to be gainfully employed.
 While it is clear that some children with disabilities can benefit from AT, parents need to be proactive about seeking services for their child and become familiar with the law that ensures AT services are provided by public schools.
An age of technology
Technology is rapidly advancing, sometimes on a daily basis. New technology changes not only how we learn and engage with the world, but how we function in daily life.
Consider Aimee Mullins, an athlete who set world records running on prosthetic legs at the 1996 Paralympics. Her high-tech limbs help her reach the potential she has to be a runner, a model, and an actress.
Consider Bridget Thomson, who became the first student in Minnesota to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) using speech-to-text as an accommodation. Speech-to-text technology helped Bridget reach her potential.  
Despite the fact that technology can help children achieve their dreams, students with disabilities are not systematically evaluated to see if they would benefit from AT services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that only 3 to 5 percent of students with disabilities have assistive technology written into their Individualized Education Program (IEP), according to research conducted by Dave Edyburn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Although sometimes students use AT even though it is not included their IEPs, a large percentage of students who would benefit from AT are not receiving services. Thats why its important for parents to be proactive and to make sure AT services are considered for their children.
 AT and the law
While AT is a relatively young field, the laws that govern it are not new. Schools must consider the use of AT at least annually for every student who has an IEP and may benefit from it.
Assistive technology includes the devices, software, and services a student needs to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), which is guaranteed by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). AT should also be considered to help a student be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), also ensured by IDEA.
Learn more about AT and the IEP by viewing one of PACERs archived webinars The Consideration of AT in the IEP  or call PACER at 952-838-9000 and speak to an advocate.
Learn about AT options
Todays rapidly advancing technology can open new worlds for children with disabilities, but parents must proactively look for AT solutions.
 Learn more about AT options at PACERs Simon Technology Center. It provides free AT consultations, a Technology Lending Library, trainings, workshops, and more.
 The STC Lending Library offers an inexpensive way for people to preview software and AT devices for children and young adults with disabilities. Anyone can visit and view the 2,500 items. Minnesota parents, individuals, and professionals who are members may borrow them.
For more information, visit
PACER.org/stc or call 952-838-9000.

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