- Background Information
- Collaborative Team Process
- Student Observations and Trials
- Recommendations to PPT/IEP Team
Assessment should be conducted by a team with the collective knowledge and skills needed to determine possible assistive technology solutions that address the needs and abilities of the child in his or her natural environment. Besides the early intervention providers, inclusion of parents and caregivers from other settings on the assessment team is highly encouraged.
The assessment should focus on what the student needs to do that he or she is not currently doing within the school, routines of the family and those that are a priority for the family. Assessments should be based on the child’s developmental performance in his or her customary environment such as the school, home and community. Finally, assessment should take into account what AT has been tried or is currently being used. Consider or reflect on what is working and what is not.
Following the consideration of AT within the development of the student’s IEP, an evaluation may be needed to determine the potential AT tools required to meet the identified student need. As such, an AT evaluation should not be completed as a component of an initial evaluation to determine student eligibility for special education. Rather, once a student’s eligibility has been determined, the PPT/IEP team should consider AT and may recommend an AT evaluation when necessary. The quality indicators for assessment of AT needs provide ways to guide and evaluate the PPT/IEP team through the processes of evaluation that schools and districts can follow (appendix 1, appendix 2, appendix 3).
Once consent has been obtained, the student’s educational team may begin to explore the continuum of AT (from low- to high-tech) with consideration of the usefulness of devices. If the AT evaluation continues to be considered necessary, it should occur within a reasonable timeline (unless a specific timeline has been identified in the IEP). As part of the pre-evaluation activities, the student’s educational team may continue to complete the necessary referral information to guide the evaluation process to include critical components of the indicators that the team has used in the consideration process to include all previous attempts around meeting the student’s needs.
To adequately assess the needs of a student, the pre-evaluation activities also include the collecting of background information. This information should be compiled collaboratively by the student’s multidisciplinary team, which includes the student and his or her family. Common items in the background information include, but are not limited to:
- Demographic information.
- Key referral questions—specific questions to be answered by the evaluation.
- Relevant medical information and considerations.
- Results of recent education evaluations.
- History of past and current
- How long the AT has been/was used?
- Was the use of the AT successful?
- If no longer being used, why was use discontinued?
- Assessment of gross and fine motor skills.
- Assessment of communication.
- Sensorimotor functioning in:
- visual skills;
- hearing; and
- perceptual motor skills.
- Educational skill levels:
- organization; and
- processing skills.
- Current computer usage and skills.
- Student’s learning style and preferences.
- Work samples relevant to the key referral question.
Once the background information has been gathered, the AT evaluation process should continue with a consultation with/between the multidisciplinary team, including the parents and student; a review of additional educational records as appropriate; observations of the student in his or her customary environments; trials of potential AT with the student; and a written report for the PPT/IEP team to review.
Each student’s team should be customized to reflect the student’s unique needs. Anyone who has the potential to contribute to the decision-making or implementation of services can be invited to participate on the educational team. Members of the educational team (although not an inclusive list) should include all the professionals involved in the tasks addressed in the key referral question: those involved in the AT consideration and/or evaluations; parents and/or other family members; the student; the special education and regular education teacher; a representative knowledgeable about the student and/or the curriculum; and, depending on the focus of the evaluation, a specialist knowledgeable in the area of motor skills (such as an occupational or physical therapist), the area of language (such as a speech and language pathologist), and/or other professionals as needed (such as an audiologist, school nurse, vision specialist, technology specialist, or teacher of the deaf). If the school does not have appropriately trained or certified professionals, it must obtain appropriate professionals to perform the evaluation (e.g., if the student has little or no communication, then an SLP familiar with communication alternatives from low- to high-tech should be included, along with an OT to assist with the determination of access methods).
Observations and trials should be based on the key referral question and evaluated by the identified member of the education team who is expected to report the outcomes of the observation. Evaluators should observe the student in the customary environments engaged in activities related to the key referral question. For example, the key referral question might be “What additional tools are needed to assist Johnny with organizing written expression into a coherent multiparagraph essay?” In this instance, the customary environment would include the various classroom situations in which multi-paragraph written responses are part of the curriculum. As part of these observations, the evaluator should note whether the student is using any current strategies or AT tools already in place.
Based on the information gathered during the observation, the next step in the evaluation process is to conduct trials. The evaluator (the individuals who conduct the evaluations, observations and follow up trials) should take into consideration the student’s physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities along with preferences in selecting AT for trial. Based on the initial and/or subsequent trials, an AT tool may be selected that meets the student’s needs.
The WATI AT trial-use guide is an example of student observation.
In other instances, it may be necessary to develop an action plan for extended trials with one or more potential solutions. One factor to consider in extended trials is whether the student and/or staff require training in the use of AT to determine its effectiveness in meeting the student’s needs.
The evaluation report should provide the PPT/IEP team with clearly documented recommendations that guide decisions about the selection, acquisition, and use of AT devices and services (QIAT, 2009). The report should detail the evaluation process, particularly information and data gathered regarding the student, a summary of tools and strategies previously used, a description of the student’s environment, a list of his or her tasks that need to be completed within the educational environment, a description of tools tried/trialed during the evaluation, and information on the student’s response and/or performance. The report should include what strategies and/or features of tools could meet a student’s needs. Recommendations should include information to help the PPT better select and plan for implementation of AT tools and services. The report can name kinds of specific devices if a particular item becomes obvious as benefiting the student during the evaluation. However, if there are questions about which of several devices may benefit the student, or if one particular tool may or may not be effective, the evaluation can and should recommend an extended trial period to make an informed decision about which tools might be appropriate. Extended trials do not have to occur during the evaluation timeframe, but there should be a documented and reasonable plan, including timelines, on what the PPT/IEP team agrees.